Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Southern Africa section in the University of California Botanical Garden

The internationally known University of California Botanical Garden (UCBG) has a network of paths and narrow trails meandering through plant biodiversity including flowers and trees from many parts of the world. The world is mapped into the hilly garden landscape by featuring separate geographic regions. The Southern Africa region is one of them. The UCBG brochure introduces this section as follows:
This southwest-facing slope contains a stunning collection of plants from one of the most diverse botanical regions of the world. The prominent rocky, karoo habitat is a riot of color in spring with blooming bulbs and annuals such as Cape cowslips (Lachenalia), baboon flowers (Babiana), and Cape marigolds (Dimorphoteca). The chaparral-like fynbos beds feature fine-leaved heaths (Erica), proteas (Protea), and rush-like restios (including Restio, Elegia). Cycads, rare primitive conifer relatives older than the dinosaurs, are featured in a cliff-like simulation of their native Eastern Cape Province.

If you are living in the Bay Area or nearby, a ticket for Berkeley's Botanical Garden is probably the best short-cut to Southern Africa. Simulate an African travel trip within the Botanical Garden, located about a mile east from campus and the football and soccer stadium (California Memorial Stadium). Spring or summer is a great time for a visit. Start your “Hello, South Africa!” tour right here and get to know plants from South Africa's Cape Provinces and other areas: Phylica pubescens, Natal bottlebrush, Aloe saponaria, and blue margarito.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

South Africa in Berkeley: Natal Bottlebrush in the Botanical Garden

The Natal bottlebrush (Greyia radlkoferi), also named woolly bottlebrush, is a small tree native to South Africa, but found in other countries and on other continents in gardens such as the University of California Botanical Garden. Here, a label underneath the shrub puts it into the Greyiaceae family (wild bottlebrush family). Newer classifications include this family within the Melianthaceae family in the order Geraniales. Greyia radlkoferi has two close relatives: Greyia flanaganii and Greyia sutherlandii, also native to South Africa.

Interestingly, there are other “bottlebrush species,” such as the stiff bottlebrush (Callistemon rigidus) and the weeping bottlebrush tree (Callistemon viminalis), which belong to a different family (Myrtaceae) and different order (Myrtales). Callistemon species are endemic to Australia and New Caledonia.

Most of the Greyia and Callistemon species prefer a temperate climate. There flowers occur in dense clusters with cylindrical shapes that often look like brushes.

[1] Paula de la Cruz, Kirstenbosch NBG: Greyia radlkoferi, October, 2004.
[2] Giles Mbambezeli, Kirstenbosch NBG:, Greyia sutherlandii, October, 2006.
[3] Giles Mbambezeli, Kirstenbosch NBG:, Greyia flanaganii Bolus, October, 2002.
[4] Exploring the World of Trees: Bottlebrush tree - Callistemon rigidus, January 2008.

Monday, April 26, 2010

South Africa in Berkeley: Aloe Saponaria in the Botanical Garden

Aloe saponaria is a flowering plant. The peach to coral-red flowers are tubular-shaped and build firework-like clusters. The stalks sometimes reach a height of three feet. The thick fleshy leaves form a rosette similar to the American aloe, known as agave. Both belong to the order Asparagales, wherein they belong to different families: Aloe saponaria to the Asphodelaceae family (formerly Liliaceae family), and the American aloe to the Agavaceae family. The genus aloe (sometimes spelled aloë) within the Asphodelaceae family contains over hundred species of flowering succulent plants that occur in Africa, islands off the African coast and the Arabian peninsula.

Aloe saponaria is native to arid regions in South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Other names for this salt- and drought-tolerant species such as African aloe, soap aloe, and zebra aloe indicate geographic location, cultural significance, and leave pattern. Aloe saponaria is also a popular ornamental species planted, for example, in Arizona in the Tuscon area next to agaves and cacti. The plant in the picture is part of the Southern Africa collection in the University of California Botanical Garden. A walk through this and New World sections in the garden invites for a comparison of aloe and agave species.

