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-- Posted by DavidS on 5:17 am on Feb. 11, 2010

Early this year of 2010 I have been hiking some each weekend in our local Santa Clara County areas both to get into shape and to see what these areas look like at this mid winter time of year.   Given my keen interest in wildflowers, I kept a particular eye out for what flowers are out.  Though I've been living in the area nearly four decades, I have done little mid winter hiking locally as I've been a long time hard core snow skier up at Tahoe resorts.  So hiking locally this winter has been a pleasant surprise.  

Sunday Jan 3 after New Years on a mostly sunny cool morning took to the bare grazing grasslands about the Meadow Horse Heaven Trail and Hidden Valley Trail in the Mission Peak Open Space Preserve (OSP).   Lots and lots of people, nice bay views, very heavy cattle grazing, juicy fresh cow pies, short grasses, lots of green herbs rising, no native wildflowers at all.

Mission Peak

Sunday Jan 10, very cloudy cool morning I hiked up into dense chaparral and coastal woodlands of the Kennedy Trail in Sierra Azul OSP, where I was with a modest numbers of hikers and quite a few mountain bikers.  Lower on this trail saw a couple early blue witch, solanum umbelliferum, then above saw for the first time ever chaparral currant, ribes malveceum.  These pleasant flowers bloomed at several sunny southeastern exposures at elevations above the usual coastal fog.  Also noticed some toyon bushes, heteromeles arbutifolia, still had its fall crop of red berries.

chaparral currant
toyon berries

Saturday Jan 16, with sprinkles from a nearing storm all about, climbed up into another chaparral zone at the Priest Rock Trail in Sierra Azul OSP, where we passed just a few hikers and mountain bikers.  I saw one good patch of the striking just rising Indian warrior, pedicularis densiflora, manzanita with its whitish pink bells, and a few tiny white flowers of miner's lettuce, montia perfoliata below larger trees.

manzanita flowers

Sunday Jan 24 on another cool day of scattered sprinkles, did the very popular easy climb with many hikers and bikers to the hill in Saint Joseph's Hill OSP where I saw more blooming manzanita, miner's lettuce, and woodland pea, lathyrys vestifus.

Sunday Jan 31 on a more common winter day of early fog that burns off into partly cloudy winter skies, hiked into the coastal woodlands about the Serpentine Loop, Bald Peak's Loop, and Longwall Canyon Trails in Calero County Park and Rancho Canada del Oro OSP.  Of course the huge week of rain had fallen during the preceeding week and water was still draining everywhere.  Now the wildflowers were rising!   There saw several blue witch and woodland pea, and lots of blooming manzanita on southerly slopes. Thus one thing I have learned this spring is that January and February is when flowers bloom in our local mountains on our otherwise hot dry southern exposures.   On shady northern slopes below coast live oak and California bay trees suddenly were lots of white flowers of milkmaids, cardamine californica, miner's lettuce, and several beautiful blue hued hound's tongue, cynoglossum grande, with their large green dog tongue like leaves.   Also in shady slopes were a few mosquito-bills aka shooting star, dodecatheon hendersonii, and bright yellow hued California buttercup, ranunculus californicus. The ridgeline areas that have nice views are all old cattle grazing grasslands where I could see lots of rising filaree and even 3 early California poppies.  Passed just a few people that day on this less well known area that has some serpentine outcrops.  Easily the most interesting hike thus far this winter.

coast live oak acorns
manzanita trunk

Sunday Feb 7, on a partly cloudy morning after another night of good rains, I returned to Rancho Canada del Oro OSP and revisted the above manazanita trunk with my 4x5 view camera I'd seen the previous week.  Then continued up the Longwall Canyon Trail and around back to the parking lot via the Mayfair Ranch Trail.   Saw the same species from the previous week that were out in increasing numbers as well as a few white baby-blue eyes, nemophila menziesii var atomaria.  Particularly interesting was where the trail follows Baldy Ryan Creek.  Some nice rainbow shelf fungi, lots of mossy trunks and rocks, and various other lichen and fungis.  Where the trail leaves the creek climbing the ridge were two nice areas of Indian warrior.  Along the old ranch ridgetop are beautifully green open grasslands with pictureque blue oaks.  

