Sunday, March 27, 2011

Plants in Bailey and Rubio Canyons - March 27, 2011

Bailey Canyon ParkWintry weather for the first week of spring kept me looking anxiously toward the weekend pondering the possibilities for hiking. The weekend arrived with cool temps, low clouds, and a chance of rain. All factors considered, my hiking adventure ended up being atypical for me: three hikes in one day...Bailey Canyon, a newly re-forged trail at the mouth of Rubio Canyon, and Rubio Canyon Trail to the lower falls. And mixed into that was a bunch of plant photos and celebrating with the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy over a 41-acre land acquisition to preserve as open space.

In keeping with my plant photo theme from hiking Fish Canyon last week, this blog posting will feature plants. And like last week, the cool, cloudy weather makes conditions perfect for plant photograph. I've displayed the plants below in the order in which I photographed them.

Plants in Bailey Canyon in Sierra Madre


elderberry leavesBlue elderberry (Sambucus mexicana), is a native large shrub or small tree (generally lacking a main trunk) in the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae). In the fall it will yield its purple berries which are popular for jelly. It is deciduous, so it loses its leaves in the winter.

Douglas nightshade
Douglas nightshade or black or white nightshade (Solanum douglasii) is a native perennial herb which produces little green to black poisonous berries. The opposites of "black" and "white" in two of the common names illustrates the idiosyncrasies of common names.

Coast live oak
Coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia)! What can I say about the mighty oak? They can live for hundreds of years but be destroyed in a day, such in the horrible and senseless leveling of 11 acres in Arcadia in January 2011.

coast live oak acorn
The small, tough, leathery leaves of coast live oak are characteristic of a tree that is adapted to live in a hot, dry climate.
coast live oak leaves
The fruit of the oak tree, the acorn, was a vital food source for the Native Americans.

Tree tobacco flowers

Tree tobaccoTree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) is a fast growing non-native shrub to small tree that was brought from South America in the late 1800s. In spite of its "tobacco" name, don't even think about smoking it...all parts of the plant are poisonous to humans.

Spanish broom

Spanish broomSpanish or Portuguese broom (Cytisus striatus) is another non-native shrub and can be seen a lot along roadsides and disturbed areas. It has beautiful yellow blooms and a wonderful fragrance but poses a major invasive weed problem in foothills and mountain habitats.

Mule fat
Mule fat (Baccharis salicifolia) is a native shrub in the sunflower family that grows up to 8 feet tall. It likes to grow in canyon bottoms and moist streamsides, often forming thickets.

Black sage

black sage leavesBlack sage (Salvia mellifera) is a native shrub in the mint family (Lamiaceae) and is common in local plant communities. It was one of the staple, multi-purpose plants for Native Americans and pioneers. I love its rich aroma.

California sagebrush
California sagebrush (Artemisia californica) is a native shrub found in abundance in local plant communities. It is not a true sage but it provides one of my favorite aromas while hiking. Its tiny, yellowish flowers bloom from late summer through December. It is drought deciduous which means it goes dormant in the hot, dry months.

Now on to Rubio Canyon in Altadena

California buckwheat
California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is a native shrub and one of the most abundant plants in the shrub, sage scrub, and chaparral plant communities. It's just beginning its bloom period with only a smattering of flowers, but in the next several months its pinkish white flowers will dominate the landscape. In the fall its flowers turn rust red and colorize the landscape.

Mountain lilac
Mountain lilac (Ceanothus spinosus) is a native shrub in the buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae) and found in abundance in the chaparral and other plant communities. Both parts of its scientific name means "spiny," which underscores a common characteristics among the many species of ceanothus.

Everlasting (Gnaphalium spp.) is a native perennial herb and found in many plant communities and across the country, growing up to an elevation of 8,500 feet. It dies to its roots each winter and springs to life in the spring.

Laurel sumac
Laurel sumac (Malosma laurina) is a native evergreen shrub and abundant in coastal sage scrub and chaparral plant communities. It is related and looks very similar to sugar bush and lemonadeberry, with its distinguishing features being its taco-shell-shaped leaves. Its flowers display in white clusters beginning in the spring.