[1] Aloe saponaria Haworth (syn. Aloe maculata).
[2] Plant of the week: Aloe saponaria.
[3] University of Connecticut: Aloe saponaria (Ait.) Haw.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

South Africa in Berkeley: Phylica Pubescens in the Botanical Garden

Phylica pubescens is a genus of the buckthorn (Rhamnaceae) family in the order Rosales. The common English name is featherhead and it is not difficult to see how this name came about by looking at the hairy leaves of the bush in the picture, taken on a sunny day in early spring in the Southern Africa section of the University of California Botanical Garden. Phylica pubescens is native to the Western Cape Province in South Africa, where it is called veerkoppie.
Specimens were brought to Europe, when the first European ships reached the Cape. Since the 17th century Phylica plants were grown in European garden. There are about 150 Phylica species, native to areas in Southern Africa, Madagascar and to South Atlantic islands such as Tristan da Cuhna, where one species has its home. The Mediterranean-type climate, which these flowering plants are accustomed to, occurs in the southwest-faced hills above Berkeley, where they can easily be spotted just off one of the narrow trails through the diverse Southern African collection.

[1] Jane Forrester and Harold Porter NBG: Phylica pubescens, December 2004.
[2] CalPhotos Photo Database: Phylica pubescens.

Friday, April 23, 2010

South Africa in Berkeley: Blue Margarito in the Botanical Garden

The blue margarito (Felicia fruticosa), also known as blue daisy, marguerite daisy or shrub aster, is a plant of the aster or daisy (Asteraceae) family, endemic to those parts of South Africa with a mediterranean climate such as the Western Cape Province. A similar climate is found in coastal California, including the Bay Area and the University of California Botanical Garden in the Berkeley Hills, where the above picture was taken in the Southern Africa section. This collection of plants is located on a southwest-facing slope featuring plants from one of the most diverse botanical regions of the world. Early spring is an excellent time to walk the short, narrow trails through this geographic section of the garden, enjoy or study the displayed biodiversity and compare Southern African species with their “Californian relatives,” some of which can be found in the California section. The common California aster (Symphyotrichum chilense, formerly Aster chilensis), a low-land brush of coastal plains and bluffs, is in the same family. So is mayweed or stinking chamomile (Anthemis cotula) with its daisy-like flowers (many white rays around a yellow disk), which can be found in California in disturbed areas, but which is native to Europe and North Africa. It has “migrated” to North America and also to Southern Africa. It out-smells the blue margarito, but cannot compete with the margarito's colorful brilliance.

More about the blue margarito: Bush felica (Felica fruticosa).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Botanical Garden of the University of California at Berkeley

A praying mantis is overlooking the Botanical Garden in Berkeley from the roof of a small building. The garden is beautifully situated in the hills between the main University Campus and Tilden Regional Park. Its easy to get lost on the many trails and narrow foot paths that meander through the garden between plants from around the world. The garden features sections with flowers and trees from the Mediterranean, Canary Islands, Southern Africa, Australasia and different parts of the Americas—including Mexico and California! There are also special collections in the Orchid, Fern and Carnivorous Plant House, Arid House, Tropical House, Cycad and Palm Garden, Garden of Old Roses, Crops of the World Garden, Herb Garden, and Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden. Plants are labeled by common name, scientific name, family name and their country or continent of origin. A red dot on a label marks rare or endangered species. The garden has an amazing number of rare, odd, strange, and never-seen-before (for most of us) species—from tiny to giant and from water-loving to desert-proof. Even as a frequent visitor, you are likely making new discoveries when coming at different seasons. If you are a novice and got lost, look for the praying mantis next to the Tour Deck, which is not very far away from the Garden Shop and entrance/exit.

