Clematis lasiantha (chaparral clematis)

DSCN1196Clematis lasiantha is a liana, or woody vine.  This species twists and twines around the other shrubs that it uses for support.  In the photo below, it is climbing Cercis occidentalis (western redbud).  While many woody plants invest energy into rigid stems and branches that will thrust their leaves toward the sun, clematis can instead devote more of its energy toward growth and reproduction. Most lianas occur in tropical rainforests, where dense canopies are at great heights, and this twining adaptation is particularly useful to allow plants to snag some sunlight for themselves.  But for Clematis lasiantha, this adaptation has proved beneficial in foothill chaparral as well.  Clematis species twine with their elongated leaf petioles (see below), which will wrap around whatever structure they encounter.

This species is in the buttercup family.  What appear to be four white petals are actually cream-colored sepals.  Clematis lasiantha has opposite leaves (see below), each with three  coarsely toothed leaflets that at first glance, in poison-oak country, can give one pause!

  • Species: Clematis lasiantha
  • Plant Family: Ranunculaceae (buttercup family)
  • Where I saw it: In foothill chaparral, High Trestle Trail, Lassen National Forest

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Filed under Botany Primer, Flora

High Trestle Trail


After a morning in the oak woodlands near Finley Lake, where Lasthenia californica (goldfields) and Viola douglasii (Douglas’ violet) were both blooming, I spent my lunchbreak on a detour down the High Trestle Trail.  Nearly a decade ago we backpacked all the way down to the North Fork of Antelope Creek.  Yesterday, however, there was just enough time to peel off the canyon rim a half a mile or so, where the trail descends through oak woodland and thick foothill chaparral to cross a small drainage that has cut through exposed Tuscan mudflow.  Not many annual species out.  Perhaps they’ve already come and gone, or perhaps many didn’t bother to make an appearance after the dry winter.  But Cercis occidentalis (western redbud), Clematis lasiantha (chaparral clematis), Marah fabacea (California man-root), and Calochortus monophyllus (yellow star-tulip) were all in bloom.  More flower pictures to come!



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A Skiff of Snow

DSCN1013 A skiff of snow the other day was far short of the foot or so that was promised (and desperately needed), but did offer the opportunity to see who’s out and about in our local woods.  Raccoon tracks crissed and crossed our path, and then the girls decided to make their own:

DSCN1011Also these tiny little quartets.  A mouse perhaps?


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Without Snow, Part II

IMG_0786IMG_0789We have also spent a fair amount of time walking out into the woods, which would be impossible in most years.  Our ramblings take us up small hills, down logging roads, past rocky outcroppings.  Old snowshoe hare tracks caught M.’s eye on a walk up Dead Dog Hill, and she decided to make what she called a “Rabbit Catch.”  The idea was that if she collected some enticing food items for the hare and set them out along with a soft place to sleep, she would be able to hide and observe the hare when it came by to nibble and rest.

I followed her direction as we collected dried out manzanita berries and evergreen leaves from greenleaf manzanita plants (Arctostaphylos patula),  a miniature bouquet of coyote mint flowerheads (Monardella odoratissima), and tufts of chartreuse wolf lichen (Vulpia sp.)  These were all carefully arranged on rocks and sticks in a small hollow that M. thought looked just right for a hare to inhabit.  We have returned to check on her set-up, and so far there are no takers.  I love that she has learned to navigate from our house right back to the same spot.  I watch as she follows a logging road, peels off at a skid trail, climbs past a feature she has called the “Sitting Rocks”, and looks for three small firs that mark the spot.

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Filed under Local, Winter

Without Snow, Part I

IMG_0800Without snow, there was no skiing this winter break.  No sledding, no snow forts, none of the usual winter activities that I had anticipated.  By this time last year, we were virtually buried.  But the thin crust of snow that was laid down by our first and only snowstorm of the year in early December has all but disappeared.

The upside is that shallow, marshy portions of Mountain Meadows are perfect for ice skating.  Sub-freezing nights and warm days melt and refreeze the surface, polishing it to a tempting sheen.  M. made it up on skates for the first time this year, and she is absolutely hooked.  We’ve been out twice so far.  Yesterday, a bald eagle perched in the trees above, watching her progress.

The girls also remembered the fun that can be had with cattails, and harvested a bucket-load home with the hopes that they can be persuaded to grow in our yard.  We’ve found more entertainment than we thought we would in this sadly snow-deprived winter.

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Toilet Paper Roll Forest Craft

DSCN0687 M. had been saving up toilet paper rolls for months, stockpiling them in a bowl for a specific craft that she had in mind.  A forest.  And so one day, we realized her vision, using toilet paper rolls as trunks, and posterboard trees.  The girls colored the trees with pastels and watercolors, then decorated them with stickers from this great little book that we found at the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center last fall.  They painted the understory and a background, and then we glued the trunks into place.


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Biking at Lake Almanor

IMG_0556Adventure is relative when you’re three, and for my daughter, an hour-long excursion to the lakeshore via the Lake Almanor Recreation Trail certainly qualified.  While M. was out cutting wood with her Papa, A. and I had a rare excursion together, just the two of us.  The path twisted through dense forest and at times was barely visible under a dense carpet of needles.  I trotted along on foot beside her, providing emergency braking on the downhills, and a few pushes on long uphills.  We walked out to the lake on the far end of our journey.  As always, A. filled her pockets with treasures, including feathers, fuzzy mullein leaves, and snail shells.  The reward for her efforts?  Whole-grain waffles, fresh-baked quiche, and hot cocoa at the Lakeside Cafe in Hamilton Branch.  Yum!


Filed under Local

Bobcat Sighting

DSCN0671The federal furlough has granted me something that is normally in short supply in my life — time!  More specifically, time to kill in Chester while the girls are in school.  I have spent some of this time exploring the trails behind Chester Park along the North Fork of the Feather River, where I strung together a few small loops to create a great three-mile trail run.  But it wasn’t until I actually slowed down to a leisurely walk today to appreciate the fall colors of willow and cottonwood that I saw this bobcat.  The wind was gusting hard and the bobcat was on the prowl.  I saw it a few minutes before it realized that I was just 30 feet away.  A treat!  I have seen plenty of tracks in my time, but never an in-the-flesh bobcat.  It stared me down for a few moments before bounding away soundlessly.

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Silver Lake Sunset


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September 7, 2013 · 4:19 pm

Cows in the Garden . . .

DSCN0494Defenseless as our garden is, I expect to lose a few seeds to juncos, raspberries to robins, and greens to a marauding deer that discovered our yard last year.  But cows?!

The other night I was awakened at 2 am by the sound of twigs snapping and a quiet rustling outside.  I thought that I would at last have a chance to confront the deer that had been munching away at our arugula and lettuce all summer.  As I headed downstairs I heard a low, unmistakable “mooo-oo-o.”  Cows.  I ran downstairs to find four cows with their noses buried deep into our front raised bed!  My husband came downstairs to find me quietly trying to shoo them in a way that wouldn’t awaken sleeping babes.  He ran them off with a few well-aimed rocks to their rumps.

Next morning I found a patch of beets reduced to this.  They had been plucked from the ground with their tops partially eaten.  The roots, however, were unharmed and made for an early harvest.  The flower garden took an even bigger hit, with many native plants grazed down to nubbins.

The cows either entered town from the north, across Highway 36, or from Mountain Meadows, where unmaintained fencelines enable cattle to reach the lakeshore and from there perhaps make their way into town.  So ranchers, if you’re missing a few head of cattle, you might want to try cruising through Westwood to locate your strays.  In fact, please do come and collect them before they wreak any more havoc in our yard!

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