It was a pleasure this past weekend to join an outing organized by the Putah Creek Council at Audubon California’s Bobcat Ranch, in the eastern foothills of the Coast Ranges near Winters. Our group of about 20 people started from the ranch headquarters, hiking in a light rain through blue oak woodland, up ridges and hillsides to Buckeye Spring, then back down (as the sun began to emerge) along a different route.
Blue oak woodland.
Although this area burned in the “Cold Fire” just last summer, you would hardly know it now where we were. Very few trees burned completely or were weakened enough to fall later. The grasses and wildflowers are thick as can be on these hills. If anything, the native plants are more abundant (among the many non-native grasses and forbs) on the burned slopes than on unburned sites. This ecosystem evolved with fire.
The group paused at intervals to discusses fire ecology, native grasses,
large manzanitas, plate tectonics, wildflowers, and the
flavor of sauteed Dichelostemma corms.
There was a lot of this catchfly, Silene gallica.
A wild pea, Lathyrus vestitus.
A hillside with basalt boulders and lots of Ithuriel’s spear (Tritelia laxa).
These rock tripe lichens, (Umbilicaria sp.), were thriving on the basalt boulders.
At Buckeye Spring.
We found a patch of Sylvan microseris (Microseris sylvatica) near the trail—identified for us later by Ellen Dean of the UC Davis Center for Plant Diversity. Endemic to California, this plant is infrequently collected, but occurs in foothills and low mountains surrounding the Central Valley. It’s on the California Native Plant Society’s “watch list” (Rare Plant Rank 4) of “plants of limited distribution or infrequent throughout a broader area in California.”
A gumweed (Madia gracilis) under blue oaks near an ephemeral stream.
A larkspur (Delphinium sp.)—one of 4 larkspur species found here.
Heading back down for lunch.
Thanks to Dash Weidhofer (Bobcat Ranch Manager), Stephen McCord (Putah Creek Council’s Board of Directors), and Marc Hoshovsky (geologist/naturalist and my office-mate in grad school years ago) for a well-planned, fun, and informative outing!