of the Santa Lucia Mountains
by David Rogers © 2000
As this article comes on line in this edition of the DCQ, sections of trails in the Ventana Wilderness and vicinity that were consumed by the Kirk Complex fires of 1999 should be graced by representatives of some rarely seen wildflower species. Such plants, which are known as "burn-species," are ephemeral annual herbs that have found an unusual means of adapting to environments that are, for the most part, unfavorable to their survival. In the first year after a fire has temporarily diminished dominant forms of vegetation, especially the shrubs of chaparral habitats, these herbs suddenly arise, and upon maturation they cast their seeds. Although within one to several years these plants will disappear from the landscape, their seeds will remain viable for up to 100 years or more. The goal of these embryonic plants is to recolonize the area after the inevitable event of another fire. Such plants may also manifest themselves from time to time in areas disturbed by other means, such as along sections of recently cleared trails, on land slides and even on road and bulldozer cuts.
I must also note that most annual herbs also greatly benefit from the temporary removal of an ecosystem's dominate form of vegetation, and thus tend to be present in even greater numbers after a fire. Based on my observation, there are also a number of species that are usually not thought of as burn species, but behave as such in the densely vegetated ecosystems of the Santa Lucia Mountains. And keep in mind that nature (like all things except for change itself and perhaps the force of gravity) is always fluctuating due to so many ever-changing factors. Thus this article is in no way meant to be a comprehensive overview of post-fire vegetational succession in the Santa Lucia Mountains; it is merely an attempt to highlight information about local species that are known to be "fire followers."
Before proceeding I must also note that a number of perennial species also benefit from fires, especially Deerweed (Lotus scoparius), which is the "feature-flower" of this edition of the DCQ. Even some of the perennial endemics of the Santa Lucia Mountains, such as Santa Lucia Lupine (Lupinus cervinus) and Santa Lucia Checkerbloom (Sidalcea hickmanii), benefit from fires. According to Jeff Norman (p.c. 2.6.00), Santa Lucia Lupines were common on the Coast Ridge in the early years after the Marble Cone Fire, but the areas in which they occurred are now completely overrun by the often arborescent Ceanothus oliganthus sorediatus (Jim Brush). Although the above mentioned perennials do not become truly rare in between fires, the following is one that does:
Sticky or Many Flowered Snapdragon
Antirrhinum multiflorum Pennell.
This species was widespread and locally common to abundant in the Ventana region after the Marble-Cone Fire of 1977, but it became increasing rare during the 1980s, and I have personally not seen a single plant for many years. This is a true snapdragon with bilabiate (or personate) corollas about 13 to 18 mm. long. The corollas are mostly pale-pink to carmine with darker-hued lobes, and the upwardly inflated palate is white. These are generally short-lived perennial herbs with erect or ascending and laterally branched stems ranging from about 6 to 15 dm. (2-5') long. The leaves are generally alternate and narrowly lanceolate to oblong or linear, and about 1 to 6 cm. long. The flowers are produced in elongated terminal racemes, and often in fewer-flowered racemes terminating lateral branches. The fruit is an oblique-ovoid capsule about 7 to 11 mm. long. Sticky Snapdragon occurs in the Coast and Transverse Ranges, from Alameda and Santa Cruz Counties to the San Bernardino Mountains of San Bernardino County, and in the Sierra Nevada Foothills in Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties (it also occurs on Santa Cruz Island). It blooms from late spring to mid summer.
I will now showcase some of the most noted of the annual "burn species" that are known to occur in the Santa Lucia Mountains.
Papaver californicum A. Gray.
Annual herbs with erect stems ranging from about 3 to 6 dm. (1-2') tall, which terminate with showy flowers about 2 to 4 cm. wide. The flowers have four petals about 1 to 2 cm. long, which are dark red with greenish spots towards the base. The leaves are primarily basal and pinnately lobed, and the fruit is a narrowly obovate capsule about 1 to 1.6 cm. long. This species belongs to the Poppy Family (Papaveraceae), and as indicated by its generic name, it belongs to the genus that comprise all the "true" poppies (such as the common garden poppy and the opium poppy). It is almost exclusively restricted to recently burned areas (hence the common name), and occurs in the Coast, Transverse and Peninsular Ranges from Marin County to San Diego County. The flowering season lasts from about early April to late May.
Lax Snapdragon, Climbing Snapdragon
Antirrhinum kelloggii Greene.
