Further Places – Episode 1 – Table Mountain

by Shane Hanofee (originally published in Redbud News, August 2019)

On April 9, 2019, Redbud members and friends took a field trip to Table Mountain in Oroville to meander the area’s scenic and plentiful spring wildflower display. Led by Karen Loro, a group of about 25 arrived at the trailhead on a breezy morning after threats of rain and thunderstorms had twice postponed the adventure.

Once set out, we were treated to vast fields of Sky Lupine (Lupinus nanus) wafting their perfume, intoxicatingly sweet, to entice pollinators to their column of flowers. California Goldfields (Lasthenia californica) outlined dark volcanic rock outcroppings with a flush of yellow, growing where soils were shallow. Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva) Sierra Mock Stonecrop (Sedella pumila) and Cascade Onion (Allium cratericola) had just begun to flower from between the rocks.

The white of Table Mountain Meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii nivea) lined ephemeral streamsTable Mountain is the only location to see this flower in the Sierra foothills. Purple Owl’s Clover (Castilleja exserta) grew among the Lupines and patches of Whitetip Clover (Trifolium variegatum,) where under the soil they have a hemiparasitic relationship in which Purple Owl’s Clover obtains a certain amount of its nutrients from tapping into the roots of the nearby forbs.

We saw other Castilleja relatives scattered among the painted hills, including Valley Tassels (Castilleja attenuate) and Johnny Tuck (Triphysaria eriantha). Taw Manroot (Marah watsonii), was already showing its sparsely spined, pinstriped fruits.

Geophytes were also abundant with notable populations of White Brodiaea (Triteleia hyacinthine.), Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum), and Prettyface (Triteleia ixioides). In moist, rocky areas near the ephemeral streams, close inspection rewarded those willing to take a hand lens and look with Crystalworts (Riccia) and Spikemosses (Selaginella).

The group made their way eventually to Phantom Falls where it cascades among outcroppings of columnar basalt. Cliffs lined with Red Larkspur (Delphinium nudicaule), Mountain Jewelflower (Streptanthus tortuosus), and Caterpillar Phacelia (Phacelia cicutaria) crumbled into stark debris piles of octagonal spires. Lunch and some discussion took place at a scenic outlook above the falls.

The return trip offered glimpses of scattered Bird’s Eye Gilia (Gilia tricolor), Fiddlenecks (Amsinckia sp.), and Popcorn Flowers (Plagiobothrys sp.). We spent some time noticing the yellow flowers and riparian growing habit of the Seep Monkeyflower (Erythranthe guttata) and the penchant for nearly vertical slopes and reddish purple coloration of its cousin, Kellogg’s Monkeyflower (Diplacus kelloggii). Some folks observed and compared two species of violet — Goosefoot Violet (Viola purpurea) with its rounded leaves and the increasingly uncommon Douglas’ Violet (Viola douglasii) with its leaves deeply dissected.

Only able to scratch the surface of the botanical treasures of one of our area’s most unique locales, nevertheless we had the fortune to observe dozens of species growing in fascinating ways and with a picturesque beauty that drops the jaw at first sight and keeps it dropped.

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