Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Table Mountain, Oroville

Yesterday, Susan and I took the dogs to Table Mountain in Oroville. It was only a half-hour drive, and the mountain is famous for its spring wildflower displays. We went a little early in the season, but the array of flowers was already impressive. Even more impressive to me, however, was the intense greennness of the wooded areas we drove through on the east side of the mountain. Tragically, I didn't get any pictures of these areas, because there weren't many good places to stop the car, and because I thought I could take some on the way back instead. But on the way back we went around the west side of the mountain, which turned out not to be half as beautiful a drive. Oh well. Even if I had gotten pictures, it would be impossible for you to look at the pictures without concluding that I must have just quintupled the saturation of the color green to make the pictures artificially greener than the actual place. The actual place was the greenest place I've ever seen. I'd had no idea that oak trees, which are the dominant tree all over the Sacramento Valley but which are normally seen in various muted shades from olive green to grey-green, could be so bright a green. It was amazing. I wonder whether they're still as green later in the season, or just for a few weeks in spring.

At least I got pictures of the top of the mountain, which was less green but contained the largest number of wildflowers. Here is Susan with the dogs, sitting amid native annual sky lupines (the blue flowers: Lupinus nanus) and goldfields (the yellow flowers: Lasthenia californica).

I suppose this is a sort of picture of the greenness. It shows the road we drove up, and the flat "tables" that give the mountain its name, and Lake Oroville in the background to the east. Table Mountain is divided into a north table (on the left) and a south table (on the right). The road we took came around the east side of the south table, bordering Lake Oroville, and then curved around the south table to the portion of road you can see in this picture.

Here's another view from just slightly higher up, standing on part of the north table. Since Susan is into geology, I asked her on the way up the mountain why the mountain is shaped the way it is. She said the top is covered with basaltic rock from an old lava flow, which is harder and less easily eroded than the sedimentary rock beneath, which caused it to erode into table shapes. She also ventured a guess that the lava flow could have come from Mount Lassen - which we researched online after we returned home, and we found that Susan's guess had been correct. Mount Lassen is 100 miles north of Table Mountain, and is 10,457 feet above sea level, compared to Table Mountain's mere 1,565 feet. Mount Lassen is part of the Cascade range, whereas Table Mountain is at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas, but an eruption of Mount Lassen in the late Cenozoic era produced basaltic lava flows that covered what is now Table Mountain.

The table surface of the north table is mostly treeless, and looks like this. Again, the yellow is goldfields and the blue is sky lupine.

Here's what the goldfields and the sky lupine look like up close. The pale pink flower at the bottom of this picture is an invasive filaree (Erodium botrys).

There were also dwarf golden poppies (Eschscholzia caespitosa) mixed in with the lupine and goldfields. The dwarf poppies are a different species than the familiar California golden poppies (Eschscholzia californica). They look almost the same, but only half as big.

Here's a closeup of the dwarf poppies, with more lupine and goldfields - oh, and in the first picture, also a tiny red maid if you look closely (reddish purple, at the far right, halfway down: Calandrinia ciliata). They're all native annuals.

Here are some more red maids.

I wish I knew what the clusters of dull white flowers here are, among the goldfields and red maids.

We explored the edges of the north table.

Blue elderberry bushes grew out over the edge.

We found a sort of vernal pool - a shallow basin where water collects in winter and spring but evaporates by summer or fall. Table Mountain is one of fewer than a dozen places in California that contain "northern basalt flow vernal pools," which support a rare plant community found nowhere else. The Department of Fish and Game purchased more than 3,300 acres on Table Mountain in the 1990s for the purpose of protecting the rare plants in the vernal pools. However, I sadly failed to find any vernal pool species in this particular vernal pool, which was so solidly lined with rocks, and so distinctly divided from the dry land, that it didn't seem very conducive to supporting the usual concentric rings of annual wildflowers that vernal pools are known for. Anyway, the dogs waded right in and did their part to dry out the vernal pool for the summer. I hope they didn't drink up any endangered species!

Here is Susan with the dogs. Both dogs started grazing on plants a little bit around here. When Boston was in the act of chomping down on a plant, I exclaimed "Boston!" in a tone of such horror that she immediately let go of the plant and left it undamaged - at which point I saw that it was just an invasive geranium (Geranium molle), and I wished I had let her eat it. And hey, research shows that moderate grazing by cattle and similar animals favors native species and helps kill off invasive plants.

Here's more sky lupine.

And a native clover. A few years ago, a new clover was discovered that grows nowhere in the world except on Table Mountain: Jim's clover (Trifolium jokerstii), named to commemorate a botanist who studied Table mountain extensively. The clover pictured, however, is not that endangered clover. I think this is cowbag clover (Trifolium depauperatum).

Here's a different species of native clover - I think this one is whitetip clover (Trifolium variegatum) - with what I think is a seep monkeyflower (the yellow one: Mimulus guttatus).

These yellow flowers are the native annual "butter and eggs" (Triphysaria eriantha). It's related to Indian paintbrush.

I can't identify these pink flowers that were growing amid the goldfields.

Here are some native perennials for a change - blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum) - with the annual red maids and goldfields. These were growing in the parking lot, which is why there's broken glass on the ground.

We got back into Susan's truck and continued down the road a very short distance, then stopped off briefly to look at these new species: orange fiddlenecks (Amsinckia menziesii), white popcorn flowers (Plagiobothrys), and more sky lupine (Lupinus nanus).

Then Boston and I got back in the truck - Susan and Taco hadn't gotten out of it this time - and we continued down the road until we saw a cemetery. "Your dad likes pioneer cemeteries!" said Susan. "We should stop here for your dad." And she pulled into it.

"Uh, okay," I said. This stop may have had something to do with the fact that Susan likes pioneer cemeteries too.

Anyway, we got out of the truck. Susan pointed to the first gravestone we saw, which bore only the initials H. D. "Who's H. D.?" she asked.

"The poet," I answered. "Hilda Doolittle." Poor H. D.'s grave is being taken over by invasive periwinkle (Vinca major) though, as you can see.

Then I turned around, and the second gravestone I saw was . . . "Look, and over there is another poet, William C. Williams!"

"Wow," exclaimed Susan. "All this time I thought he lived on the east coast."

"Well, here's William James," I said a minute later. He lived on the east coast too. But they were all buried right here!

Susan found E. B., so we decided the engraver had omitted "White" underneath the initials.

Applegate's paintbrush (Castilleja applegatei) was growing around the gravestones.

Along with more goldfields.

I really like paintbrush. I bought some seeds of it once, but never got any plants from it. I need to try again.

And then we went home.
Tags: native plants, photographs, susan
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