Myrtle Creek Botanical Area | Six Rivers National Forest

Original Publication DATE: 3/17/2010

Situated on the border of two major rock types, Myrtle Creek Botanical Area is floristically challenging as well as aesthetically arousing due to this unique geological architecture. Along the western slopes of the Myrtle Creek drainage, the North Coast Range meets the Klamath Mountains against an ancient island-arc accretion known as the Josephine Ophiolite. Plant communities are often defined by rock type, and this juncture creates unique plant assemblages. It is a place where complex rock interacts–nutrient rich soils of Coast Range meets the nutrient poor serpentines of the Josephine Ophiolite. It is also a place where ample rain falls, often in the amount of 100 inches per year. Because of these complex abiotic interactions, plants touch roots with plants in associations that almost never occur. For example, redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) grow with pitcher plants (Darlingtonia californica) and western redcedars (Thuja plicata) with knobcone pines (Pinus attenuata).

Historically, the drainage saw major mining operations transform the landscape when placer mining (panning) in the late 1800’s gave way to the more destructive–and potentially more lucrative–hydraulic mining during the early 1900’s. Eventually, all the accessible gold was removed and as the miners left the landscape, it slowly recovered. Today, all that remains from the operations is a major sluice where the trail begins, a ditch upon which the trail is built as well as several old shafts that are fenced in for protection.

The plants have returned and, with a few exceptions, are flourishing. The wildflowers begin in mid-March and continue into early June. Orchids, trilliums, azaleas, rhododendrons, mustards, buttercups, sorrels, wood roses, huckleberry, and more create a rare botanical legacy of unique associations–ready for exploration and self-discovery. Located within the Smith River National Recreation Area, the trail has interpretive signs to aid your discoveries along the 1+ miles to the creek.
Myrtle Creek Botanical Area
Map to Myrtle Creek Botanical Area in the Six Rivers National Forest.
Pseudotrillium rivale
Brook wakerobin (Pseudotrillium rivale)
JosephineOphiolite037
Myrtle Creek
Darlingtonia californica in Del Norte County
Darlingtonia californica (by Allison Poklemba)

Pictured above is California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia californica) growing on serpentine, which is not unusual in Del Norte County. What is unusual is that along Myrtle Creek it associates with salal (Gaultheria shallon) which is in the picture and growing just above–casting shade–is a redwood tree. 

JosephineOphiolite045a
Anemone quinquefolia
Other Resources:
  1. North Coast CNPS Page for Myrtle Creek Botanical Area

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Sue
DATE: 4/24/2014 4:18:08 PM
You said: “… a ditch upon which the trail is built…” This was no ditch, but a carefully constructed Chinese Footpath – the kind a person would see in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, or other Asian rainforest areas. In addition to a mining camp was a Chinese labor camp. They built the footpath – which used to extend from near the falls to what is now hwy 199. I have taken several Vietnam Veterans on this trail, and they are all amazed at the similarity between this “ditch” (as you call it) and trails they saw while in Vietnam. These Chinese trails are noted by drainage area on the ‘mountain’ side of the trail, and a berm on the “creek” side of the trail. This construction helps keep the trail intact despite wet weather. Unfortunately, after over 150 years, there have been some serious mudslides along the creek that covered portions of the footpath – making it very difficult to get to the falls. There are still gold mining claims along the creek, and in the past, these mining claims have been protected with rifles. But not any more. I love this creek, have hiked it for 40 years, and treasure the botanical life. But a well-maintained trail would be nice. I would love to be able to hike to the falls again on a real trail.

Sue- Thanks for the comment. Sounds like you have a great understanding and appreciation for this wonderful creek canyon. I am sorry if I offended you by calling it a ditch, I know better now! -Michael

Juniperus occidentalis of the Yolla Bolly Explored | Papers w/ Robert Adams

Original Publication DATE: 9/3/2010 1:26:00 PM

Late in the summer of 2009 I re-visited an isolated population of junipers in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness. The visit was inspired by Robert Adams after he read a blog post of my first visit to the trees. At the time, the population was believed to be Juniperus grandis based on habitat type and other morphological characteristics. After collecting the specimens and sending them to Baylor University for study Dr. Adams published two papers last month on these populations and their relationship to other junipers of the west. He graciously named me as a co-author for my collecting and final editing skills–otherwise the work was all his.

