Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Table Mountain

This past Sunday, my Courage Campaign Equality Team had a wildflower walk on Table Mountain. I went up there a week ahead of time to look around and make sure the directions I was about to post were accurate and that there was an appropriate place for us to picnic. I was entranced by the huge purple spikes of the silver bush lupine (Lupinus albifrons) on the rock outcropping shown in the foreground here.

I circled the lupine repeatedly, taking pictures of it from all different angles because it was so stunning. I noticed some other people watching me while I did this, and the thought crossed my mind that they might imagine I was planning to steal it, because it was so beautiful that it was easy to imagine someone wanting to just dig it up and take it home and plant it in their garden. I was not at all tempted to do so myself, however, because I know that not only are wild plants in general very difficult to transplant, but lupines in particular are notoriously intolerant of root disturbance, especially when they're already as well established as this. Digging it up would surely have killed it. In addition, I've previously purchased five of these plants for my garden and all five, one at a time, have died: two of transplant stress, two of summer drought, and one of winter flooding. The two that died of summer drought did produce some gorgeous flowers before they died, but ultimately this species just isn't very well adapted for surviving in my particular garden. If I attempt it again, I'm going to have to build a rock outcropping for it first.

For this picture, I had to lie flat on my back. It was worth it. I loved this plant! But when I came back for the Courage Campaign event one week later and sought out the same rock outcropping, the silver bush lupine atop it was gone. Not a trace of it remained. Someone really did steal it, and I'm sure they killed it in the process. This was idiotic of them. If they wanted free silver bush lupines in their garden, all they had to do was allow the plant to bloom and come back to the mountain a month from now to collect some of its seeds. Lupines sprout very readily from seed and bloom in their first spring, so they could have had a dozen of these beautiful plants blooming just like this next spring. Instead they'll have none.

But anyway, on with the Courage Campaign event. The Courage Campaign gave us the contact information for all the 140 people in our area who have signed up at the Courage Campaign website to be on the statewide mailing list. We were instructed to telephone people rather than just emailing them, because this supposedly gets people's attention better. Lots of people on our local team volunteered to help me call the 140 strangers on that mailing list and invite them to our event. Unfortunately, none of those people actually called anyone at all. I didn't feel I was in a very position to nag them about it, however, since I scheduled several conference calls with the team and promptly forgot about and failed to show up for any of them after the first one.

I did make some of the phone calls myself, but I soon discovered that telephoning strangers was every bit as much torture as I had suspected it would be. There was certainly no way I was going to telephone all 140 people myself. So I switched to emailing them instead - 140 separate emails to each of them individually, not because this made them any more likely to respond but simply because the program that the Courage Campaign used to provide me with their contact information did not provide me with any way of seeing more than one email address at a time or any single email address more than once. I was required to indicate in what manner I attempted to contact a particular person and what the results were before I could find out the next person's email address, and as soon as I saw the next person's email address I could ever again be permitted to go back and look at the previous person's email address. I suppose this system was probably developed to reduce the potential for people to misuse the contact information and call or email the same people excessively, but it sure was annoying to work with.

In the end, 15 people showed up. This is not a great rate of return for contacting 140 people, but it could have been worse; it did result in a decently substantial-feeling event, which is what mattered most to me. What mattered most to the Courage Campaign headquarters, however, was locating people who will agree to make get-out-the-vote phone calls to progressive voters. I'm skeptical about the event's success by that measure. I personally, after my experience calling people to invite them to this event, want absolutely nothing to do with calling anybody ever again, so it's hard for me to imagine anyone else on our team agreeing to do so either. Of course, you never know; not everyone hates telephone communication as much as I do. But people generally need an enthusiastic leader to encourage them to do things, and I don't foresee myself being an at all effective leader in motivating other people to make telephone calls when I'm completely unmotivated to make telephone calls myself. I do recognize that it's important to get progressive voters to the polls, so logically, calling progressive voters and urging them to vote should make me feel good about myself. Unfortunately, it doesn't. Instead, calling strangers and interrupting them at home to urge them to do anything makes me loathe myself, and I've had all I can stand of it for this year.

