Backcountry Spring 2012

Just two backcountry trips this spring – one for a CNPS outing up Figueroa Mountain and back. A second trip yesterday, with a few of us from the first trip, “doing” Happy Canyon and Sunset Valley Roads, and a short excursion up Figueroa Mountain road from Cachuma Saddle to an area near an excavation mound, and back to Happy Canyon Road.

After discovering the first of the Club-haired Mariposa Lilies along Figueroa Road on the first trip May 12th, quite a few more were found on both Sunset Valley and Happy Canyon Roads on June 2nd. Possibly they are the hardiest of plants, even in dry years.

Club-haired Mariposa Lily, Calochortus clavatus ssp. pallidus

Club-haired Mariposa Lily, Calochortus clavatus ssp. pallidus

We came across a muddy area, where butterflies were “puddling”. There were two groups of butterflies – Swallowtail (photo) and California Dogface, and a few other species flitting in and out. The Dogface were identified as males by a Flickr contact.

About butterfly “puddling”, from the Butterfly School website: “Many male butterflies can be found sipping at the moisture in puddles or wet sand and soil. These butterflies are getting more than water when they sip! They are also benefiting from the salts dissolved in this water. It is thought that these salts help increase a male butterfly’s fertility.”

Western Tiger Swallowtails, Papilio rutulus

Along the Manzana Creek flowing next to the Nira campground, water-loving plants were found: Thread-torch, Cardinal Monkeyflower, Durango Root, Rough Sedge (photo) and Deer Grass .

Deer Grass, Muhlenbergia rigens

Near De La Guerra Spring (just past the shooting area on Happy Canyon Road), one of our group spotted something I had not photographed before: Chalk Dudleya (photo). Further up the hill behind the Dudleya, a patch of Deer Grass (photo) was seen, indicating a seep area. Nice to see a California native bunchgrass in quite a few places.

Chalk Dudleya, Dudleya pulverulenta

De La Guerra Springs area - patch of Deer Grass, Muhlenbergia rigens

And with farewell-to-spring plants everywhere, it is also farewell to my spring and summer backcountry wildflower excursions (two) for 2012, although it is always a great spiritual boost to go there. There is plenty to photograph within just a few miles of home as the weather heats up.

Cylindrical Clarkia, Clarkia cylindrica