The papers are:

  1. Geographic variation in the leaf essential oils of Juniperus grandis and comparison with J. occidentalis and J. osteosperma. Phytologia 92(2):167-185. 
  2. Geographic variation in nrDNA and cp DNA of Juniperus californica, J. grandis, J. occidentalis and J. osteosperma (Cupressaceae). Phytologia 92(2):266-276.

While the DNA and essential oil comparisons verified the Yolla Bolly junipers are Juniper occidentalis they did not clarify the relationship of Juniperus occidentalis to Juniperus grandis. Unusual similarities were found between occidentalis populations of Oregon and Northern California and grandis populations of the San Bernardino Mountains. As Dr. Adams states in his conclusions, some questions were answered with the research but more questions remain–further study is needed.

western-juniper-range
I created this range map after visiting the Yolla Bolly and observing several new, undocumented populations.

Specimens-Adams
As viewed from the ridgeline west of Mount Linn looking northward the populations of western juniper generally grow just east of the ridgelines on sandy soil. Notice the image names the trees as Sierra juniper, which Dr. Adams proved to be wrong.

Other Resources:

  1. Junipers of the World

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Jeffrey Kane
DATE: 9/6/2010 12:36:05 AM
yo dude. congrats on the pub(s).
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Dewey Robbins
DATE: 5/24/2014 5:10:10 PM
This population extends from Low Gap southwesterly along Jones Ridge nearly to Hayden Roughs as isolated individual. Most of the trees my forestry crew and I found were young regeneration; however, there are a few gnarled fire-scarred relics that are more like shrubs than trees.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Michael E Kauffmann
DATE: 5/26/2014 2:58:05 PM
Dewey– thanks for the note. I’ve never been to that area of the Yolla-Bolly, but want to get there. It looks like they extend even further west to the Eaton Roughs. It is private property, but I’d love to get there too.

Stony Man Mountain | Shenandoah National Park

Original Publication Date: 11/26/2010

Botanists and ecologists familiar with the Klamath Mountains are inevitably familiar with the similarities the area has with the southern Appalachian Mountains. It is understood that both regions harbor exceptional plant diversity due to the complex interaction of several factors. They are each ancient mountain ranges that have sustained a similar flora since at least the Cenozoic. These mountainous regions have served as monadnocks–ultimately refuges for plants as populations of species have been eliminated by glaciation and climatic dessication1. Arriving in Virginia in a warm, dry November spell the Blue Ridge Mountains were beckoning me to visit as I peered toward them from the Shenandoah Valley.

I decided to research a mountain top hike that would provide both views and of course–if possible–relict conifers. After finding a publication from 1966 about the conifers of Shenandoah National Park2 mom, dad, and I settled on Stony Man Mountain–the second highest peak in the park at 4010 feet. The Appalachians have an ancient history, being one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. Stony Man’s summit is composed of greenstones–which were formed 800 million years ago (Ma) by lava flow. With time the rocks changed and were ultimately uplifted 200 Ma and have eroded back to their current height over millenia. The botanical interests–while dependant on the mountain for safe harbor–are a more recent circumstance.

UntitledPanorama32
Looking northward along the Blue Ridge Mountains–Skyline Drive brought us to within a mile of the summit of Stony Man Mountain..

In addition to the wide array of flowering trees, shrubs and annuals that can be found in the Appalachians, several relict conifers survive on this particular mountain top and sporadically elsewhere across the rolling landscape. The conifers are harbingers for the microsites fostered by complex climate and geology which ultimately mimic conditions of a colder time. Canada yew (Taxus canadensis), red spruce (Picea rubens), and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) are found at their southern range extensions in and around the southern Appalachians of Virginia. These trees thrived in the colder climate of the Pleistocene but are now restricted to the highest mountain tops and coolest glades.


