Manzana Creek

After a fire, seeds of various plants are stimulated to grow because of richer soil enhanced by ash and/or rain water that leaches from burned wood. Other seeds are stimulated to grow in areas that have been cleared of brush allowing access to more direct sunlight. Whatever the reason, or a combination of all of the above, some plants are known as fire followers.

On a trip out along Manzana Creek, the edges of the Zaca fire were reached after about a mile. Many of the standard fire followers were seen, of which the most interesting were:

  • Twining Snapdragon – Antirrhinum kelloggii
  • Popcorn Flower – Cryptantha intermedia
  • Whispering Bells – Emmenanthe penduliflora
  • California Chicory – Rafinesquia californica
  • Yellow-throated Phacelia – Phacelia brachyloba
  • Caterpillar Phacelia – Phacelia cicutaria
  • Sticky Phacelia – Phacelia viscida
  • Chaparral Blazing Star, San Luis Stick Leaf – Mentzelia micrantha
  • Common Eucrypta – Eucrypta chrysanthemifolia

Twining Snapdragon
(Twining Snapdragon – Manzana Creek, May 11, 2008)

Sticky Phacelia
(Sticky Phacelia, white version – Manzana Creek, May 11, 2008)

Chaparral Blazing Star
(Chaparral Blazing Star/San Luis Stick Leaf – Manzana Creek, May 11, 2008)

The third plant is in the same family as the Grass Blazingstar, a photo of which is in the “Zaca Fire Follower” post. Because of the sticky curved hairs on the leaf, it has the alternate name of San Luis Stick Leaf.

Seep Monkeyflower
(Seep Monkeyflower – Manzana Creek, May 11, 2008)

At last I understood where the name Monkey Flower came from for the mimulus species, after seeing this photo of Seep Monkeyflower.

Building a Hummingbird Nest

While waiting for Callie and John to arrive at Nira campground for our trip along Manzana creek, I was thrilled to be able to watch a hummingbird in the process of building a nest in the large sycamore tree under which I had parked my car. The nest was facing toward the Manzana trailhead (don’t know where north was). When the hummingbird was not there, I had extreme difficulty in locating the nest if I walked away and came back. The nest could appear like fluff or lichen caught on branches – it was extremely well camouflaged, even though it was at the edge of the tree in dead branches.

Hummingbird nest
(Hummingbird Nest – Nira Campground, May 11, 2008)

The hummingbird would fly away to find the kind of material it needed. Some of this material apparently includes lichen, fluffy material from seeds from plants such as thistle, dandelions, asters, etc, and silky strands from spider webs. The fluffy material is for insulation against weather of all kinds and probably it can be stretched as the chicks grow. The two pictures below show both fluffy material and possibly spider web which I should imagine serves as binding of the nest material.

Hummingbird nest material
(Hummingbird Nest material – Nira Campground, May 11, 2008)

Hummingbird nest material
(Hummingbird Nest material – Nira Campground, May 11, 2008)

After placing the material in the nest, the hummingbird would bind or tap the material to firm up the nest – or thread the spider web around the nest?

Hummingbird nest material construction
(Hummingbird Nest construction – Nira Campground, May 11, 2008)

Then the hummingbird would either test it for size and strength or firm the material or both by sitting on the nest and moving around. I have not seen a bird sit on its tail before.

Hummingbird nest sizing
(Hummingbird Nest sizing/firming – Nira Campground, May 11, 2008)

Zaca Fire Followers and Sprouters

After 15 consecutive days of solid work (and sitting), it was really good to get out on the Fire Followers SBBG trip on May 5th (especially with the leaders “extraordinaire” whose handouts are greatly appreciated). I have visited Highway 33 north of Ojai less than five times, and each time I go, I am struck by the beauty and wonderful flower displays. Some of the terrain reminds me a little of some seen in Namibia – where I described it in my “Scrapbook” site, as being drawn with a broad sweeping brush. However the vegetation is very different, where at the higher altitude, fir and pine are found that would never be seen in the higher areas of Namibia.

Zaca Fire Divide
(Zaca Fire burned vegetation on west side of Highway 33 – May 5, 2008)

We visited areas that were at the limit of the Zaca burn, one of which was right next to Highway 33 – and were thus able to see before/after views of vegetation. In the burned areas, there were lots of interesting fire followers, and a number of plants that were re-sprouting. The most interesting charred skeleton was that of a Juniper. The slide show below includes photos of the burned areas as well as some of the flowers (I goofed on some of the Phacelia photos, and should try to find the time to go back.)

Burned Oak
(Zaca Fire burned oak, re-sprouting – May 5, 2008)

This year must be a gilia year for me, where I was lucky to see three new species (for me) on Figueroa Mountain, and two new (three photographed) on Pine Mountain and another plant called “False Gilia”. One of the gilias seen on Monday seemed to be one of the gilia seen on Figueroa Mountain – Gilia ochroleuca subsp. bizonata. The reason I call it “Volcanic Gilia” is because it is the common name of the plant at these links:

The second of the three gilias seen was Splendid Gilia, and the other id is a bit iffy. I don’t like to take plants from the field, but there are a few questions about some of the attempted ids of a few plants that could warrant another trip.

Splendid Gilia
(Splendid Gilia, Pine Mountain – May 5, 2008)

Another interesting plant was Grass Blazingstar (Mentzelia gracilenta). It is also known as Slender Stickleaf. A number of plants in the Mentzelia genus are called stickleaf, because the leaves have hooked hairs that allow them to cling tightly to other surfaces.

I came across an article in a 1941 Desert Magazine about Mentzelia, with this about gracilenta: “Mentzelia gracilenta var. nttens (Mentzelia miens’) has very shiny, white or pinkish stems, and flowers about an inch across, the golden petals with reddish spots at base. It favors gravelly slopes and mesas in the Mojave desert, Owens valley, Nevada and Arizona.”


Grass Blazingstar
(Grass Blazingstar, Mentzelia gracilenta, Pine Mountain – May 5, 2008)