Wild Canterbury bells
Wild Canterbury bells (Phacelia minor) is a native and grows in chaparral and coastal sage, and disturbed areas. As a fire follower, it is one of the first plants that to grows in a burned area. It blooms from March to June.

Eupatory or croftonweed, thoroughwort, sticky snakeroot (Ageratina adenophora) is a non-native perennial herb or small shrub that escaped and has become invasive in our local canyons, growing along the streams. It looks pretty but is destructive to local habitats.

Other blooming flowers I saw on the trails today include mustard (several occurrences), sunflower (several occurrences), lupine (probably either Lupinus benthamii or Lupinus truncates, two occurrences), deerweed (once, just starting to bloom), castor bean (once), vinca (once), California poppy (once), sugar bush (many occurrences), Pacific pea (once), and leafy spurge (an invasive plant at the mouth of Rubio Canyon; yellow flowers).

Epilog - What an enjoyable day of hiking and plant photograph! The trail to Bailey Canyon Falls was in reasonable condition but with lots of poison oak, some of which required a little dodging. There were about a dozen creek crossings, all of which were pretty easy except for one which passes under a large tree branch with about four feet of clearance. The waterfall was gushing nicely.

The trail in Rubio Canyon to the pavilion site was in good shape. The scramble up the creek had several places where navigating creek crossings were dicey. Some of the vegetation along the creek had been cut back since my hike in December, making the trek easier.

Ribbon Rock and Moss Grotto Moss Grotto/Ribbon Rock Falls and Grand Chasm Falls Grand Chasm Falls, Rubio Canyon were gushy and beautiful. The rough use route to Grand Chasm is somewhat challenging...steep, lose footing, and quite precarious in one spot. The cool, cloudy weather with rain the evening before made for great conditions for taking pictures and hiking in canyons to waterfalls. And springtime promises more enjoyable outdoor adventures! icon

Recommended book: I've been really enjoying Wildflowers of the San Gabriel Mountains (Stephens Press, LLC, 2007) by Ann Croissant, PhD and Gerald Croissant, PhD, with photos by Shirley DeBraal. They have created a user-friendly guide featuring 87 plants, each with vivid color photos. Plant descriptions include brief notes about habitat, flowering characteristics, plant features, uses, uniquenesses, and meanings behind the scientific names. The flowers are grouped by color, making it easy to find what you are looking for. Since I am not a botanist, I have found the book to be great reference tool in plant identification and writing my blurbs about plants. And its convenient size fits in the pocket of my cargo pants for use on the trail. You can order the book from San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancy

Plants  Plants of the San Gabriel Mountains at Dan's Hiking Pages

blogspot Blog posts from other hikes in Rubio Canyon:

Hike Descriptions at Dan's Hiking Pages
(Detailed trail guides include driving directions, recommended season, map, notes, links, and photos)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fish Canyon Falls Hike - March 19, 2011

Fish Canyon creek See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

I love Fish Canyon! Even if you don't count the impressive 80-foot waterfall, Fish Canyon Trail is one of the most beautiful trails in the Front Range of the San Gabriels. I was anxiously watching the weather forecast all week and hoping there would be a window in the storm that would allow the hike. Vulcan Materials offers free access days where they shuttle hikers through the quarry to the beginning of the trail, but heavy rain cancels the event. Rain was coming down hard during the night on Friday. I awoke at 6:45 on Saturday morning and the weather was cold, cloudy, and threatening more rain. I went back to bed and an hour later was awoken by sunshine. So I quickly dressed, gathered my gear, and jumped into my car for the five-minute drive to Fish Canyon.

My primary objective for today's hike is to photograph plants, particularly blooming flowers. So for this blog I'm going focusing on plants. I've displayed the plants below in the order in which I photographed them. The cool, cloudy weather makes conditions perfect for plant photograph. And with the fresh rains, the canyon is amazingly beautiful.

I start hiking at 9:06 a.m. and immediately start snapping pics.

California polypody
California polypody (Polypodium californicum) is a native perennial fern that is common in shady, streamside plant communities.

Poison oak
Poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) makes its bold return after its leafless winter. It is in abundant along this trail and I suspect that some of today's hikers will come in contact with it and be miserable starting in a few days.