One of the most distinctive features of these annual herbs is their vine-like habit of growth. The plants are erect at the base, but the main stem and branches become outwardly lax (and hence the common name), and commonly support themselves on other plants. The plants are about 1 to 8 dm. (4-32") tall, and the alternate leaves are shortly petiolate to nearly sessile, generally lanceolate, and about 1 to 5 cm. long. The flowers, which are produced in the axils of the leaves for most of the length of the plant, have long and slender pedicels (about 3 to 9 cm. long), which are tendril-like and often coil around the stems of other plants. The corollas are bilabiate (i.e., two-lipped or personate), about 10 to 14 mm. long, lavender to deep bluish-purple, and the palate (lower lip) is white with purple veins. The fruit is a roundish capsule about 5 to 7 mm. long. This true snapdragon has rarely been collected anywhere within its range except during the first few years after a fire, and belongs to the Figwort Family (Scrophulariaceae). It occurs in the Coast Ranges, western Transverse Ranges and Peninsular Ranges, from Napa and Sonoma Counties to northern Baja California (and on Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands), and nearly all documented populations occur within 40 miles from the coast. The plants begin to produce flowers as early as April, and continue to do so until late spring, often until the later part of June.
Emmenanthe penduliflora Bentham.
The common name for these distinctive annual herbs refers to their yellow (or sometimes cream-colored) bell-shaped flowers, in combination with the noise they produce. The corollas remain on the plant well after anthesis (the period in which a flower opens and becomes sexually functional), and after drying they produce a rustling noise when disturbed (the corollas, which are five-lobed, retain their color even when dry). Although in nature the flowers hang pendulously in coiling terminal cymes, I have yet to find an illustration that depicts the flowers facing downward. When plants are laid flat (such as on a specimen sheet), the flowers, which are thus freed from the downward effect of gravity, become erect. The plants are about 1 to 5 dm. (4-20") tall, and the leaves are alternate, pinnately lobed, narrowly oblong in outline, and about 1 to 8 cm. long. The corollas are about 6 to 15 mm. long, and the fruits are oblong capsules about 7 to 10 mm. long. This is the only species of its genus, and belongs to the Waterleaf Family (Hydrophyllaceae). It is found in the Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada Foothills, Transverse and Peninsular Ranges, from Tehama and Nevada Counties to northern Baja California, and occasionally eastward to Utah and Arizona. A pink or sometimes white flowered form, often with brownish leaves (var. rosea Brand.), occurs in the inner south Coast Ranges, from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Mt. Pinos area of the western Transverse Ranges. The flowering season lasts from about early May to early July. Also of the Waterleaf Family are the following members of the genus Phacelia:
Phacelia viscida [Bentham] Torrey.
The common name for these showy-flowered annual herbs is based on the sticky substance that is emitted from glands on the leaves and stems of this species. The plants are about 1 to 7 dm. (4-28") tall, and the leaves are alternate, about 3 to 9 cm. long, ovate to oblong-ovate with cuneate to truncate bases, and have irregularly serrate or doubly serrate margins. The flowers are produced in open panicles on elongating coiling cymes, and the five-lobed corollas, which are dark blue but whitish toward the center, are about 8 to 18 mm. wide. The fruits are oblong-ovoid capsules about 8 to 12 mm. long, which contain about 40 to 80 seeds. This species reaches its most northern distribution in the Santa Lucia Mountains of Monterey County, and extends southward in the Coast Ranges and western Transverse Ranges to the Santa Monica Mountains of Los Angeles County (it also occurs on Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Santa Catalina Islands). The flowering season lasts from about early April to late June.
Phacelia brachyloba [Bentham] Gray.
Although these yellow-flowered annual herbs are sometimes found in gravely openings in chaparral, it is not until after a fire that they become common. The stems are simple or branched and range from about .5 to 6 dm. (2-24") tall. The leaves are alternate, petiolate, and mostly restricted to the lower half of the plant. The blades about 1 to 7 cm. long, oblong to linear in outline, and pinnately divided into toothed or entire lobes or segments. The flowers are crowded in one to several coiling cymes, and the corollas are campanulate to funnelform, five-lobed, about 7 to 10 mm. wide, and with pale yellow tubes and white or sometimes pinkish lobes. The fruit is an ovoid and 10 to 25 seeded capsule about 4 to 5 mm. long. This species occurs in the outer Coast Ranges, Transverse and Peninsular Ranges, from Monterey Co. to northern Baja California, and reaches its most northern distribution in the Ventana region. It usually blooms in May and June.
Santa Lucia Phacelia
Phacelia grisea Gray.
