Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jumping the sandbars in the Carson River at Kirman Field

More and more ranch land is turning into land for multiple uses. Washoe Valley and Carson Valley features various historic ranches differing in attractions, uses, and trail miles. The Bently-Kirman Ranch Trail (also Bently-Kirman Tract Trail) opened at the end of April this year. It makes Kirman Field accessible to the public with the goal of coexistence of recreational use, habitat protection and cattle ranching. This trail includes two separate loop trails, crisscrossing floodplain lands next to the Carson River. Each loop trail provides access to the river and its sandbars. Once you jump the sandbars and hit a muddy spot, you may decide to leave these little islands for the birds and enjoy the view of the Carson Range with Jobs Peak, Jobs Sister and Freel Peak. Up there, the Tahoe Rim Trail is still hidden under snow, but should be hikable without snowshoes in a few weeks, when the Kirman Field is blistering in the heat.

Getting there
From Highway 395 between Carson City and Minden take Stephanie Lane, exiting left if you are diriving south and exiting right otherwise. After one mile turn left into Heybourne Road and turn left again after about half a mile. Now you are in a short dirt road that ends at the trailhead, which is easy to be recognized by the standing interpretive board. There is parking on both sides of the dirt road. The board announces trail use: no dogs, no bicycles, no equestrians, no motorvehicles. Hello hikers and sandbar jumpers!

[1] Carson Valley Trails Association: Bently-Kirman Ranch Trail.
[2] More to see at MikeOnTheTrail: Bently-Kirman Trail.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tufted Evening-Primrose on the slopes east of Hidden Valley

Last weekend I took one of the trails that are meandering uphill from the basement of Hidden Valley Regional Park east of Reno, Nevada. I thought I saw a collection of handkerchiefs spread over some area not very far from the trail. Close-up inspection revealed that, instead, they were flowers. It did not take very long to identify them as the Tufted Evening-Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa) of the Evening-Primrose Family (Onagraceae) [1-3].

There are many species of Oenothera [4], but this one distinguishes itself from others by its large white flowers that turn pink or rose-purple after blooming (see aged flower on left side of picture). The large flowers occur on short stems. The four petals, eight stamens and four-lobed stigma of this bisexual plant are easily recognized. The radial symmetry is less obvious as the white petals often flap and wrinkle like a tissue. Indeed, the name handkerchief plant is in use [5]. Not a nice name for a plant.

Another name, dwarf evening-primrose, seems odd for a plant that signalizes its presence by large flowers. Then, there is the name morning-lily, which, in my mind, contradicts with the name evening primrose for this plant that usually opens its flowers in late afternoon. Whatever the name, while hiking by, it gives some comfort to know that the trail side is not littered by handkerchiefs, but an interesting plant.

[1] Laird R. Blackwell: Tahoe WildflowersA Month-by-Month Guide to Wildflowers in the Tahoe Basin and Surrounding Areas. A Falcon Guide, Morris Book Publishing, LLC, 2007 ; page 56.
[2] Oenothera caespitosa Nutt. ssp. caespitosa.
[3] The Free Dictionary: Oenothera caespitosa.
[4] Various species of the Oenothera genus at CalFlora.
[5] Arches National Park: Dwarf Evening-Primrose.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Eyelashweed on the slopes east of Hidden Valley

Eyelashweed (Blepharipappus scaber) is a plant of the Aster family (Asteraceae). Sometimes called rough eyelashweed, it is native to the western states of the USA, including Nevada. The shown flower was found on the slopes east of Hidden Valley (east of Reno and south of Sparks), Washoe County, Nevada. These dry slopes are facing west. Juniper and pine trees are growing there in some areas. But eyelashweed is not seeking their shade. The plants are small, blooming with white flowers that feature five or more three-lobed rays.

[1] USDA Plants Profile: Blepharipappus scaber Hook.
[2] The University of Texas at Austin, Native Plant Data base: Blepharipappus scaber Hook.
[3] CalPhotos.