Getting there
From Piedmont Avenue in Berkeley take Stadium Rim Way between the Hearst Greek Theatre and the California Memorial Stadium. Drive half way around the stadium. As you get to the part that offers great views inside the stadium, turn left at Centennial Drive and drive uphill for about half a mile. The Botanical Garden entrance is on the right side; a parking area is on the left side.
Monday through Friday and on California Day there is a shuttle service, the H Line, that connects the botanical garden with the Shattuck Avenue BART station, Evans Hall, Strawberry Canyon Recreational Area, Lawrence Hall of Science, and Space Science Lab/MSRI.

[1] University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley.
[2] City of Berkeley, CA.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rose Hill Cemetery in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve

The Rose Hill Cemetery, here seen from Manhattan Canyon Trail, is a historic cemetery in the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. The preserve does not feature any ghost towns. The houses of the coal miner families are gone, and so are the stores, saloons as well as church and school buildings. But their ghosts are still around. You might at least get that feeling while visiting Rose Hill Cemetery. This 19th century cemetery at the south side of Rose Hill, midway between the Nortonville and Somersville townsites, is monument and reminder of the shortness of our lives and material creations. This area is under 24 hour video surveillance by the East Bay Regional Park District. Not to watch out for ghosts, but to protect the remains from vandalism, by which unfortunately most parts of the cemetery were destroyed before the Park District assumed responsibility for the property in 1974. We were getting informed that a project is now in progress to restore this place, search for missing gravestones and getting more information on people who were placed for peace at this Protestant burial ground. The former residents, which are buried here, did typically not die in old age. Women died in childbirth. Children died of infectious diseases. Men died in mining disasters, as miners still do today. The ghosts follow us along the trail through life.

Manhattan Canyon Trail in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve

The Manhattan Canyon Trail is a hiker-only trail in the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. The trail leads through mixed forest, chaparral, and across sloped meadows. The trail offers views of the Rose Hill Cemetery and the Greathouse Visitor Center. Many park visitors take the Nortonville Trail to get right to the Rose Hill Cemetry or to the Nortonville Townsite. If you don't want to follow the crowd, take the Manhattan Canyon Trail, which begins about half a mile away from the southern parking lot at the end of Somersville Road, just before you reach the pond. The trail slowly climbs up the hillside from the Nortonville Trail. It connects with the Black Diamond Trail, on which you can either walk back (turn right) to the Nortonville Trail, getting to the Cemetery side, or hike (turn left) to Pioneer Pond, Jim's Place, and to the Nortonville Townsite. The latter loop keeps you hiking for at least five miles, depending on the detours you will make to explore old mining sites.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve between Mt. Diablo and the west delta

The Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve has between 45 and 65 miles of trails, depending on which source you are consulting and how you measure the length of those trails that wind up steep slopes. There are hiking-only trails and horse and bicycle trails. Many trails are also frequented or crossed by cows. The preserve features a dense trail network, well-marked with signposts, inviting hikers to loop around and access the different park features including places and artifacts from the coal mining days between about 1860 and 1900, when this was the Mt. Diablo Coal Field. The mining towns Nortonville, Somersville and Stewartsville were within the current preserve boundaries. Nortonville, founded by Noah Norton in 1861, was the largest. An information board at the Nortonville Townsite, west of the Rose Hill Cemetery, says that more than 1,000 residents were living just in that town at the peak of mining activity. Then, the town boasted a public school, a hotel, stores, churches, fraternal halls, and saloons. The town is gone, but the mining bonanza left some marks between riparian habitats and often steep hills covered by grassland, chaparral, or mixed evergreen forest.