Canada Yew | Taxus canadensis

The Canada yew is an understory tree of late successional forests. This is exactly the habitat in which we found it in Shenandoah National Park. This yew of the northeast is ecologically identical to the Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) of the Pacific northwest. The small isolated population we found on the summit of Stony Man reminded me of select mountain tops of the Klamath–like Preston Peak. The population here was matted to the earth and often growing beneath and around shrubs on rocky outcrops punished by the elements.

yew4
Canada yew (Taxus canadensis) hangs from a rocky, north-facing cliff on Stony Man Mountain.

taxucana
Taken from Digital Representations of Tree Species Range Maps from “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr.

yew3
Shrubs to 2 m, usually monoecious, low, diffusely branched, straggling, spreading to prostrate. Bark reddish, very thin. Branches spreading and ascending. Leaves 1-2.5 cm, pale green abaxially, dark green to yellow-green adaxially. Seed somewhat flattened, 4-5 mm. Seeds maturing late summer – early fall when present (3).

 

yew2
In the foreground Canada yew contrasts its yellow-green foliage to that of Tsuga canadensis in the background.

IMG5085b
Canada yew is apparently shade tolerant and appears to reproduce vegetatively by spreading slow and low through the duff.

Needless to say, this was an exciting plant to find and learn about...as were those that follow but are discussed in less detail.


A few other conifer highlights included…

Balsam fir | Abies balsamea

fir
Pictured here are needles from a Balsam fir on Stony Man Mountain. Farjon (1990) suggests that where ranges overlap between Frasier and balsam in Virginia that the hybrids are distinguished by small seed cones with exserted bracts much smaller than those of A. fraseri (5). We found no cones on this late November day.


red spruce |  Picea rubens

spruce


pitch pine | Pinus rigida

  • pitch

Other Resources:

Citations:

    1. Whittaker, R. H. 1960. Vegetation of the Siskiyou Mountains, Oregon and California. Ecological Monographs. V30:3:279-338.
    2. Mazzeo, Peter M. 1966. Notes on the Conifers of the Shenandoah National Park. Castanea 31:3: 240-247.
    3. Hils, Matthew H. 1993. Taxaceae. Flora of North America Editorial Committee (eds.): Flora of North America North of Mexico, Vol. 2. Oxford University Press.
    4. Potter, K.M. et al. 2010. Evolutionary history of two endemic Appalachian conifers revealed using microsattilite markers. Conversation genetics. 11:1499-1513.
    5. Farjon, Aljos. 1990. Pinaceae: drawings and descriptions of the genera Abies, Cedrus, Pseudolarix, Keteleeria, Nothotsuga, Tsuga, Cathaya, Pseudotsuga, Larix and Picea. Königstein: Koeltz Scientific Books

COMMENT:
AUTHOR: David Fix
DATE: 11/24/2010 2:17:02 PM
Thank you, Michael, for the quick look-see. Jude and I were in the park, as well as over in the Alleghenies in May and also enjoyed Red Spruce. It was fun to see you apply your landscape-parsing and plant skills to a different place. Question. What is that abundant and delicate knee-high fern with the pinnae that barely clasp your fingers as you feel it? But I simply enjoyed it in many spots and don’t need the name…
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Allison
DATE: 11/24/2010 2:43:10 PM
Great trip, beautiful! This also taught me that monadnock is not just a mountain in southern New Hampshire, but rather my favorite mountain is the name sake for the topographical phenomenon.

Siskiyou cypress and yellow-cedar in the Klamath Mountains

Original Publication DATE: 10/24/2010

With the threat of our second significant storm of the season looming, I packed the truck and headed into a mysterious and isolated region of the Siskiyou Mountains to find two rare groves of trees and enjoy the transition toward winter. The roads are long and lonely leading south from Oregon’s Applegate Valley into the high peaks of extreme southern Oregon and northern California. This region drains the headwaters of the Applegate River where nebulous state borders are crisscrossed by wild mountains, rivers, and the occasional road. This is surely the quintessential ancient meeting ground where rare plants have hidden out for millenia–optimal environmental conditions are fostered with a unique balance of sun, soil, and water. In addition to the rare conifers under discussion one might also encounter Pacific silver-fir, subalpine fir , Brewer spruce, and Port Orford-cedar close by–not to mention the other more common species.

ayc-bc-nwcal-overlap
This map shows the only region in the world where the northern-most native cypress (C. bakeri) overlaps with Alaska yellow-cedar (C. nootkatensis) in its southern range extension.

