lunes, noviembre 7

Southern California Botanists go south….

Southern California Botanists (SCB) is a non-profit organization devoted to the study, preservation, and conservation of the native plants and plant communities of Southern California.  SCB holds an annual symposium of interest to amateur and professional botanists, and this year the symposium theme was the flora of Baja California (see http://www.socalbot.org/symposia.php for more details).  October 15th saw a day of excellent talks on everything from mangroves and palms to Guadalupe and Cedros Islands, including two presentations by Terra board members: Dr Alan Harper on the endangered flora of Punta Colonet and Eréndira, and Bart O’Brien on The Rare, endangered, and Endemic Plants of the California Floristic Province in Baja California.
Botanists at our beach campsite near Eréndira.  From left to right: Sarah Ratay, Tom Mulroy, Erin Riordan, Eduardo Martinez, Sula Vanderplank, BJ Ledyard.  (Photo courtesy of Alan Harper, PhD and Terra Board Member and Tom Mulroy).

Feeling completely inspired, we set out on Tuesday18th October for an SCB fieldtrip to Baja California.  After crossing the border we stopped briefly in Ensenada to admire the new Terra Community Center, then headed down to Eréndira to camp on the beach.  Proyecto Eréndira is a new mining  development being undertaken by Navial Minera, that proposes to affect a large area of native vegetation in the heart of north-west Baja California’s coastal matorral.  Having just heard from Alan and Bart about how this area was chocked full of rare and endemic plants, we thought we should go and take a look!
Alan Harper, PhD and Terra Board Member photographing Baccharis sarothroides near Eréndira (Photo courtesy of Tom Mulroy)

We spent a wonderful morning climbing around and finding a fascinating mix of coastal and more inland species including gems like the rare Hazardia rosarica, and the near endemic shrubs Xylococcus bicolor – the mission Manzanita and Ornithostaphylos oppositifolia  - the Baja bird bush. We were glad to see the relictual populations of Bishop pine (Pinus muricata) and Tecate cypress (Cupressus forebsii) that occur in this region, and also to find the small-flowering mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus minutiflorus).  Walking was made easier by following the path of a relatively recent fire that had swept the slopes but spared many of the larger shrubs.  We could only imagine how beautiful these slopes will be in spring when the matilaja poppies are in flower and the annual wildflowers carpet the now-barren patches of earth.  We made a list of more than 80 plants, from cacti to trees, almost all perennials, from just one hillslope and drainage.  Knowing there will still many more plants we hadn’t seen, we could have spent several days here, but instead we forged north to our next destination.

Walking under the oaks at San Antonio Necua (Photo courtesy of Alan Harper, PhD and Terra Board Member)
Our second stop was the tribal lands of the Kumeyaay people at San Antonio NECUA.  We had the ideal campsite all to ourselves. Situated under several ancient coast live oaks, with clean restrooms, ample firewood, friendly hosts and a delightful gift-shop of handmade crafts next door, we spent a wonderful evening under the stars.  Although we were only a stones-throw from the local hotsprings, there was no time for that detour with this group, and instead we took an ethnobotanical tour with tribal member Jorge Dominguez after breakfast. We walked to a sacred site with many grinding stones and saw some riparian vegetation.
Hillslopes of Eréndira (Photo courtesy of Alan Harper, PhD and Terra Board Member)
After hearing how successful Terra’s first tour of the Sierra Juarez was last month we could not resist spending our last night at Rancho Casa Verde. We stopped in different habitats as we drove through the ever-changing vegetation up to higher elevations. Visiting one of the very few groves of Coulter pines in the Sierra de Juárez that occurs on the ranch was a very pleasant end to our botanical adventures. Some of us even managed to stop for some delicious locally-made cheese before heading back to southern California. 

We plan to offer a longer botanical fieldtrip to Baja California in January 2012; for more information please contact sula@terrapeninsular.org.



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