Floral & Fungal Finds

June, 2017

Excerpted from “Protecting Western Azaleas”

From the winter 2017 issue of Darlingtonia, newsletter of the North Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society

Head-high shrubs laden with large, ruffled flowers in fresh, clean whites and pinks, wafting heavenly fragrance into the spring air: western azalea (Rhododendron occidentale) is definitely among our charismatic megaflora. We have two azalea reserves, both managed by the California State Parks. The Azalea State Reserve  is 2 miles east of Highway 101 on North Bank Road, by the Mad River, and the Stagecoach Hill Azalea Management Area is at the left end of Kane Road, north of Big Lagoon. CNPS has a field trip to Stagecoach Hill planned for June 4 (See listing).

Periodic disturbances, such as fire, help provide clean seed beds for azaleas and combat competing vegetation. Current land management removes vegetation by hand or machine and is drastically underfunded.  CNPS members joined California Garden Club and American Rhododendron Society members on State Park work days to remove plants.

You can help the azalea reserves by joining work days (inquire at (707) 677-3109 or michelle.forys@parks.ca.gov) or by donating to funds established specifically for maintaining these reserves: 1) California Garden Club Incorporated Azalea Propagation Fund (Mail check to Mary Lou Goodwin, 1312 Gates St., Eureka, CA 95501-2627 ); or 2) Redwood Parks Conservancy, specifying the Stagecoach Hill Azalea Management Fund (Mail check to 1111Second St., Crescent City 95531; or online at https://redwoodparksconservancy.org/donate-rpc. Information: (707) 464-9150).

Ghost pipe: a fungal find in the forest

Ghost pipe (Monotropa uniflora) is a local non-photosynthetic plant in the heath family. It is commonly known by ghost pipe and Indian pipe. It is found in northern Humboldt County and Del Norte County within approximately 20 miles of the coast. 

Monotropa uniflora survives through a fungal connection to coniferous trees, deriving nutrients from them. Locally, it is found primarily in forests with a healthy component of Douglas-fir. Its flowers can be seen in June, July, and August. Dried stalks and seed heads are inconspicuous, but remain throughout the year.

This plant has a California Rare Plant Rank of 2B.2 because it is rare in California but widely distributed elsewhere. Because of its rarity in the state, it is protected under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Field Trips & Plant Walks

Beginners and experts, non-members and members, are all welcome at our programs and on our outings. Almost all of our events are free.  All of our events are made possible by volunteer effort. For more information about North Coast CNPS and our events, please visit our website: northcoastcnps.org.

June 4, Sunday. 9 a.m.-12 p.m.  Azaleas at Stagecoach Hill and Dry Lagoon extension. The western azaleas at the Stagecoach Hill Azalea Management Area should be glorious. Bring your lunch if you want to have a picnic and explore beach plants at Dry Lagoon afterwards. Meet at 9 a.m. at Pacific Union School (3001 Janes Rd., Arcata) or at 10 a.m. at the Kane Rd. parking area (From 101 north of Big Lagoon, at mile-marker 112.5, turn right onto Kane Rd. Turn left at the “T” and follow the road to a parking area at its end under large spruces.  Contact Carol Ralph at 707-822-2015 for more information.

June 16-18, Friday-Sunday.   Ruth Lake Camp-out. Wetland plants, oak woodlands, and mountains are all around this reservoir on the Mad River near Highway 36. We will camp Friday and Saturday nights in Boy Scout Cove Campground. Contact Carol as soon as possible if you are interested, as camp sites fill up. Carol Ralph: 707-822-2015 or theralphs@humboldt1.com

June 17, Saturday. 1-3 p.m.  Grass Basics with Basic Grasses in Hiller Park. Range conservationist Jennifer Wheeler will introduce a variety of common grasses, mostly non-native, and foster appreciation for these important flowering plants. Meet at the bench by the parking lot off of Hiller Avenue in McKinleyville. Bring a hand lens if you can.  For more information, contact Carol Ralph at 707-822-2015.

July 1, Saturday. Mill Creek Lake and Red Cap Hole Day Hike and optional overnight. In Six Rivers National Forest, east of Hoopa and about 5,000 feet is a world of white fir and saddler oaks and a host of other wonderful mountain plants. This trail is rough but has an even grade. It is a bit more than a mile to the lake and another mile to the small meadows that are Red Cap Hole.  For the hike, bring lunch and lots of water, layers of clothes for any kind of weather, and sturdy hiking footwear. Meet at Pacific Union School at 8:30 a.m. or arrange another place. Return time is flexible, probably after 6 p.m. Tell Carol Ralph you are coming and if you want to camp Saturday night: 707-822-2015 or theralphs@humboldt1.com.