One quick side note with respect to the genera I present here (without getting overly detailed)–several classification schemes currently exist for these species. Alaska-cedars have been placed in one of five genera by various sources: Cupressus, Chamaecyparis, Xanthocyparis, Hesperocyparis, and Callitropsis. Needless to say, things are a bit up in the air. While these names have yet to be worked out what has transpired, for now, is one of three scenerios:

Continue reading “Siskiyou cypress and yellow-cedar in the Klamath Mountains”

South Fork Eel River Wilderness | Red Mountain Unit

Original Publication DATE: 11/7/2010

“We need wilderness because we are wild animals. Every man needs a place where he can go to go crazy in peace.  Every Boy Scout troop deserves a forest to get lost, miserable, and starving in.  Even the maddest murderer of the sweetest wife should get a chance for a run to the sanctuary of the hills.  If only for the sport of it.  For the  terror, freedom, and delirium…” – Edward Abbey,from The Journey Home

With the passing of the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Act in 2006 over 150,000 acres of new wilderness areas were added to the wilderness preservation system. Those new areas are: Yuki, Sanhedrin, Mount Lassic, King Range, Cedar Roughs, Cache Creek , and South Fork of the Eel River. Most of these areas are administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and there is not much information out there about these places–including how to access our public lands. In many ways this is exciting–the journey to go “crazy in peace” is an ominous and difficult one–in many ways what wilderness should be. With new wilderness on my mind I drove the 70 miles south of Eureka, just into Mendocino County, in an attempt to see this new wilderness and the rare plant communities fostered in the edaphic sky island found there. Though interested in all plants, I must admit the driving force behind this trip was to see the northern range extension of Sargent cypress. Continue reading “South Fork Eel River Wilderness | Red Mountain Unit”

Subalpine Fir in the Red Buttes Wilderness

Original Publication Date: 8/8/2010

In 1969 Dale Thornburgh and John Sawyer discovered the first subalpine fir in California and also in the Klamath Mountains. This discovery was made in the vicinity of Russian Peak in what is now the Russian Wilderness. Since that time the species has been found in a total of eight locations in California’s Klamath Mountains and twice in Oregon’s Klamath. One of those Oregon locations is near Mt. Ashland and the other was recently discovered by Frank Callahan to the east in the Red Buttes Wilderness. This second location, in an isolated cirque on the north side of Tannen Peak was my destination–with Frank Callahan as my guide. Continue reading “Subalpine Fir in the Red Buttes Wilderness”

Foxtail Pines of Mount Linn

Original Publication DATE: 8/10/2009

Mount Linn–also called South Yolla Bolly Mountain–is the highest point in the Coast Range of northern California. It is located to the west of Corning but the area might as well be a world away from the population centers of the state; it is rarely noticed by travelers as they drive Interstate 5. Once off the interstate, scenic forest service roads still take nearly 2 hours to wind to the trailhead. Although this place has always been on my list of places to visit–the impetus for this visit was to collect some samples of the rare Sierra juniper (Juniperus grandis) for Robert Adams of Baylor University so that, through DNA testing, he might find out if these trees truly are what we think they are (see previous blog). After a 25 mile sojourn deep into the wilderness to collect those specimens it was time to search for the southern most stand of foxtail pine in northwest California–on Mount Linn.

foxtail-cone-pano
The distinct cones and “bottle-brush tassle” branches help to identify Pinus Balfouriana.

Continue reading “Foxtail Pines of Mount Linn”

Western Juniper of the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness

Original Publication DATE: 7/29/2009 

Two days into my 400 mile trek on the Bigfoot Trail I stopped to watch rain clouds clear above the headwaters of Cottonwood Creek–deep in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness. As wind whipped the cool electric air past my ears a plant caught my eye–20 yards below the ridge on which I was balanced. This stately specimen had taken purchase many years ago in this rocky, windswept environment. This was a place in which only the heartiest of plants could hope to endure. Its reddish branches stood out in stark contrast to the lime green foliage. As I slowly crawled down the hillside my mind turned over and over with ideas of what species this might be. At first I believed it was cypress–possibly a MacNab or Sargent. But As I got closer I noticed the berry cones which are a diagnostic trait of junipers.

grandis-ridge1
western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) on a windswept ridge.