Here are some pictures of some of the people who showed up for the event.

Table Mountain has a flat, table-like top due to being formed largely by an ancient basaltic lava flow from Mount Tehama, which has resisted erosion while the softer sediments deposited on top of it have largely eroded away. The basalt is so solid that it is largely impermeable by water. As a result, rainwater collects all winter and basically sits on the surface of the ground until it evaporates in the spring and summer. (Sort of like rainwater does in my garden. But my garden doesn't have any basalt as an excuse for its behavior.) The puddles on Table Mountain are called northern basalt vernal pools, and they provide a rare habitat for unusual wildflowers.

The sides of table mountain are covered with oak trees, and there are a few oak trees on the top too. But much of the top is so impermeable by water that trees can't grow on it - only wildflowers. You can tell which areas are wetter than others by the types of wildflowers growing in each: the blue flowers are sky lupines (Lupinus nanus), which generally prefer the drier areas, while the other flower species each correspond to different moisture conditions as well.

Here are two well-delineated vernal pools. The farther away one has a black center of solid basalt, ringed by tiny yellow flowers of a species that I haven't been able to identify. The fainter pool in the foreground has a purple center of whitetip clover (Trifolium variegatum), ringed by tiny white flowers of various kinds.

This is a picture I took last year of the whitetip clover. I didn't get any good closeup pictures of it this year.

Below is a closeup of the yellow flowers that I think is yellow stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium). These were absolutely everywhere on Table Mountain. The vast majority of the yellow you'll see in all these pictures are these flowers.

Many of the white flowers are popcorn flowers (Plagiobothrys spp.), which are shown here along with common fiddlenecks (Amsinckia menziesii).

Some of the white flowers in the wetter areas are various types of meadowfoam. This is Douglas' meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii).

Here are some more pictures of the vernal pools and the table-like top of the mountain.

Looking over the edge, you can see the considerably more tree-covered sides of the mountain.

But on with the wildflowers! The globe of pinkish white flowers here is narrowleaf onion (Allium amplectens).

This is canyon liveforever (Dudleya cymosa), which Susan noticed and pointed out to me.

This is tufted poppy (Eschscholzia caespitosa), a smaller relative of the well-known California poppy. Both the individual flowers and the plant as a whole are a little less than half the size of the common California poppy.

Here are some more tufted poppies, growing with sky lupine among the basalt outcroppings.

This is sky lupine with the tiny pink flowers of cowbag clover. Here is a better picture (from last year) of the cowbag clover, which is named for the resemblance of its flowers to cow udders.

Here is yet more sky lupine, along with a few more fiddlenecks and popcorn flowers. I sure wish that the sky lupine I have in my garden would produce flowers this big. (On the other hand, most of the goldfields on Table Mountain seemed to be smaller than the ones in my garden, so maybe it somewhat evens out. I'd still rather have big lupine flowers than big goldfield flowers, though.)

And here is sky lupine with the small yellow flowers of butter 'n' eggs (Triphysaria eriantha), a relative of paintbrush.

This is a rather huge flower of tomcat clover Trifolium willdenovii). A lot of the native clovers have larger flowers than the non-native clover flowers I more often see. The little green puffball directly below and slightly to the left of the flower is a clover bud, and that bud is about the same size as the white flowers of the non-native clovers I usually see in lawns.

But the most impressive plant (to me, anyway) that I saw on Table Mountain this year was bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva). I've been looking for these in all sorts of places, and this was the first time I've ever actually seen some in person.

Other species I saw on Table Mountain this year but didn't get good photographs of include bird's eye gilia (Gilia tricolor), which I also have in my garden; common stickyseed (Blennosperma nanum); sticky Chinese pagodas (Collinsia tinctoria), which I saw by the side of the road on the way up, rather than at the top; seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus); jewelflower (Streptanthus spp.); fairy lantern (Calochortus albus), which I saw by the side of the road on the way up, rather than at the top; blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum); and yellow violets (Viola spp.).
Tags: native plants, photographs
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