Getting there
From Oakland, California, drive east on Highway 24. In Walnut Creek go north on Interstate 680 and take the connector 242 through Concord to Highway 4. Drive east on Highway 4. Pass Pittsburg and take the Somersville Road exit in Antioch. Go south on Somersville Road. Follow this road through the residential area and drive into the hills until you get to the park entrance. After passing the gate you will find a parking lot on the left side. There are the park office, a small visitor center, and interpretive boards. You can access the trail network here or from another parking and picnic area that is located further south, less than a mile away. This second trailhead is the gateway to the Greathouse Visitor Center (closed during 2009 and 2010) and mining features such as the Hazel Atlas Portal, various shafts, mines and tunnels. From here you can get on the Nortonville Trail, Stewartville Trail, Manhattan Canyon Trail and other trails, paths and loops.

[1] East Bay Regional Park District: Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.
[2] David Weintraub: East Bay Trails. Wilderness Press, Berkeley, 1998.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A salt bush of the southwestern United States: Atriplex lentiformis

Atriplex lentiformis is one of the salt bush species of the goosefoot family (Chenopodiaceae) that is found in California and northern Mexico. The most common names for this plant are quailbush, big saltbrush, or big saltbush. The latter names suggest that it is a plant with a high tolerance for salinity. It also is drought and calcium carbonate (CaCO3) tolerant and loves sunshine. The typical habitats include salt-marshes and coastal areas with saline or alkaline soils. I found the one shown in the picture somewhat away from the coast between the La Brea tar pits in Hancock Park in Los Angeles, where it grows next to arroyo willows (Salix lasiolepis) near the Pleistocene Garden. The highly branched shrub bears scaly gray-green leaves that are slightly rippled along the edges—looking a little bit like green tongues. The leaves are said to be edible, but I brought my own lunch.

[1] USDA Plants Profile: Atriplex lentiformis, big saltbush.
[2] Plants for a future: Atriplex lentiformis, quail bush.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hancock Park and La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles

This bust of Captain G. Allan Hancock stands in Hancock Park. The sculpture honors Capt. Hancock, who was a sea captain, oilman, explorer, developer, banker, aviator, scientist, businessman, railroad engineer, musician, and philanthropist [1]. In 1913 he granted Los Angeles County the exclusive privilege to excavate at his Rancho La Brea for a period of two years [2]. A fossil tooth of a saber-toothed cat had been found at this place along with many other interesting fossil bones and remains—well-preserved in asphaltic sediments. During the two-year-period many more bones were excavated. In May 1915, Hancock donated parts of the Rancho land to Los Angeles County for exhibition and preservation of the scientific findings and excavation sites.

Today, this land, surrounded by Wilshire Blvd., Curson Ave., 6th Street and Ogden Ave., features various little park trails, circling around a bubbling lake pit, excavation pits, an amphitheater and a Pleistocene Garden. The Hancock sculpture is not alone in this park: life-size sculptures of Pleistocene animals are “roaming” the park land and close-by sculptures of the L.A. County Art Museum such as “Phoenix” by Alexander Liberman can be seen. Art meets paleontology. More pleistocenic animations and a rich Ice Age fossil collection are housed inside the Page Museum, where visitors also can watch scientists working on whatever new bones came out of the asphalt deposits. Ice Age biodiversity in your view at their hands.

Getting there
From downtown Los Angeles go west on Wilshire Boulevard toward Beverly Hills. Hancock Park, the La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum are located between 5801 and 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036. Turn right on Curson Avenue and find parking to the left behind the Page Museum. A better way: take the bus or come by bike!

References and links
[1] Captain G. Allan Hancock.
[2] Chester Stock (revised by John M. Harris):
Rancho La BreaA Record of Pleistocene Life in California. Seventh Edition. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 2001 (ISSN 0079-0943); pages 3-4.
[3] Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

From the outskirts of Ojai to Nordhoff Peak: Climbing Pratt Trail

The Ojai Valley in California, about an hour's drive away from Ventura or Carpinteria, is surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest. There are various trails that can easily be accessed from Mira Monte, Meiners Oak or downtown Ojai. The Pratt Trail is one of them. This trail goes uphill through chaparral/forest and along meadows, where you might find a picnic table with shade. In the lower section, this trail passes residential areas with houses that are surrounded by beautiful gardens. In most parts, Pratt Trail is narrow and steep. It takes you to Nordhoff Peak with views of the Pacific Coast and the Channel Islands, weather permitting.

