The Eaton Canyon Biodiversity Project's Journal

September 14, 2021

The Dodder's of Eaton Canyon

The Cuscutas (Dodder) of Eaton Canyon and the San Gabriel Mountains
By Susan Hopkins aka squirrelbait

It can be difficult to believe that these plants are part of the morning-glory family, Convolvulaceae. Cuscuta’s are a parasitic vine which climbs other plants and takes nutrition directly from them via haustoria, a root-like structure. Dodder resembles a pile of yellow-orange straw wrapped tightly around its host plant. It is mostly stem, the leaves are reduced to scales on the stem's surface, since they are not needed for photosynthesis while the dodder is obtaining nutrients from its host. It bears tiny white flowers which are only about 3 millimetres wide, and fruits which are even smaller.

There are two common species of dodder in the San Gabriel Mountains, Cuscuta californica and Cuscuta subinclusa. While at first glance they appear very similar, there is a way to tell them apart. By their host plants and their flowers.

Let’s start by looking at Cuscuta species that you are unlikely to find and get them out of the way.

There are 3 rare Cuscuta that occur in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Cuscuta campestris on herbs and shrubs Elevation < 350m
Rounded calex, like a little ball.

Cuscuta denticulata Found in desert scrublands and Joshua tree woodlands
Tiny flowers shorter then wide, little teeth.

Cuscuta indecora on herbs, Maybe Lytle Creek Canyon, super rare
Very pale threads

Cuscuta pacifica
There is a forth Cuscuta that tends to show up on the iNaturalist suggestion bar, Cuscuta pacifica or Pacific Goldenthread. C. pacifica is a halophyte, meaning that it is a salt-tolerant plant that grows in soil or waters of high salinity, living in coastal salt march habitats. Which means, you are not going to find this cuscuta in the San Gabriel Mountains or Eaton Canyon.

A hand lens is recommened for inspecting the flowers.

Cuscuta californica, California Dodder
Flowers: Shallow bell, with long filaments

Host plants: Parasitizes herb & shrubs; non-woody perennials and annuals

California Buckwheat* Eriogonum fasciculatum
White Sage Salvia apiana
Black Sage * Salvia mellifera
Yerba Santa* Eriodictyon crassifolium
Scale Broom/Broom Sage * Lepidospartum squamatum
Showy Penstemon * Penstemon spectabilis
Southern Monkey Flower * Diplacus longiflorus
Deerweed *
Phacelia (seen on an iNaturalist observation)

California Lilacs ** Ceanothus

Cuscuta subinclusa, Canyon Dodder

Flowers: The corolla tube is very long and narrow with no or nearly so filaments.

Host Plants: Parasitizes woody shrubs and trees
Laurel Sumac * Malosma laurina
Poison Oak * Toxidendron diveralobum
Mule Fat * Baccharis salicifolia
Blue Elderberry Sambucus nigra
Bush Poppy Dendromecon rigida
Willow * Salix
Tree Tobacco * Nicotiana glauca

California Lilacs ** Ceanothus

  • I have observed these relationships
    ** Cross-over host

References:

Field Guide to the Flora of the San Gabriel Mountains
Orlando Mistretta, 2020

Wildflowers of Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains
Robert L. Allen & Fred M. Roberts, Jr. 2013

Conversations with Robert Allen

Posted on September 14, 2021 18:49 by squirrelbait squirrelbait | 1 comment | Leave a comment

February 17, 2021

How to get your Fungi to Research Grade: It’s all about the pictures

The most common reason Fungi don’t make it to research grade observations is the lack of a photo of the underside and/or stipe - a photo of just the cap doesn't get us very far.

While it is not possible to harvest mushrooms in this area, you can pick it to get a better ID. Pick and flip over at least one of the mushrooms for a photo might help with the quality of the observations. This is especially true for bracket fungi, the flat ones on logs. The underside reveals if it has pores of not, making it either. Without a look at the bottom, a firm identification cannot be made.

