California Native Plant Society
San Gabriel Mountains Chapter

The Paintbrush Quest

Part 1: The Liebre Mountains

Two of the CNDDB locations we wanted to check are close together in the Liebre Mountains in the far northwestern corner of Los Angeles County, very well separated from the Mt. Gleason location, at the junction of Pine Canyon Road and Old Ridge Route, a spot several miles southeast of Gorman.

Section 1: Today's paintbrush,
Castilleja foliolos

(We didn't specify which paintbrush in the title, did we?) On Wednesday, March 28, 2012, Jane Tirrell drove Graham Bothwell and met Walt Fidler at the junction of Pine Canyon Road and Old Ridge Route (8N04.)

Graham's report: It was an outstanding day. Found two lots of paintbrush, one at the place where we met at start of day, which confirms a voucher, the other along 7N22.

Jane Tirrell's report: Here's a summary of our day. We found some paintbrushes at the end, well not quite at the end, of Pine Canyon Road. They were pretty far from the driving area in a turnout at the junction with 7N23, so not particularly at risk, except it's sort of a disturbed area in general. They were also further down the road, but not as far as the gate by the Tumble Inn.

Walt drove us all along 7N23 and 7N22, the road that goes down to Knapp Ranch. We searched the area as described in the voucher (or our interpretation), but didn't find any paintbrushes.

In retrospect, it didn't seem like the right habitat. On the way back to Old Ridge Route 8N04, we saw 50-100 paintbrushes along 7N22.

We were not sure we were looking at branched hairs through our magnifiers. Can you tell from the paintbrush photos?

Jane Strong's comments: The hairs can be branched many ways. Here I think we are looking for starfish. The starfish can be branched at the base or on top of a trunk “starfish in a tree”.

What makes it so hard with C. gleasoni is that the hairs are branched from the base and they all look unbranched and straight. Sometimes when you look at the edges you can see them better.

I've never seen such densely hairy C. gleasoni. Ours over here at Horse Flats are so wimpy when compared. But the Horse Flats ones are shaded while the 7N22 ones are in full sun. And no Jeffrey (for parasitizing, so what are they growing on?) around at all. Very interesting. Again this needs careful study.

When we look for Castilleja around Chilao and Horse Flats, we are at 6,000 feet and have two choices, besides the obvious C. miniata, which can be best distinguished by having branched hairs or not.

At 4,000 feet, the choices increase. I think those in the photos are C. foliolosa, woolly Indian paintbrush.

Jane Tirrell again: I photographed the paintbrushes in all the locations we found them and took samples, except for the last place down closer to the Tumble Inn (photos, but no samples). The photographs and samples all look like the same plant. When I zoom in on the photos of the Tumble Inn population, they look just like the others too.

I was impressed by the grayness of the paintbrush foliage. In every case they were growing near Eriogonum fasciculatum, often with Penstemon (probably centranthifolius) remnants. Even the plants that looked to be growing by themselves on rocks were near E. fasciculatum — the roots probably went down several feet and the paintbrushes could tap in.

Well, that's disappointing, but it explains the large numbers of plants we saw. I think we should see what a C. gleasoni really looks like at Horse Flats or near Mt Gleason, and then go back and look again — maybe when the Buckeyes are blooming in a few weeks.

Jane Strong responds: Well, I'm not at all disappointed, I find that eliminating things is very, very helpful. You must do that first. Now you know what C. gleasoni is not. It was a beautiful trip nonetheless and when we go back to see the buckeyes, we'll know what not to look for!

Castilleja foliolosa, woolly Indian paintbrush, at Liebre Mountains, March 28, 2012

Section 2: The Phacelia Question: Is it Phacelia davidsonii or P. douglasii?

Phacelia in the Liebre Mountains. P. davidsonii or P. douglasii?

Phacelia davidsonii, Islip Ridge, and Phacelia douglasii, Burton Mesa

The second edition of The Jepson Manual says:
22. Corolla tube, throat white, lobes ± violet … P. davidsonii
22' Corolla light blue to purple throughout … P. douglasii

What do you think?

We'll visit the Liebres again later in the Spring. Email if you would like to join us.


Text: Jane Strong
Images: Jane Tirrell, Graham Bothwell, and Michael Charters
Map: U.S. Forest Service

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