Friday, January 30, 2015

23-Sept-2014 Mt. Hamilton, California

Location of Mt. Hamilton
Before this field trip I didn’t know that, to the untrained eye, California foothill pine (Pinus sabiniana) resembles ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) when looking at Google Street View.  I can now confirm this phenomenon.  This is the problem with winging it in unknown ecosystems and having no time to seek out local expertise and advice.  Mistakes will be made.

I was looking for ponderosas on Mt. Hamilton.  They were documented there by Griffin & Critchfield (1976) and a 100 year old record in the Calflora database.  I was using Street View to confirm that they were still present as well as accessible from the road.  Most of the trees I'd seen on Street View looked like ponderosa pine to me, but turned out to be foothill pine.  I did ultimately find two ponderosas, but they were terribly spindly and had little in the way of cones to offer.  Live and learn.

View from Lick Observatory atop
Mt. Hamilton
The day wasn’t a total wash, however, since I enjoyed the views from Lick Observatory and found a splendid stand of big-cone pine (Pinus coulteri) just east of the Mt. Hamilton peak.  The gigantic cones (big as my head!) lying in the roadside ditch were definitely harboring spiders, but I didn’t collect specimens since this wasn’t my target tree species.  And can you imagine trying the peel the scales off of one of these monsters?  But now we know: spiders use Pinus coulteri cones, too.

My foot and a P. coulteri cone, each about 25 cm long.

Spider web and exuvium in P. coulteri cone.

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