Category Archives: photography

Rainy Morning on Rocky Peak Road

Steam rises from Rocky Peak Road near Fossil Point.

It was nice to start a run in the rain and see a few mud puddles along the way! Southern California has had so little rain the last several months that any rain is something to celebrate. Since the start of the water year on July 1, the official weather station for Los Angeles at USC has recorded only 1.48 inches of rain. This is more than 5 inches below normal for the date, and depending on the rain received the next three days, the July 1 to January 31 rainfall total could be the 5th driest since recordkeeping began in 1877. (Downtown Los Angeles recorded only 0.02 inch over the three days, and according to a NWS statement issued February 1, July 1 to January 31 was the 5th driest on record.)

Unless you are particularly fond of mud, Rocky Peak Road is usually a good choice for a run if it’s raining, or has rained recently. Perched on a ridge on the border between Los Angeles and Ventura counties in Rocky Peak Park, its sandy soils are generally well drained. Except for a few short sections of road, mud isn’t too much of an issue unless you run beyond “fossil point,” the high point of the road at about mile 4.8. Here there is an outcrop of fossil scallop shells.

Related posts: San Fernando Valley from Rocky Peak, Chumash-Las Llajas LoopSunset Snow Shower

Sunset Snow Shower

Low angle rays of the setting sun highlight a snow shower over the Rocky Peak

When I heard the news reports of snow in the Santa Monica Mountains along Kanan-Dume road near Malibu, I hoped to find a little snow or hail up at Sage Ranch Park on my afternoon run.

The isolated snow showers, hail and sleet were produced by convective cells that developed as a result of instability associated with a passing upper level low. Some of these cells also generated some lightning and thunder.

There was no snow on the ground at Sage Ranch, but the low angle rays of the setting sun did highlight a snow shower over the Rocky Peak Park area. In March of last year there was snow at Sage Ranch and Rocky Peak.

Related posts: Chumash Trail Snow, Oat Mountain Snow, San Fernando Valley from Rocky Peak.

Twiggy Wreath Plant?

An ant forages among the florets of a wreath plant at Sage Ranch Park.

An ant forages among the florets of a wreath plant.

I’ve run past wreath plants thousands of times in the chaparral of local open space areas. At a glance, the nondescript wiry brown plant isn’t very appealing. But it’s one of a few plants you’ll see blooming in the chaparral in the Fall, so on a run this last November I took a closer look. This revealed a lavender-tinged composite flower that is anything but mundane. And, as I was to discover, a case of probable mistaken identity, and an example of one of the ways new species occur.

Three field guides in my library identify the plant pictured above as Twiggy Wreath Plant (Stephanomeria virgata). But, as discussed by Tom Chester, there is some confusion regarding it’s characteristics and identity. It could be the case that many Southern California plants previously identified as S. virgata may actually be San Diego Wreath Plant (S. diegensis), including those in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The plants are very similar, but according to the identification key for the genus Stephanomeria in the Jepson Manual can be distinguished by a groove along the length of a seed (achene). This isn’t something easily done in the field. The achenes are so tiny that they are best seen in a strong loupe or a low power microscope. Wayne’s World Volume 9 (Number 3) Fall 2000 has some photographs of the achenes and groove.

So why are S. virgata and S. diegensis so similar? The genetic relationship of various members of the genus Stephanomeria has been researched and it appears likely that S. diegensis is a relatively recent species that resulted from a natural cross of S. exigua and S. virgata.

The photograph of the foraging ant was taken on a run at Sage Ranch on November 5, 2006. Based on examination of some achenes from wreath plants in the area, the plant is probably Stephanomeria diegensis.

Technical papers:

Genetic Evidence for the Hybrid Origin of the Diploid Plant Stephanomeria diegensis

G. P. Gallez, L. D. Gottlieb
Evolution, Vol. 36, No. 6 (Nov., 1982), pp. 1158-1167

Phylogeny of Stephanomeria and related genera (compositae–lactuceae) based on analysis of 18S–26S nuclear rDNA ITS and ETS sequences

Joongku Lee, Bruce G. Baldwin and L. D. Gottlieb
American Journal of Botany. 2002;89:160-168