Alkali Sink Vernal Pools, Livermore, CA

Discussion in 'Botany Photo of the Day Submissions' started by mollymCA, May 1, 2011.

  1. mollymCA

    mollymCA Member

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    Central CA, USA
    The Springtown Vernal Pools should be especially spectacular this year of late rains. This area, enclosed by development, has so far been saved by the presence of the Endangered (FE/SE: Federal and State) Cordylanthus palmatus, Palmate-bracted Bird's Beak. It is in the Scrophulariaceae and thus a relative of Indian Paintbrush, and like many in the family a hemiparasite on roots of other plants. It may be able to survive without a root association, but is said to develop more color in the bracts -- the 3-pronged structures that clutch the stem-- according to the extent of such a relationship. (If true, this plant hadn't yet found a friend-- )

    The Cordylanthus is a salt-excreter and you can see the crystals on the rather succulent leaves and bracts. The flowers (like those of Indian Paintbrush) are insignificant even when fully out -- on May 9, 2008 they were not quite fully extended from the bracts.

    The white areas in the landscape are dried Vernal Pools and stream areas, crusted with the salt that accumulates over years of leaching from the soil into the landlocked (or nearly so: there is a rather feeble flow out from some of the streams). The Bird's beak would be found on the edges of the salt areas.

    The green plant growing with the Cordylanthus is Salicornia, also called Pickleweed, and the dry stuff lying on the ground is dormant Distichlis spicata, both typical of salty or salty-alkaline swampy areas.

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