For several years after the Marble Cone Fire of 1977 these white flowered herbs were widespread and locally common to abundant in the Ventana region, but now they are rarely seen. The plants have erect stems ranging from about 2 to 6 dm. (8-24") tall, and the leaves are alternate, about 1 to 6 cm. long, ovate to broadly lanceolate or oblong in outline and with crenate to saliently lobed margins (the lower-most are sometimes nearly entire). The flowers are crowded on the upper side of terminal and axillary cymes, which are coiled toward the apex. The corollas are broadly campanulate, five-lobed, about 5 to 7 mm. wide, white-translucent, and with white or very pale-lavender veins. The fruit is an ovoid 5 to 10 seeded capsule about 4 to 5 mm. long. The species occurs mostly in the Santa Lucia Mountains of Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties, but populations also occur in the La Panza Range of San Luis Obispo Co. and the Santa Ynez Range of Santa Barbara Co. and western Ventura Co. The flowering period lasts from about May to June.
Snapdragon, Sleepy or Sticky Catchfly
Silene antirrhina Linnaeus.
These are inconspicuous annual herbs with erect and upwardly branching stems ranging from about 1.5 to 8 dm. (6-32") tall. The small flowers, which are produced on slender pedicles in open terminal panicles, have five white to pink petals that are two lobed at the apex. The petals, which are about 4 to 8 mm. long, barely if at all exceed the length of the calyx. The leaves are opposite and sessile, and the blades are linear to narrowly oblanceolate, entire, and about 1 to 6 cm. long. The fruit is a generally ovoid capsule about 4 to 8 mm. long. This species is widely distributed in temperate North America, and blooms from about April to June.
Mentzelia micrantha [Hooker & Arnott] Torrey & Gray.
Glandular-sticky annual herbs with simple or freely branched stems ranging from about 1 to 9 dm. (4-36") tall. The leaves are about 1 to 15 cm. long, the lower-most produced in rosettes while the upper are alternate and sessile, and the blades are ovate to narrowly oblong with serrate or pinnately toothed margins (and sometimes with two opposing basal lobes). The small flowers are produced in terminal cymes or singularly in the axils of the leaves or stems, and are obscured by floral bracts about 1 to 8 cm. long (the bracts are lanceolate to roundish and with entire or toothed margins). The corollas consist of five yellow petals about 3 to 4 cm. long, and the fruit is a linear and sharply three-angled capsule about 7 to 9 mm. long. This species, which belongs to the Loasa Family (Loasaceae), occurs in the Coast, Transverse and Peninsular Ranges, from Trinity County to San Diego County, and blooms from about late April to early July.
Branching Thread Stem
Nemacladus ramosissimus Nuttall.
These are small and inconspicuous annual herbs with slender and freely branching stems ranging from about .5 to 2.5 dm. (2-10") tall. The corollas are white and generally bell-shaped (but slightly bilabiate), and about 1.5 to 2.5 mm. long. The leaves, which are basal and produced in rosettes, are generally oblanceolate with toothed margins, and about 1.3 to 4 cm. long. Upper "leaves" are small and narrow bract-like structures. The flowers are small and produced in loose racemes on spreading and thread-like pedicels about 8 to 20 mm. long, and the fruit is a capsule about 1.5 to 2.5 mm. long. This species occurs in the Coast, Transverse and Peninsular Ranges, from the Mt. Hamilton region of Santa Clara Co. to northern Baja California, and also in Utah and New Mexico. It blooms from about April to July. There are also two other similar-looking Thread Stems in the Santa Lucia Mountains that behave as burn-species: N. capillaris Greene and N. longiflorus Gray.
There are a number of very similar looking annual herbs belonging to the genus Camissonia that, to varying degrees, behave as burn species. Such plants include C. hardhamiae Raven, C. intermedia Raven, C. hirtella (Greene) Raven (illustrated above) and C. luciae (Raven). All have small flowers with yellow petals that turn red or reddish with age, and have elongated capsules that become twisted when dry. Of these species, C. hardhamiae is endemic to the Santa Lucia Mountains, and most of the known populations of C. luciae are confined to these mountains. They bloom from about late April until mid July.
Chaparral Red Maids
Calandrinia breweri Watson.
These are small annual herbs with several semi-prostrate to ascending branches ranging from about 1 to 4 dm. (4-16") long. The leaves are alternate, semi-succulent, and about .5 to 6 cm. long; the lower are larger, fairly crowded and narrowly oblong-oblanceolate to spatulate, and the upper becoming reduced, fairly remote, and linear to linear-oblanceolate. The flowers are scattered in elongated terminal racemes, and the corollas consist of (usually) five red to purplish-pink petals about 3 to 5 mm. long. The fruit is an oblong capsule about 6 to 12 mm. long. This species occurs in the Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada Foothills, Transverse and Peninsular Ranges, from Sonoma and Mariposa Counties to northern Baja California, and blooms from about March to June.
