California Native Plant Society

Rare Plant Treasure Hunt

Stories from the Field

Life List

Story and photos by Duncan Bell

A "life-list" is a term often used by naturalists to refer to all the different species they have identified. Earlier this year botanist Duncan Bell contributed an essay on some of his memorable "Life-lister" discoveries, and is back to share some of the fascinating finds he made over the summer.

This summer out in the desert the weather got quite wild. Large monsoonal storms repeatedly hammered down on the desert washing out many roads and re-landscaping many geological features. One of the nice consequences of these massive storms was the life that it brought to the desert. While exploring out there I came across many more species that I had never seen before and thought I would share a few:



Sanvitalia abertii (Astreraceae) [CNPS CRPR 2.2] is a summer annual that usually only shows its face when it’s up around 100 degrees in summer and the soil becomes saturated by monsoonal storms. This population was found in the Castle Mountains in a very picturesque canyon not too far from the Nevada border.

 

Bouteloua eriopoda (Poaceae) [CNPS CRPR 4.2] is a perennial grass that likes to flower during summer after good rains. When found this plant can be quite abundant but in California the only place where you will find it is in the east Mojave.

 

Asclepias nyctaginifolia (Apocinaceae) [CNPS CRPR 2.1] This milkweed is often found growing in rocky wash margins and is currently under a lot of threat from all the renewable energy projects that are going up out in our deserts.

 

Chamaesyce abramsiana (Euphorbiaceae) [CNPS CRPR 2.2] This species was a new addition to a floristic checklist I have been working on of Rice Valley and the Arica mountains in Riverside county. This species is almost exclusively found in silty soils of small depressions where rain collects.

 

Enneapogon desvauxii (Poaceae) [CNPS CRPR 2.2] I still find grasses to be quite difficult to identify and still have trouble warming up to this family but this species in particular is one of my new favorites from the grass family as it is so unique in appearance. Under a hand lens the fruits look like little cephalopods or sort of like little spiders.

 

Aloysia wrightii (Verbenaceae) [CNPS CRPR 4.3] This species has alluded me for years and I finally had the chance this year of finding and observing this shrub. Over a dozen invertebrate species were noted on a single shrub within just a few minutes. The insects were definitely loving it out there in the east Mojave this fall.

 

Euphorbia exstipulata var. exstipulata (Euphorbiaceae) [CNPS CRPR 2.1] This species is only known from just a few places in California from Clark mountain and the New York mountains. It was such a great bloom this summer that we were able to find three previously undocumented populations in the Mescal Range and in the Castle mountains.

 

Parkinsonia microphylla (Fabaceae) [CNPS CRPR 4.3] This tree is only found along the Colorado river and while clambering around the Whipple mountains this summer we found a few large populations.

 

Lotus argyraeus var. multicaulis (Fabaceae) [CNPS CRPR 1B.3] This is a east Mojave endemic that is also only found in California. I had actually also found it during the spring season this year, but did not realize what it was until I spent some time with it under the microscope this summer.

 

Ditaxis serrata var. californica (Euphorbiaceae) [CNPS CRPR 3.2] While this may not be the prettiest plant it is still an interesting one because it has taxonomic uncertainty. This plant has a CNPS California Rare Plant Rank of 3 which means it needs more information regarding its taxonomic status. This variety looks similar to other species within the genus Ditaxis except that it is not hairy like the rest of the species within the genus.

 

And just for fun here is a photo taken this summer of Castle Peaks from near Hart Peak in the Castle mountains near where many of our rare plant occurrences were found. If you have not visited the Castle mountains I highly recommend that you go. This area has some of the largest stands of Joshua trees in all of California.

 

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