Continue reading “Western Juniper of the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness”

Packers Peak – Trinity Alps Wilderness

Original Publication DATE: 9/22/2009

High above the headwaters of the Salmon River and Coffee Creek, the remarkable ascension of Packers Peak is surprising next to the seemingly superlative granite of the Alps. The peak is a pedestal on which to perch, understand, and enjoy the complex Trinity Alps Wilderness that surrounds you. It is a steep climb from Big Flat, at the end of Coffee Creek Road, to reach this vantage point; but if you are willing to climb the nearly 3,000 feet in just under 3 miles, you will be rewarded.

Atop Packers Peak
Atop Packers Peak, rock and plant fabulously frame the high Trinity Alps.

Continue reading “Packers Peak – Trinity Alps Wilderness”

Papoose Lake – Trinity Alps

Originally Published on 12/2/2008 

The day after Thanksgiving was dedicated to working off some calories. I woke up at 5AM and took off to Hobo Gulch Trailhead on the edge of the Trinity Alps Wilderness. After 14 miles of hiking, including a scramble at the end, Papoose Lake was achieved around 2PM. I spent the afternoon exploring the frozen lake and surrounding areas; settling down for a cold night I started a fire and cooked some gourmet sausages. Saturday morning I awoke — after a surprisingly warm night — to a thawing lake, 2 cups of coffee, and a glorious sunrise. I packed a day bag and climbed the southwest ridgeline.

Captivating Geology.
Papoose Lake
Foxtail pines (Pinus balfouriana) on the ridgeline above Papoose Lake.

The geological character of the lake is fascinating in that the southwest edge is a fault where granite — common in the high Trinity Alp — meets a serpentine rock type (more geology) also typical across northwest California; scattered in many of its mountain ranges. This trip was originally planned because my favorite conifer, the foxtail pine, favors serpentine outcrops at high elevations — I had wanted to get into this region of the Alps and search out some foxtails. Here I had elevation and serpentine — so I predicted that there would be a new grove of this rare tree for me to discover just on the south-face above the lake. Upon achieving the ridge, my hunch was correct. While, foxtail pines do grow on granite in the high Trinity Alps they are much more common, and groves more extensive, on serpentine.

Serpentine meets Gabbro.

I spent a glorious day exploring an exceptional forest of trees — growing with foxtail pines were whitebark pines, Shasta red firs, mountain hemlocks, and a few Brewer spruce. In the cirque that holds Papoose Lake there are 11 species of conifers. Along the entire trail one can identify 15 species. My final day, Sunday, I returned to the truck refreshed and exuberant.

The Lake

COMMENT: AUTHOR: Gary Robertson EMAIL: garytrinity2@netzero.com URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/garytrinity/ DATE: 1/31/2010 8:07:01 PM Informative commentary — great shots of your Papoose Lake trip. I try to get to Papoose every few years — one of my favorite Trinity Alps lakes. I’ve climbed the southwest ridge myself — whenever I cross-country from Papoose to the Russell Cabin Trail — that’s how I go. It’s a short but steep and very brush off-trail route. (The Russell Cabin Trail connects with the main North Fork trail at Backbone Creek just a short distance from the Hobo Gulch Trailhead.) —–

COMMENT: AUTHOR: Stephen Sikes EMAIL: sikes.stephen@gmail.com URL: DATE: 5/16/2014 1:57:25 PM Hi Michael – I’m curious if you recall the altitude at which the Foxtails began to emerge in the Serpentine soils. Do you recall if you found them below 7000′ at Papoose? —–

COMMENT: AUTHOR: Michael E Kauffmann EMAIL: michael_kauffmann@yahoo.com URL: DATE: 5/17/2014 2:24:27 PM Stephen- from Papoose Lake it is a significant climb to get to the foxtails. They are on the south-facing ridge, south of the lake. They may be north of the lake as well, but I did not climb into that area. South of the lake, as you see in the blog, is serpentine. The foxtails love this soil type and it is quite a spectacular stand here. They extend down slope from the ridgeline to an elevation I could not verify since I stayed high on this trip. Generally, foxtails in the Klamath Mountains live above 7,200′ but can be as low as 6,600′ depending on habitat. If you search them out – let me know what you find.