White Hawkweed

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Worldwide there are over 700 species of “hawkweeds”, mostly in Europe and South America. The ancient Greeks believed that hawks would tear apart the plant and wet their eyes with the juice to clear their eyesight. The Roman naturalist Pliny … Continue reading

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Blue Blossom

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Cal Flora lists 83 Ceanothus species and subspecies in California. Many members of this genus are so difficult to separate from each other that I often do not even attempt to do so. Blue blossom (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus) is one that … Continue reading

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Raven Relationships

Common Raven

While photographing wildflowers on the California Coast (Dry Lagoon Beach in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park) in May, a common raven (Corvus corax) was very interested in our activities. The raven followed Leonard and me around and closely watched our every move. At times I thought this curious bird might even start to peck at the specimens.

There are at least eight recognized subspecies of common raven worldwide. Christopher Feldman and Kevin Omland conducted mitochondrial DNA and other genetic studies on ravens from around the world. Their results indicate that there are two clades (group of organisms closely related to each other implying a common ancestor) of ravens in the United States. One clade, the “California clade”, is found only in the Southwest and is closely related to the Chihuahuan raven (C cryptoleucus) while ravens from the rest of the United States are more closely related to ravens in Europe and Asia.

These two clades may be explained by their time of arrival in the New World. Ravens evolved in the Old World and crossed the Bering Strait about two million years ago settling in the southwest. Over time the Chihuahuan raven evolved from the “California” raven. Later a second raven migration crossed the Strait and settled throughout the remainder of the United States.

Discussion continues as to whether these two clades should be separate species. However, the two groups can hybridize. Thus some believe that eventually all the ravens of the United States will merge back together.

The scientific name of the common raven attests to how long this solid black bird has been known. Corvus, the genus name, is Latin for raven. The Ancient Greek word for a crow or raven is the species designation, corax.

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Salmonberry

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis) are very watery and, I believe, are best eaten directly off the stem. Leonard and I recently enjoyed nibbling salmonberries while hiking the Carruthers Cove Trail in California’s Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Salmonberries are not particularly … Continue reading

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Fringe Cups

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Fringe cups (Tellima grandiflora) is a perennial native belonging to the Saxifrage Family. They so closely resemble plants in the genus Mitella (bishop’s caps) that their genus, Tellima, is an anagram of Mitella. The species name, grandiflora, means “large flowers” … Continue reading

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Phoenix Oyster

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Phoenix oysters (Pleurotus pulmonarius) are shelf-like gilled mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms in the Pleurotus genus are morphologically very similar. Often substrate and time of occurrence are the best way to separate them in the field. For example, P ostreatus (red oyster) … Continue reading

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Horned Searocket

This gallery contains 8 photos.

A native of Europe, North Africa and Western Asia, horned searocket (Cakile maritima) was introduced to North America in the early 1800s via ships’ ballast. This annual has since naturalized throughout most of the coastal states where it can be … Continue reading

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