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June 6, 2016

Dear Skyliners,


Big thanks to all for yesterday.  Along the way, we encountered some very interesting flower friends, and, we gave a great big push to the thistles above the trail.  Thanks for your enthusiasm and hard work.


Thanks to Angela and Sarah, we have four lovely photos to help us learn and to remember the day.


1. Clay Mariposa Tulips (Calochortus argillosus) - this clump of three plants grows right along the Skyline trail not 100 feet south of the Steam Trains lot.  These grow right along the trail, about 20 feet south of the click gate.  While more plentiful inland, they are very rarely seen in the Bay Hills.  This is actually the first time for me in the area, and I have been walking this trail for 20 years.  These appeared right in the middle of a Eucalyptus patch that was cleared two years ago.  I placed some open dry branches over this group; they can still be easily seen; and, hopefully the seed pods will be protected from deer browsing so they can "be fruitful and multiply."  "Mariposa" is Spanish for butterfly.  I think the great flower design committee in the sky really outdid themselves on this one.

2. Elegant Clarkia (Clarkia unguicularis) - while thistling, John and Angela spotted these growing on both sides of the swath of Bracken Fern that nearly touches the trail just 20 feet south of where we snacked.  This is another first sighting for our plant list (although I had heard reports of these being in the area).  Elegant Clarkia is quite plentiful on woodland slopes in Briones, Mt. D, and such, inland.  They are not common in the Bay Hills.  Incidentally, two populations of these were found in Strawberry Canyon in the 1940's.  I just love these; I call them Dr. Seuss flowers, because of their completely bizarre shape.  You can see there are more flowers to come - notice the pointy buds on the stalk above the blossoms.

3. Clustered Broomrape (Orobanche fasciculata) - after work, four of us went up to Barberry Peak.  On the way, just north of the saddle where we thistled a week ago, we looked for these strange little parasites near the Buckwheat.  Lookie here, what we found!! These little charmers are parasites on the roots of Buckwheat (Eriogonum nudum), and other shrubs inland.  Somtimes the clusters have as many as 20 yellow, "snapdragon" flowers.  Pretty bizarre, don't you think? The green leaves in the photo are buckwheats. 

4. Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) - a number of people have asked me if there are any native thistles we need to look out for.  This is one of them, a biennial (leaf rosette the first year, flowers the second, then seed and die), with felty white leaves and a flower head like a cobweb.  That's another common name, Cobweb Thistle.  Several of these grand ones grow on the upper slopes of Barberry Peak.  Look at that color - just pure, pure, candy apple red!!  These are, and will always be my true loves of thistles.  Like the mariposas and the clarkia, these are much more common inland, like on the the upper slopes of Mt. D.  There, though, the color is most often pink or lavender, occasionally even white.  Barberry peak is the only spot in the Bay Hills where I have seen these growing.

Well, that's the news from Skyline.  Who-hooo!

We'll be out again Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 (till sunset) and again on Sunday at 9:30.  Drop me a line if you're coming out, so I can keep count and bring enough tools.


Happy Trails,



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