Calyptridium monandrum Nuttall.
These small and semi-succulent annual herbs with several prostrate to ascending branches ranging from about 5 to 18 cm. (2-7") long. The leaves are entire and about 1 to 5 cm. long, the basal, which are generally larger, are produced in rosettes and are mostly narrowly oblanceolate to spatulate, while the generally few and fairly remote cauline leaves are mostly obovate. The flowers are small and produced on one side of terminal and axillary racemes or panicles about 1 to 4 cm. long, and the corollas consist of three white to pink or reddish petals about 1 to 3 mm. long. The fruit is a linear-oblong capsule about 3 to 6 mm. long. This species is widespread in southwestern North America, from Monterey and San Benito Counties in the Coast Ranges, the southern Sierra Nevada, and the Modoc Plateau of northeastern California, southward through the Great Basin and deserts of Nevada, California and Arizona, to Sonora, Mexico. It blooms from about March to June.
Blue Toad Flax
Linaria canadensis (Linnaeus) Dumont de Courset
These are delicate annual herbs with slender and erect stems ranging from about 1 to 6 dm. (4-24") tall. The showy flowers, which are about 10 to 24 mm. long, have strongly bilabiate corollas with narrow and downwardly curved spurs at the lower base, and are mostly blue or blue-violet. The leaves are of two kinds. The basal leaves, which are produced in rosettes, are technically offshoots. They are about are about 1 to 5 cm. long, and have small oblanceolate to narrowly linear segments that are opposite or whorled in three's at the nodes. The cauline leaves are sessile, narrowly linear, and about 5 to 25 mm. long, and the lower-most are commonly opposite or in three's while the upper are alternate. The flowers are produced in terminal spike-like racemes, and the fruit is a roundish capsule about 3 mm. long. This species is widely scattered in North and South America, from British Columbia and Virginia to Chile and Argentina, and blooms from about April to May.
Tobacco Monkey Flower
Mimulus bolanderi Gray.
The common name for these herbs refers to their tobacco-like odor. The plants have erect or ascending stems that range from .2 to 9 dm. (1-36") tall, and the bilabiate corollas are about 12 to 30 mm. long, pale pink to dark reddish-purple, and with two white lines cresting the folds on the lower side. The leaves, which are about .5 to 6 cm. long, are opposite and short petiolate, and the blades range from obovate to oblanceolate or narrowly oblong (they are entire or remotely toothed towards the apex). The flowers are produced in the axils of the leaves, and while the lower are often singular, the upper usually opposite. The fruit is a slender capsule about 7 to 13 mm. long. This species occurs in the Coast Ranges, the Sierra Nevada (especially the foothills), and western Transverse Ranges, from Mendocino and Calaveras Counties to Santa Barbara Co., and blooms from about May to October.
One Sided Monkey Flower
Mimulus fremontii (Bentham) Gray [M. subsecundus Gray].
These are small and highly variable annual herbs with erect or ascending stems ranging from about .4 to 2 dm. (1-8") tall, and it is not uncommon to find very small plants with only two leaves and one flower. The corollas are bilabiate, about 1.5 to 2.5 cm. long, and varying from rose-violet to dark reddish-purple, and often with two yellow ridges on the throat. The leaves are opposite and sessile, and the blades about 1 to 3 cm. long, oblong to broadly oblanceolate, and commonly reddish to purplish-tinged, especially below. The flowers are produced in the axils of the leaves on short pedicels, and the fruit is a many-seeded capsule about 7 to 13 mm. long. This species occurs in the Coast, Transverse and Peninsular Ranges, from San Benito and Monterey Counties to northern Baja California, and blooms from about April to July.
Most of the plants of this region correspond to the description of M. subsecundus, a form that is endemic to the Santa Lucia Mountains, which differs from typical species in having smaller and darker hued corollas that have yellow ridges on the throat. Another annual Monkey Flower that behaves as a "burn species" is Mimulus rattanii Gray.
There are many more annuals that occur in the Santa Lucia Mountains that, to varying degrees, behave as burn species. Such plants include: Red-Eyed Hulsea (Hulsea heterochroma), Cleveland's Malacothrix (Malacothrix clevelandii), Woolly Malacothrix (Malacothrix floccifera), California Chicory (Rafinesquia californica), Tower Mustard (Arabis glabra), California Mustard (Guillenia lasiophylla), Jewel Flower (Streptanthus glandulosus), Blue Cup (Githopsis specularioides), Common Eucrypta (Eucrypta chrysanthemifolia), Cream Cups (Platystemon californicus), and Turkish Rugging (Chorizanthe staticoides). I'm sure that many more should be added to this list.