Getting there
From the intersection of Highway 150 (Ojai Avenue) and Signal Street next to the Arcade and Libbey Park in downtown Ojai, go east on Signal Road. Turn left at the Water Tank and carefully drive to the trailhead parking lot at dirt road's end.

[1] Hiking Ojai.
[2] Trails of Nordhoff Ridge from Rose Valley to Ojai including Gridley and Pratt Trails.
[3] Gabriele Rau's experience (March 9, 2002): Nordhoff Peak.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tiki Head in Morro Bay State Park

Tiki Head is a rock in the Cerro Cabrillo Area of Morro Bay State Park in San Luis Obispo County, California. The rock can be accessed in about an hour by taking Quarry Trail, starting at the Quarry Traihead just off South Bay Blvd. You'll get the best impression of its head-like appearance from the upper part of Quarry Trail. To reach the head, you'll need to do the short, but steep climb on Cerro Cabrillo Trail through low chaparral. This hike also provides exciting views of the estuary, the Sand Split and the distant hills of Montaña de Oro State Park. There are different ways or detours possible for returning to from where you started by including Live Oak Trail or parts of Park Ridge Trail in your hiking route.

Getting there
From Highway 1, take the South Bay Boulevard exit. Drive south past the intersection with State Park Road. After less than a mile, the Quarry Trailhead parking lot is coming up to your left.

[1] Morro Bay State Park.
[2] Black Hill Trail Map.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Viewing Morro Rock from Sweet Springs Nature Preserve in Los Osos

Sweet Springs Nature Preserve of Los Osos in San Luis Obispo County, California, is located at the southern end of Morro Bay, from where you can view the Sand Split and Morro Rock. You do not need to look that far if you are just interested in watching birds. A boardwalk brings you to an observation deck next to the bay shore. Presence of shorebirds and waterfowl depends on the tide.

Birds that live in or visit the estuary include the Long-billed Curlew, Bryant's Savannah Sparrow, California Black Rail and Swainson's Thrush. A bird watching board featuring many other species is located next to the observation deck.

As the name of the preserve indicates, natural freshwater springs occur here, found in upland areas. A small but stable population of Southwestern Pond Turtles lives in the this aquatic habitat. Other rare or endangered species, whose range is now mostly limited to sand dune and scrub areas in the
Montaña de Oro State Park, also live in the Sweet Springs Preserve.

Getting there

From Highway 1, take the South Bay Boulevard exit and go south to Los Osos. Pass Pismo Avenue and turn right on Ramona Avenue, pass 4th Street and find parking on Ramona Street, when you arrive at the preserve, which is to your right. There are different entry points. One trail begins at the “A Morro Coast Audubon Society Sanctuary” marker with the illustration of a belted kingfisher on it.

[1] Sweet Springs Nature Preserve.
[2] Sweet Springs Nature Preserve in Additional Audubon Facilities in California.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Montaña de Oro State Park in San Luis Obispo County

Montaña de Oro State Park is located south of Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo County in California. The park includes magnificent beaches, secluded coves, sand dunes, maritime chaparral and hillsides with great vistas. The migratory path for blue whales and gray whales is out there in the ocean. The park is a perfect place for hiking, biking, horse riding, surfing, or birding. Its Spanish name means “Mountain of Gold,” referring to the seasonal coverage of hill slopes with golden-looking flowers. Besides plants such as wildflowers and the Morro manzanita, you may also want to look out for animal life on the beach and in the sand dune scrubs. Depending on day-time, season and your patience, you will be able to spot sandpipers, the Western snowy plover, the Morro Bay kangaroo rat, the Morro blue butterfly, and the Morro shoulderband snail. Notice that some of these species are threatened or endangered. Make sure that they have their habitat undisturbed so they can reproduce while you recreate!