Bigleaf maple
Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) is native tree and dominant in the streamside (riparian) plants communities of the San Gabriels. Its leaves are coming back after its leafless winter.

Caster bean
Caster bean (Ricinus communis) is a non-native shrub that was grown as crop in World War II for its fine oil used in aircraft engines. This highly toxic plant (deadly to humans and livestock) has escaped into the wild and is abundant throughout the San Gabriels.

Blue dicks
Blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum) is a native perennial herb in the lily family (Liliaceae) and is a common spring plant in grassy and chaparral areas. I give it the award for the dominant flower on today's hike.

Filaree or redstem filaree or cranesbill filaree (Erodium cicutarium), or as I call it, “the weed from hell!” This non-native weed has a pretty little flower but is horribly invasive, at least in my backyard. It's common on the trails too.

Wallflower (Erysimum capitatum) is a native perennial herb and one of my favorite flowers, found in elevations up to 13,000 feet.

Blue elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) is a native deciduous tree and common in the San Gabriels. These wrinkled young leaves remind me of a newborn baby.

Dudleya or liveforever (Dudleya spp.) is a native succulent perennial herb in the stonecrop family (Crassulaceae). You'll see it growing out of cracks in rocks along the trail. In another month it will bloom with yellow, orange, or red flowers.

Vinca or periwinkle (Vinca minor) is a non-native vine that early cabin owners introduced in this canyon, as in other canyons in the San Gabriels. I've never understood why our beautiful native plants weren't good enough for these people.

Eupatory (Ageratina adenophora) is another non-native that escaped and has become invasive in our local canyons, growing along the streams. It will produce tiny white flowers in showy clusters.

White alder
White alder (Alnus rhombifolia) is a native tree common along streams in local plant communities. It is deciduous, so its leaves are coming back after a leafless winter.

Common sunflower
Common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is a native herb. Its happy yellow flower is in bloom most of the year.

Fig tree
Fig tree is non-native. I don't know if it was deliberately planted by early cabin inhabitants or if it's just a volunteer. I see fig trees on various trails in the San Gabriels. It's deciduous, so it looses its leaves in the winter.

Prickly-pear cactus
Prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia littoralis) is the most common of the native cacti of the region. Its showy yellow flowers bloom from May to July and produce this tasty red fruit.

Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) is an evergreen native shrub that is abundant in the plant communities of the San Gabriels. Its white flowers bloom from June through September and produce these bright red berries which provide a welcome splash of color in the winter months.

Sugar bush
Sugar bush (Rhus ovata) is a dominant native shrub of the chaparral. Its large white flower clusters bloom in March through May. It is very similar to laurel sumac (Malosma laurina) but the leaves of sugar bush are more oval (hense, ovata).

Virgin's bower
Virgin's bower or western white clematis (Clematis ligusticifolia) is a native perennial herb or vine. There are two occurrences of it in bloom today. One plant has two blossoms and the other is a large patch with thousands of blossoms.

Wild Cucumber
Wild cucumber or Man-root (Marah macrocarpus) is a native perennial vine which is widespread in the chaparral. Its tiny white blossoms are some of the only flowers blooming in the winter.

Some of the blooming flowers that I saw on the trail today but which are not included here are everlasting (several occurrences), purple thistle (one occurrence), mustard (several occurrences), spreading larkspur (several occurrences), golden yarrow (one occurrence), lupine (one occurrence), and orange monkey flower (two occurrences).

Fish Canyon FallsI arrive at Fish Canyon Falls at 11:16 among the throngs. I count about 60 people there. After snack and soaking in the beauty of the setting I leave the falls at 11:58. My pace is quick on the return and I end the hike at 12:37.

Epilog - A thoroughly enjoyable outing! The beauty of Fish Canyon on the first weekend of spring and after a good rain is stunning. I had a chance to connect with some hikers who I've met before or online. I added some good photos to my collection of plants. I'm looking forward to more visits to Fish Canyon as spring unfolds. icon

Plants See Fish Canyon Trail Plant Guide (April 2011) (PDF)

Plants See Plants and Wildflowers in the San Gabriel Mountains at Dan's Hiking Pages

See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

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