Site Visit (1/30/2019)

A winter visit to Stebbins at the end of January was the perfect time to look for lichen and other things less easy to spot in more abundant foliage. Curious about how quickly lichens have begun to colonize new substrate, I looked closely at one of the large rocks split open during the fire. A few lichens have begun to grow on the newly exposed faces of the rock, though not nearly as many as on the older outside faces of the same rock.

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Along the trail more lichen, sprouting California buckeyes (Aesculus californica), and flowering chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum), California bay laurel (Umbellularia californica), and California toothwort (Cardamine californica). Lupines (Lupinus succulentus) and soap plants (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) have emerged, but are not yet flowering.

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More lichens, yellow fieldcap mushrooms (Bolbitius titubans), a water strider in the clear, rushing creek, and the background songs of wrentits (Chamaea fasciata) and Pacific treefrogs (Pseudacris regilla).

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On examining a pitcher sage (Lepechinia calycina) resprouting from its base, I noticed at least three different fungi at work on the dead, burned branches.

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Three ferns grow close together on a shaded hillside: wood fern (Dryopteris arguta), goldenback fern (Pentagramma triangularis), and California maidenhair fern (Adiantum jordanii).  I found a whiskered jelly lichen (Leptochidium albociliatum) on a moss-covered rock, and particularly liked its intricate structure, with black lobed thallus, reddish-brown apothecia, and white hairs underneath the lobes (hence “whiskered”).

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I always look for dried mule-ears leaves (Wyethia helenioides) in the winter, with the lack of canopy after the fire, these are often found in open areas where they catch the sunlight and glow.

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On a Guided Hike (12/30/2015)

While the Cold Canyon trails are closed, the reserve is offering guided hikes to the public (current list of hikes).  I participated in a hike at the end of December, led by Jeffrey Clary, Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve Manager.  We walked along the canyon trail, discussing the plants that were started to regrow, and how the site is faring five months after the fire.

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Interestingly, there is less regrowth at this point than might be expected, with the hillsides still quite bare, with many fewer seed regenerating plants than after similar fires.  That is not to say that there is no regrowth yet, though, and hikers found plenty of interesting plants along the trail, growing from seeds, bulbs, and resprouting from stumps.

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We also observed other effects of the fire, including many new rock faces, created when the water inside the boulders caused them to explode in the heat of the fire.

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