Getting there, staying there
From Highway 1, take the South Bay Boulevard exit and go south. Pass the Quarry and Park Ridge trailheads on your left. Drive through Baywood Park and turn right on Los Osos Valley Road that continues as Pecho Valley Road into the State Park. Trails are accessible at various sites. If you plan to stay on camp grounds in the park, notice that currently the availability of certain campsites and services has been reduced.

Morro manzanita

The Morro manzanita (Arctostaphylos morroensis, Ericaceae family) is a narrowly endemic plant species restricted to a portion of coastal area in San Luis Obispo County, California. It is an erect shrub, which becomes arborescent with old age. It can be distinguished from other species of co-occurring manzanitas by its persistent shreddy bark and densely hairy lower leaf surfaces [1]. The leaves are ovate to elliptic in shape. Morro manzanitas are typically flowering between December and March.
Habitats of Morro manzanitas are sand dune areas and maritime chaparral, which are found south of Morro Bay, for example, in Montaña de Oro State Park and the Elfin Forest Preserve in Los Osos, where they occur along with ancient pygmy coastal live oaks (Quercus agrifolia) and wedgeleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus cuneatus) [2]. A Montaña de Oro State Park interpretative board gives the following information:
Morro manzanita is a unique shrub of limited distribution occurring primarily on ancient sand dunes only in the South Bay region. This coastal species is associated with maritime chaparral, coast live oak, and dune scrub plant communities. It provides an excellent wildlife habitat for resident and migratory species.

Guided walks are offered occasionally through the Elfin Forest nature preserve. The nearby State Park has various trailheads from where you can start a self-guided tour by staying on the marked trails through the sand dunes.

[1] C. Tyler, D. Odion and D. Meade: Ecological Studies of Morro Manzanita (Arctostaphylos morroensis), Seed Ecology, and Reproductive Biology. Marine Sciences Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, August 1998. PDF.
[2] R. W. Halsey: Chaparral: Pure California. Fremontia Fall 2007, 35 (4), pp. 2-7.
[3] Bureau of Land Management, California: Morro Manzanita (Arctostaphylos morroensis).

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Morro shoulderband snail

The Morro shoulderband snail (Helminthoglypta walkeriana), also named banded dune snail, is living in a small section of the Pacific Coast south of Cayucos in San Luis Obispo County, California [1]. It is endemic to this area and endangered due to habitat loss. Its preferred host plant is mock heather (Ericameria ericoides), found, for example, in coastal dune scrub vegetation of Montaña de Oro State Park. The park service provides the following information:
The Morro shoulderband snail, a native land mollusk, is found in the stabilized, vegetated dunes in the park. Mock heather, a preferred host plant, provides food and shelter. Loss of coastal dune habitat and competition from the introduced European brown snail have significantly reduced the population.

The Morro shoulderband species may also use areas with non-native veldt grass (Ehrharta calycina), European beach grass and ice plants. It also occurs further inland in coastal sage scrub areas, grasslands and swales with shrubs that provide canopy and leaf litter [2]. The Morro shoulderband lives together with and/or in competition with the non-endemic common garden snail or brown garden snail (Helix aspersa) and the endemic Big Sur shoulderband snail (Helminthoglypta umbillicata), which is typically found more inland in grassland and coastal sage scrub plant communities.

