Category Archives: nature|botany

Mushrooms and Mud on the Backbone Trail

Santa Monica Mountains near Circle X

The temp was in the 40s and the chaparral wet with rain when we started the run. We were doing a two part trail run. The first part would be the 15 mile segment of the Backbone Trail from Kanan Rd. to the Mishe Mokwa trailhead on Yerba Buena Rd. The second would be the 6 mile Mishe Mokwa – Sandstone Peak loop.

The weak front that produced the overnight rain had marched on, and now skies were clear and it was a little breezy. As has been the case with many weather systems this year, there hadn’t been a lot of rain. Though muddy in spots, the Backbone Trail was in surprisingly good shape, and the running excellent.

In addition to the greening of the hills and the sprouting of many annuals, the frequent, light rains had also created perfect conditions for the growth of a  variety of mushrooms and other fungi. Fortunately I was running with a sharp-eyed mushroom collector from the PNW that could pick out partially buried earth stars and other mushrooms among the leaves, twigs and other debris in the deep shade along the trail.

Here are three of the more peculiar fungi. Click the image for more info and a larger image.





Orange Jelly




Comb Tooth




Earth Star

Some related posts: Circle X Crags and the Channel Islands, Mishe Mokwa – Sandstone Peak – Grotto Trail Run

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After the Station Fire: Stem Malformation in Turricula

The photograph above is of an example of a bizarre malformation in plants known as stem fasciation — in this case in Turricula/Eriodictyon parryi (Poodle-dog bush). The normally round stem of the plant has been transformed into a thick ribbon-like structure, many times the size of a normal stem. The photo is from a recent trail run in an area burned by the 2009 Station Fire.



This is the second time I’ve found a plant with a fasciated stem in a burn area. The first was at Sage Ranch following the 2005 Topanga Fire. In this case the fasciated stem of a wreath plant (Stephanomeria) was a contorted spiral several feet tall.

There are many mechanisms which are reported to cause fasciation; among them a bacterium, stress, chemical or mechanical damage, and inheritance. It may or may not be coincidence that both of these examples were found in burn areas — about two and a half years into recovery in the case of the Turricula, and a year in the case of the wreath plant.

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Cape Ivy on the Rivas Canyon Trail

Cape Ivy on the Rivas Canyon Trail

Did the Will Rogers – Temescal Loop this morning from the End of Reseda. It had been more than a month since we’d had measureable rain in Los Angeles and it was great to be out in the Santa Monica Mountains after a rainstorm, dodging a few mud puddles and enjoying the good running weather!

A key segment of the 21 mile loop is the Rivas Canyon Trail, which connects Will Rogers State Historic Park to Temescal Gateway Park. Each time I run the trail I’m blown away by the oceans of Cape ivy in Rivas Canyon. Having grown up in the Southeastern U.S. it reminds me of kudzu.

Both are introduced perennial climbing vines — kudzu from Japan and Cape ivy from South Africa. Both are prolific and can cause severe negative impacts to native plants and other vegetation.

More information about Cape ivy (Delairea odorata) can be obtained on the California Invasive Plant Council web site.

Related post: Christmas Eve Trail Run

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After the Station Fire: Turricula Leaves

Turricula leaves

Turricula (Poodle-dog bush)* sprouting on “Edison” road between the West Fork San Gabriel River and Shortcut Saddle.



The serration of the edges of these sprouting leaves is more pronounced than in older plants, but in my experience the toothed leaf margin is present to a varying degree on most plants. This may not always be evident because the leaf margin tends to roll under with age. The minutely hairy, densely clustered lanceolate leaves and pinnate veining are distinctive.

The leaves become more fuzzy and gray-green with age, eventually turning yellow-brown and then gray as they wither. The mature stalks of Turricula can be several feet tall.

From Sunday’s run from Shortcut Saddle in the San Gabriel Mountains, near Los Angeles.

*The taxonomic name for Turricula parryi (Poodle-dog bush) has changed to Eriodictyon parryi. The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California, Second Edition (2012) has returned Turricula to the genus Eriodictyon, as originally described by Gray. According to the Wikipedia entry for Turricula (April 11, 2012), “… molecular phylogenetic analysis carried out by Ferguson (1998) confirms that Turricula should be treated as a separate genus within a clade (Ferguson does not use the term “subfamily”) that includes Eriodictyon, and also the genera Nama and Wigandia; Eriodictyon is the genus to which Turricula is closest in molecular terms, and is its sister taxon.” I use “Turricula” and “Poodle-dog bush” interchangeably as a common name.

Related posts: Contact Dermatitis from Turricula parryi (Poodle-dog Bush), Turricula Along Angeles Crest Highway, Real-World Turricula Testing

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Canchalagua

Canchalagua (Centaurium venustum)

Relatively uncommon in the areas in which I run, the vivid rose-purple of Canchalagua (Centaurium venustum) is always a treat to see. Not only are its colors eye-catching, it’s petals are unusually uniform and precisely formed, which makes the flowers stand out even more.  A closer look reveals bizarrely shaped anthers, which are fluted and spiraled.



The plant is reported to have been used medicinally, but according to Chumash Ethnobotany by Jan Timbrook & Chris Chapman, based on the field notes of John P. Harrington, it wasn’t clear whether it was “a remedy of the old-time Indians, or of the whites.”

Here’s an advertisement from an 1852 volume of the American Whig Review, in which Canchalagua was specified as an ingredient of the patent medicine “Dr Rogers’ Compound Syrup of Liverwort, Tar and Canchalagua.” (The document was digitized by Google as part of the Making of America Project.)

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After the Station Fire: Phacelia Near Three Points

Various species of Phacelia are fire-followers and have bloomed in profusion in areas burned by the Station Fire. These are Davidson’s Phacelia (Phacelia davidsonii) along the Three Points – Mt. Waterman Trail about a mile from Three Points.



Like Turricula (Poodle-dog bush)*, many species of Phacelia can cause a contact dermatitis similar to poison oak. Generally, any Phacelia should be considered suspect, and especially those that are fuzzy and sticky.

One Phacelia that has been shown to elicit a reaction is California bluebell (Phacelia minor) — a relatively common wildflower in the middle to lower elevation areas burned by the Station Fire. In one study, it was found that the amount of two active compounds in Phacelia minor required to produce a qualified reaction was 6.3 µg and 3.8 µg; compared to 170 µg for Turricula and 1.6 µg for a component of urushiol from poison ivy.

*The taxonomic name for Turricula parryi (Poodle-dog bush) has changed to Eriodictyon parryi. The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California, Second Edition (2012) has returned Turricula to the genus Eriodictyon, as originally described by Gray. According to the Wikipedia entry for Turricula (April 11, 2012), “… molecular phylogenetic analysis carried out by Ferguson (1998) confirms that Turricula should be treated as a separate genus within a clade (Ferguson does not use the term “subfamily”) that includes Eriodictyon, and also the genera Nama and Wigandia; Eriodictyon is the genus to which Turricula is closest in molecular terms, and is its sister taxon.” I use “Turricula” and “Poodle-dog bush” interchangeably as a common name.

Related post: After the Station Fire: Contact Dermatitis from Turricula parryi – Poodle-dog Bush

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