Saturday, June 26, 2010

Treks on the Santa Rosa Plateau: San Diego Button Celery & Hoover's Downingia

Summer is finally upon us, though we've been dodging in and out of June Gloom these past couple weeks, with sunny but breezy days, and occasionally cool, even foggy evenings. But from here on out, we should have little to no chance of rain for the next four months or so.

We hiked out to the main vernal pool at the Plateau around 9:30am this morning to see what if anything was left of the water. The expanses of dry grasses along the Vernal Pool trail were stunningly golden-hued and full of textural contrasts.

6/26/10 Vernal Pool Trail.

I didn't expect to see any blooms this late in the season, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the Hoover's  Downingia still in good form at the main vernal pool. I was even more astonished by the carpets of San Diego Button Celery in and around the receding waters. At first, I had no idea what they were (looked almost like thistles, with their bristly inflorescences), but then thistles don't grow in swampy, vernal poolly areas, so I eventually confirmed their ID through Calphotos. Really the highlight of our short trek today.

6/26/10 Hoover's/Spotted Downingia (Downingia bella). Main vernal pool.

6/26/10 Those long-horned Corriente-cross cows, doing their thing along the fringes of the main vernal pool. A lovely periwinkle field of Hoover's Downingias in the forefront.

Oh, yeah... these are the really happy cows of California. MOOWAH!

6/26/10 Hoover's Downingia (Downingia bella).

So the vernal pools are now rapidly receding, after having been inundated this past winter, thanks to El Nino. 

6/26/10 Boardwalk over main vernal pool.

6/26/10 Slender Tarweed (Hemizonia fasciculata) blooming along the path to the boardwalk.

6/26/10 Slender Tarweed (Hemizonia fasciculata).

6/26/10 San Diego Button Celery (Eryngium aristulatum var. parishii). This plant is listed as rare, threatened or endangered in California and elsewhere (CNPS List 1B; 0.1: Seriously endangered in California). Main vernal pool.

6/26/10 San Diego Button Celery (Eryngium aristulatum var. parishii) along boardwalk.

6/26/10 Wine Cup Clarkia (Clarkia purpurea ssp. quadrivulnera). Vernal Pool Trail.

6/26/10 Lanceleaf Dudleya (Dudleya lanceolata). Vernal Pool Trail.

6/26/10 Lanceleaf Dudleya (Dudleya lanceolata). Vernal Pool Trail.

6/26/10 Vernal Pool Trail.

6/26/10 Acmon Blue (Plebejus acmon). Vernal Pool Trail.

6/26/10 House Wren (Troglodytes aedon). Trans Preserve Trail.

All told, in bloom today were:

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Slender Tarweed (Hemizonia fasciculata)
South Coast Morning Glory (Calystegia macrostegia)
Wine Cup Clarkia (Clarkia purpurea ssp. quadrivulnera)
San Diego Button Celery (Eryngium aristulatum var. parishii)
Hoover's Downingia (Downingia bella)
Lanceleaf Dudleya (Dudleya lanceolata)
Long-Beaked Filaree (Erodium botrys)


  1. Amazing! Up here, it seems like most vernal pools are on private land, and fenced off. How exciting to be able to see them from up close!

  2. Town Mouse, you're right - vernal pools are really endangered habitat here in California and are often on private lands. We are very, very fortunate to be living near this wonderful preserve.

  3. Fabulous walk Camissonia! I love how they have the boardwalk so you can experience the vernal pools up close. The Hoover's Downingia looks gorgeous en masse. I had to laugh at your happy cows...MOOWAH indeed! You should send that photo to the Real California Milk folks :P I'd be lost without Calflora/Calphotos...especially the Calflora "what grows here" tool. Although, I say that, and I'm dumbfounded with a plant ID at the moment. The plant looks similar to your button celery, just blooming tiny purple flowers. I'll figure it out...I'm stubborn LOL. In the meantime, I resolve that the next El Nino year we have, I'm going to drive around California, north to south, and witness some of these spectacular wildflower displays in person!

  4. I've been bemoaning how the season is turning brown, but maybe I just need to look closer or explore different areas. Your main vernal pool is pretty amazing. I can really see the lavender colors of the downingia spreading out towards the horizon like little bits of the sky fallen down into the soft grasses...

  5. Wish I could walk there myself, but this is almost as good ...

  6. wow I love seeing the vernal pools change from season to season. Those grasses have such a beauty and form - years ago I would never have appreciated a photo like that but I do now.

    Those puddles of blue amongst the cows is ever so pretty and such a vivid colour aswell.

    Thats a beautiful little butterfly too.

  7. Clare, I think I'll do the same on our next El Nino year. I can just imagine the floral splendor to be found up in your neck of the woods!

    James, what a really cool way to put it: 'like little bits of the sky fallen down into the soft grasses' - you should be a poet (or maybe you already are?)

    Elephant's Eye - you'd love it here!

    Rosie, same here. Years ago, I would never have looked at a patch of dead, dry grass twice. Because it would just look like dead, dried grass. Now I try to see beauty in every manifestation of nature.

  8. May I use your pictures of the Button Celery for my Bio project?

  9. Hi Anonymous - yes you may! What kind of bio project are you doing?

  10. Thanks!
    Basically we picked an endangered species native to the US and we do a report and some other stuff on it.

  11. Sound cool - good luck on your project!