[1] California State Parks: Morro shoulderband snail (in comparison with European garden snail and Big Sur shoulderband snail).
[2] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: PROTOCOL SURVEY GUIDELINES for the Morro shoulderband snail (Helminthoglypta walkeriana). June 2003. PDF.
[3] Other snail species in the Family Helminthoglyptidae of the Order Stylommatophora (terrestrial snails and slugs).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Morro Bay kangaroo rat

The Morro Bay kangaroo rat (Dipodomys heermanni morroensis) is a subspecies of Heermann's kangaroo rat, named after physician and naturalist Adolphus Lewis Heermann (1827-1865). This rodent is endemic to areas along the Pacific Coast in San Luis Obispo County, California [1]. Montaña de Oro State Park near Los Osos is a good place to see the kangaroo rat, although it is endagered and it living range today is very limited, as explained on an information board (showing photos by Glenn R. Stewart) in the State Park:
The coastal dune scrub plant community within the Morro Dunes Natural Preserve provides critical habitat for the endangered Morro Bay kangaroo rat. This species, once common throughout the South Bay region, is now limited to a small area south of Los Osos. The degradation of suitable habitat has led to the species decline.

The Morro Bay kangaroo rat is the smallest of nine subspecies of Heermann's kangaroo rat [2]. It is brown-colored, typically darker brown than other subspecies. It bears an incomplete, white hip stripe, and a black stripe across its nose. Its tail with a about 7 inch (17.5 cm) is much longer than its head and body, together measuring 4 to 5 inch (10-13 cm).
If you don't succeed in spotting any kangaroo rats jumping around, you may still see hints of their “engineering” activity. Kangaroo rats build tunnel systems in soft or sandy soil, where they live, breed and store food. They are primarily seed eaters.

[1] U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Species Profile: Morro Bay kangaroo rat (Dipodomys heermanni morroensis).
[2] Comparison of different Kangaroo Rats (
Dipodomys sp.).
[3] Justin Congdon and Aryan Roest: Status of the Endangered Morro Bay Kangaroo Rat. Journal of Mammalogy August 1975, 56 (3), pp. 679-683. Abstract.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Morro blue butterfly

The Morro blue butterfly (Icaricia icarioides moroensis, Family Lycaenidae), like the Pheres blue butterfly and the San Francisco tree lupine moth, lays its eggs on lupines. The name indicates that its range is found in the Morro Bay area in California. This butterfly depends on the presence of silver dune lupines (Lupinus chamissonis), a salt- and sand-tolerating plant species growing in coastal dune areas, such as those that are part of the Montaña de Oro State Park, south of Morro Bay and Los Osos. Visitors to the park will find the following information:
The life cycle of the Morro blue butterfly is associated with a single host plant, the dune lupine, where the species finds shelter, feeds and lays eggs. Its range is limited to a narrow strip of coastal dunes that have been significantly impacted by development and degradation.

References and resources
[1] W. T. Williams and J. R. Potter: The coastal strand community at Morro Bay State Park, California. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club July-August 1972, 99 (4), pp. 163-171. Abstract.
[2] California Coastal Commission: California's Coastal Sand Dunes.
[3] Icaricia icarioides moroensis.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Western snowy plover

Plovers (Charadriidae) are short-billed birds, typically found along open shorelines where they forage on small prey.
A western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) may be spotted on a beach hike along the central or southern Californian coast. Their habitat includes beaches, the sand dune hinterland, and—further inland—stream, pond, and lake environments. Natural predators of snowy plovers and their tiny eggs are coyotes, raccoons, and other birds such as falcons and owls. The snowy plover population of the Pacific Coast has been designated a threatened species—not so much because of those predators, but of habitat loss. An interpretive board at a trailhead in the Montaña de Oro State Park, south of Morro Bay and Los Osos, provides the following information:
The coastal strand provides excellent nesting habitat for the threatened western snowy plover. Nests and fledglings are susceptible to loss from human-caused disturbance and predators. Loss of habitat along coastal California has caused concern for the survival of the species.

In the park you'll find certain sand dune areas marked as protected and temporarily closed during the nesting season. Those areas provide spaces wherein the plovers build their nests from kelp, driftwood, shells and whatever else they may find along the shore.

References and resources
[1] California State Parks: Western Snowy Plover • Sharing the Beach
[2] Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office: Western Snowy Plover
[3] Western Snowy Plover • Tools & Resources for Recovery