Tag Archives: foothill chaparral

Cercis occidentalis (western redbud)

DSCN1193Cercis occidentalis is a shrub in the pea family.  Like most pea flowers, they are described as papillonaceaous because the broad upper petal is reminiscent of a ‘papillon’ (French for butterfly).  In a pollinator-friendly configuration, this upper petal attracts insects, while the lower petals act as landing pads and protect  the stamens and stigma.

Redbud’s magenta flowers are first to emerge in the spring, followed by broad reniform (kidney-shaped) or cordate (heart-shaped) leaves.  In the photo below, new leaves are just beginning to emerge atop the inflorescence.  When in fruit, this species will produce pods that are several inches long.   

  • Species: Cercis occidentalis
  • Plant Family: Fabaceae (pea family)
  • Where I saw it: In foothill chaparral, High Trestle Trail, Lassen National Forest

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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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