Posted on February 17, 2021 18:15 by squirrelbait squirrelbait | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 11, 2021

Common Mexican/Spanish Names for Plants & Animals that can be Found the Canyon

By Brenda Kyle, Arboretum Amy & Susan Hopkins

English / Latin / Spanish (Mexico)

California Buckwheat / Eriogonum fasciculatum / Alforfon or Flor de Borrego
NOTE: buckwheat or sheep flower (because the look like fluffy sheep)

Cochineal / Dactylopius / Cochinilla, Cochinilla grana

California Quail / Callipepla californica / Cordoniz, Codorniz californiana, Codorniz de California

Coast Live Oak / Quercus agrifolia / Encino de la Costa, Encina de California, Encino verde NOTE: Encino is an evergreen oak

California Dodder / Cuscuta californica / Grenas or Fideo, Cabellos de ángel
Note: Fideo is a long thin noodle like spaghetti

Yerba Santa / Eriodictyon crassifolium / Hierba Santa, Hierba santa de hoja gruesa

Mule Fat / Baccharis salcifolia / Huatamote or Jarrillas, Azumiate, Chilca, batamote

Laurel Sumac / Malosma laurina / Lentisco

Shortpod Mustard / Hirschfeldia incana / Mostazilla, Rabaniza amarilla

Poison Oak / Toxiodendron diversolobum / Roble Venenoso del Pacifico
NOTE: Poison Oak is not an oak, but Roble means deciduous oak

Sugarbush / Rhus ovata / Saladitos, arbusto de azúcar

Black Sage / Salvia melifera / Salvia de Miel (honey)

White Sage / Salvia apiana / Salvia Real (Royal Sage), Salvia Blanca

Toyon / Heteromeles arbutifolia / Tollon

Chaparral Yucca / Hesperroyucca whipplei / Yuca de Chaparral

Western Sycamore / Platanus racemosa / Sicomoro, Aliso

Prickly Pear Cactus / Opuntia / Nopal, cactus de higo, xoconostles
NOTE: Nopal is the word for the pad, Tuna is the word for the fruit

Posted on January 11, 2021 23:30 by squirrelbait squirrelbait | 2 comments | Leave a comment

October 26, 2020

Cochineal Scale Bugs: Genus Dactylopius

I was always under the impression that our local cochineal bug was the Dactylopius coccus. Based on further research and conversation I understand that I was incorrect. According to "Insects of the Los Angeles Basin" by Hogue, and Bob Allen of "Wildflowers of Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains, there are possibly 2 species of cochineal bugs in the canyon. D. opuntiae, known as the Cactus Scattered Cochineal, is the commonest local species. D. confusus, the American or California cochineal bug, is also present in the basin. Their waxy protective covering makes identifying them beyond their genus rather difficult. Neither of our two locally occurring cochineal bugs are D. coccus, known as the True Cochineal.

Posted on October 26, 2020 22:10 by squirrelbait squirrelbait | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 03, 2020

A Request of Observers (Sept. 2, 2020)

A big thanks to the over 1000 Observers who have entered their sightings for Eaton Canyon. The project is greatly improved by the diversity of species demonstrating Eaton Canyon Biodiversity.
We'd like your help to improve all sightings with identifications that meet "Research Grade" and can be used by specialists and others for real science value.

Observers should try to respond in a timely manner to their messages that their observation has been reviewed, identified, especially when the observation needs a second agreement, if you agree, to become Research Grade. Check back on your earlier sightings to see if they've been reviewed.

There's no question that photo quality has been improving so that observations can be identified. However some of them will remain unusable as being too far away, out of focus or failing to show needed parts. If you're photographing a plant, for instance try to include the whole plant, fairly close, then a closeup of the leaves, and the flower, if it's flowering.

>We like people to have the freedom to add any species to their own list and we don't want to discourage anyone from adding their sightings to iNaturalist, but ask that you think of the purpose and value of the whole project. Rather than submitting more coast live oaks or western fence lizards or planted Agaves, try to focus your submissions on something uncommon or rare, maybe not even in the list yet! Insects and many other arthropods (esp. bees, wasps, flies . . .) are grossly underrepresented, compared to plants and big, easily-seen things.

When entering any observation please also click on the "Life Stage" (Adult, Egg, Larva, Juvenile) entries or the Phenology (No Flowering, Flowering, Fruiting, etc.), if you can determine it, as this adds a lot of information. Phenology in particular can help researchers track early or later flowering periods with climate change. It only takes a few seconds.

Remember, if you're photographing a plant in the landscaped garden around the Nature Center, please add to the comments something like "planted in landscape" or "cultivated."

All this will really help to improve the usefulness and accuracy of this Eaton Canyon Project.

If you have any questions, please contact Susan Hopkins, at user name squirrelbait
or Mickey Long, at user name mickeylong

Posted on September 03, 2020 05:33 by mickeylong mickeylong | 2 comments | Leave a comment