Monday, May 1, 2006

The Elusive Boschniakia


is a picture I took this morning of a strange wildflower called the California Groundcone, Boschniakia strobilacea.

These members of the Broomrape Family are parasitic on the roots of manzanita. They have no chlorophyll, no green leaves. They do, however, flower. Many are just emerging, now, near the head of the Pickering Bar Trail, south of Gold Run.

To reach this spot, at the Gold Run exit on I-80, take Magra Road west, and in a few hundred yards turn left (south) on Garrett Road. Follow Garrett for almost two miles; the pavement ends, keep to the white-graveled road which looks too much like a private driveway, on the left. Stay left when opportunity arises; the graveled driveway leads away right towards a sign which proclaims, "No River Access." The now-ungraveled road of red clay bends around to the east, out of view of the house nearby, and further progress in a car is soon stopped by a large gate.

You are on the rim of the North Fork canyon.

And, you are on public lands, administered by the BLM. Park off to the side and walk past the gate, on down the hill, on the Road of Red Clay. This very road is depicted on the 1866 GLO map of this area, and my guess is that it dates to at least 1852, if not 1851, when gold was discovered at the head of Indiana Ravine.

Red Clay Road winds in and out of small ravines along the canyon rim, and a side road breaks away left (north) into the Diggings; but just stay on Red Clay Road. Cross another ravine.

When a large group of fallen Knobcone Pines is met, blocking the road, you are in fabled Boschniakia Land. Look carefully beneath the manzanita bushes on the north, uphill side of the road.

Incidentally, the very size of the Knobcone Pines in this area is notable. Some are at least two feet in diameter, large for a Knobcone. These pines are fire-adapted members of the Closed-Cone-Pine subfamily of the Pinaceae; their nearest relative is the Monterey Pine, with which they will hybridize, as I have seen for myself on the fog-swept ridges above Año Nuevo Point, north of Santa Cruz.

Passing the fallen pines, the Pickering Bar Trail forks away right (south) in fifty or a hundred yards. To see many more Boschniakia, follow the trail south another hundred yards or so, until they appear beneath the manzanita on the left (east).

These plants look much like small pine cones growing directly from the ground. Some are red, some are yellow.

If one keeps to Red Clay Road beyond Pickering, and fights past another clump of fallen Knobcones, a very remarkable view can be had east through Giant Gap to Green Valley, Sawtooth Ridge, Black Mountain, Quartz Mountain, etc. One sees snow peaks framed by the cliffs of Giant Gap. Quite quite nice. Try to catch this view early in the morning, before ten if possible. The deeper shadows enhance it.

To follow Red Clay beyond the Magic Overlook is to reach Indiana Ravine, and the Secret World, and the Indiana Hill Ditch, and the trail down to the Diving Board Ridge; patient exploration will be well rewarded.

No comments: