Field Trip Report Stony Creek 7 April 2018

by Carol Ralph

The Stony Creek Trail, at the end of a road in Gasquet on Highway 199, is a long time favorite of botanizers.  At present we owe thanks for this trail to Six Rivers National Forest and the Siskiyou Land Conservancy.  SRNF owns the first part of the trail; SLC owns the downhill part and the actual parcel that the river junction is on.  The serpentine influence in the soil discourages weedy species and results in a diverse mix of natives, including serpentine specialists.   

On the wet, bouldery shelf above Stony Creek the fierce but patient pitchers of California Pitcher Plant wage a silent battle with Salal (large leaves on the right) and Labrador Tea (small leaves on left).  Lack of fire has allowed the woody plants to gain a foothold in the Darlingtonia fen.  Without disturbance of some kind, the shrubs will shade out the pitcher plants and other wetland herbaceous plants in this special plant community. 

This little conifer near the beginning of the trail caught our eye.  A return visit for further information confirmed it was a Pacific Yew (Taxus brevifolia), not recorded from this trail.

The first weekend of April is still quite early spring.  Many species were just unfurling, poking up, or swelling buds.  The flower show was lined up along the trail.  First, the Fairy Slipper (Calypso bulbosa) near the cars, then the pure white Sitka Valerian (Valeriana sitchensis), and then … ta dah!…..the hundreds of fawn lilies, dancing in mossy beds along the trail.  We measured styles on a good number of these flowers, finding them mostly just short of 10 mm, making them (according to The Jepson Manual) Lemon Fawn Lily (Erythronium citrinum), not California Fawn Lily (E. californicum), the other white fawn lily with mottled leaves.  Soon followed the Oregon Anemone (Anemone oregana), white with a blush of blue. 

Down on the flat by the river the Deltoid Balsamroot’s (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) large, yellow flowers took over the show.  Along the bouldery, boggy way upstream the dramatic leaves of California Pitcher Plant continually amazed, and on the rocky flats beyond first it was tiny-but-elegant violet (Viola sp.), then bright pink Shooting Star (Primula hendersonii), and then mats of variable pink Spreading Phlox (Phlox diffusa).  It was a wonderful show; our eight botanizers enjoyed every minute, even when we had to put up our raincoat hoods.

Studying something on the mossy trailside among Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), Western Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum), Tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus), and Canyon Live Oak (Quercus chrysolepis).