lichen on old fence post
rainbow shelf fungi, lichen, moss

(Edited by DavidS at 8:16 am on Feb. 12, 2010)

-- Posted by Randy on 3:03 pm on Feb. 12, 2010

Good to hear your keen observations David. I have also been noticing lots of things blooming that I don't normally expect to see this early. My first obsevation of milk maids was on new years day in Rancho Canada Del Oso. I have also seen hound's tounge in Niscene Marks, and some fuschia flowered gooseberry in Henry Coe. I think this is going to be a fine spring.

-- Posted by DavidS on 6:43 pm on Feb. 14, 2010

Randy I saw one of the gooseberries also yesterday at Coe.  Suspect it is  ribes speciosum  one of two species in the park.  Coe has the best wildflower reference of any park in our region:

They also have a "what's blooming now" page that reflects most of the species I noted in my above post:

Hiked about Henry Coe State Park Saturday Feb 13 and found areas where dodecatheon clevelandii, aka padres shooting star are now rising en mass. These wildflowers can predictably be found in niche environments.  One will not see them on the larger canyon bottoms, ridgeline grasslands, or sunny southerly exposures but rather on well watered grassy east, west, and north facing slopes with limited sunshine.  In those same areas one also often sees a mix of California buttercup, milkmaids, and baby blue-eyes.

(Edited by DavidS at 9:43 pm on Mar. 4, 2010)

-- Posted by DavidS on 7:41 am on Feb. 16, 2010

Drove south today to Henry Coe State Park this time to the Coit Road trailhead at a low 1000 foot elevation where a bridge crosses Coyote Creek up to the old Gilroy Hot Springs location.  There carrying my Canon G10 hiked down the well used maintanance road to about a half mile past Woodchopper Spring. At this time of winter, the creek is good sized and everything is nicely green in what will be a very hot dry zone in just a couple months.  One of the most pleasant springtime-like relatively level mountain bike routes for the first couple miles one will find anywhere in the region.  A hard pan and gravel dirt road that in some places one can still see some old pavement. A few wildflower species sprinkled roadside grasses including milkmaids, California buttercups, blue witch, woodland pea, and mosquito bills (shooting stars).

blue witch, solanum umbelligferum:

After walking north about 1.5 miles and seeing the landscape was rather unchanging, I doubled back on the dirt road to the Anza Trail junction and headed east up a winding footpath into a cool shady woodland of coast live oak and California bay trees within a slight canyon containing a small seasonal stream.  The unmistakable light smell of a skunk told me mrs black and white had been out and about in the area.   After climbing a couple hundred feet, blue hued hound's tongue began to appear with white hued milkmaids.  At 0.6 miles up 300 feet reached a grassy bench with dense areas of shooting stars beneath blue oak and valley oak.  Under a large live oak came upon the small purple cannister of a geocache.

dodecatheon hendersonii:

There I took a trail junction right south onto the Cullen Trail that would climb through more cool shady north facing woodland over the ridge at about 1800 feet.  Passed the most blooming hound's tongue amid happy butterflies that I've yet to see anywhere in the SF Bay region.   At the top, the ridgeline was similar to many Coe ridgelands that are either blue and valley oak savana grasslands from former cattle grazing days or chaparral.   On the sunny south facing slope I immediately began passing through areas of chamise and began seeing a few fuschia gooseberries plants, ribes speciosum, in spectacular bright red bloom.  Lower down I passed some of the more common less showy canyon gooseberry, ribes menziesii.  

ribes speciosum:

The trail dropped down into Grizzly Gulch, crossed a small feeder stream and came to a junction with a trail of that same name.  From here back west 250 feet down to the Coit Road near the trailhead was about 0.7 miles of the most interesting and pleasant landscapes of my 5 mile loop route.   A couple backpackers passed probably having visited Kelly Lake further up the trail.  On the canyon bottom, two lively small streams with dense live oak, California bay, and big leaf maple cut steep ravines separating a flowing grassy landscape of shooting stars below blue oak and valley oak.  At one bench was a spectacular limbed valley oak where many generations of woodpeckers had drilled in acorns.  What a fine place to spend a leisurely day in the shade near the stream!  

old valley oak with hanging lace lichen & mountain biker:

Where the trail crossed the main stream, I heard a loud chorus downstream so stepping quietly wandered down about 100 feet to a nice green moss shaded pool.  Keeping still and quiet, it wasn't long before I spotted one of several female Pacific tree frogs swimming about the grasses on the shore while loud male honkings came out of the undercut steep bank of the opposite side.  Looking down in the water I could see several translucent egg globs about shallow underwater grasses.      In a week or two they would be hatching and this pool ought be quite a sight of dark little tadpoles.   Also another amphibian, an orange hued California newt swam by.  I'd seen dozens of these pleasant little creatures the past few weeks and am always careful to look while I'm stepping on wet trails where they often slowly crawl about.   The final third of a mile to the road was nicely shady with mossy greens and came upon this odd mushroom with a black cap, maybe some type of morel?

David Senesac

(Edited by DavidS at 7:25 am on Feb. 16, 2010)

(Edited by DavidS at 7:32 am on Feb. 16, 2010)

-- Posted by Randy on 2:39 pm on Feb. 16, 2010

Great report David.

I was also at Coe last Saturday, but in a different part of the park. here is a link to my write up.

(Edited by Randy at 6:44 am on Feb. 16, 2010)

-- Posted by DavidS on 3:47 pm on Feb. 17, 2010

Nice read Randy.  That's a real marathon to do in a day.  At this time of year the 0.8 mile shorter route via the Poverty Flat Road that requires an extra 600 feet of uphill is a wiser choice.  Also might look into getting a pair of the very light and compact Wiggy's Waders.   Even more useful when crossing icy Sierra streams in early season.

The dodecatheon clevelandii bloom early and don't last long before hues fade and petals drop.  Unless one is out at this time of year in those mid elevation canyon slope areas, one would only see drab green grasslands.  Same thing occurs in areas of Pacheco State Park and the San Luis Wildlife Reserve a bit south.   Now that the NWS service is forecasting cloudiness with scattered lingering showers for this coming Saturday, I'm sure to be going back carrying my 4x5 to some areas with hanging lace lichen on oaks I hiked to last Saturday.  Those areas also had nice areas of shooting stars too that ought be closer to their peak now.

(Edited by DavidS at 9:44 pm on Mar. 4, 2010)

-- Posted by gambolin man on 2:38 am on Feb. 18, 2010

David, love your write-ups and superb photography!

-- Posted by DavidS on 4:27 am on Feb. 20, 2010

The strange mystery mushroom at the end of my Feb 15 post is with a contorted black cap and fluted white stalk is:

fluted black elfin saddle, Helvella lacunosa

(Edited by DavidS at 8:28 pm on Feb. 19, 2010)

-- Posted by Lee Dittmann on 1:38 am on Mar. 5, 2010

The second species of gooseberry you saw was most likely California Gooseberry, Ribes californicum. It is much more common than R. menziesii at Coe.  There are four gooseberry species known from the park:

Great photos!

-- Posted by DavidS on 5:41 am on Mar. 5, 2010

Thanks Lee on the ribes note.   There is a particular large patch I spent time trying to capture something up in the sky with where the path from the main Hollow dirt road starts up towards Fish Pond.  

ribes menziesii

(Edited by DavidS at 9:49 pm on Mar. 4, 2010)

-- Posted by Lee Dittmann on 1:11 am on Mar. 18, 2010

That is a really fine photo of Ribes californicum.
R. menziesii has dense internodal bristles, in addition to the nodal spines in three shared by both species.

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