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 Highlights From Comet Fire Image Pages 1 - 9:      Most Noteworthy Plant & Animal Images 
Ashes To Wildflowers: Image Page 5
Post-Burn Plant Succession Following Comet Fire East Of Palomar College,
Including Remarkable Leaf-Litter Ant, Other Insects, Spiders & Rattlesnakes
Compiled by W.P. Armstrong During Winter & Spring Months Of 2021
Plant names follow Checklist Of The Vascular Plants Of San Diego County by
Jon Rebman & Michael Simpson, San Diego Natural History Museum, 2006.

Friday 2 April 2021

California brickellbush (Brickellia californica) among blackened, split and exfoliated boulders. This is one of the many shrubs in the enormous sunflower family (Asteraceae) native to the coastal sage scrub. The Navajo and Kumeyaay (Diegueño) people used it as a traditional medicinal plant for fevers and coughs. California brickellbush plays a role in a Dr. Suess story called “What was I scared of”. The story is told by a young fellow who is out fishing one evening when he is approached by a pair of empty green pants. Frightened by the strangeness of this sight, he hides all night in a brickellbush. “I got brickles in my britches, but I stayed there just the same.” The following image shows the fruiting, seed-bearing heads (inflorescences) of a desert species (B. frutescens).

As of April, I am seeing more reptiles in the burned area, like this western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis). They are especially common in areas with charred boulders. As small mammals return to feed on the abundant grasses, forbs and bulb (corm) plants, I expect to see more snakes. It is wise to carry a stick and watch out for rattlesnakes, especially around boulders.

A red diamond-back rattlesnake (Crotalus ruber) crawling through the ashes one day after a brush fire in coastal sage scrub. Although I have seen the charred remains of animals, including rattlesnakes, wildfires do not kill all the animal residents of the chaparral and coastal sage scrub. Note: This photo was taken by my father Paul Armstrong near Sun City (Riverside County) many years ago.

As Of April 1 The 1st Phacelias Are Beginning To Bloom

Phacelia parryi: Since my first walks over these burned slopes back in February, I saw many thousands of seedlings appearing in the ashes that I thought were phacelias. My original guess was P. parryi which turned out to be correct.
  Image Page 2: Phacelia parryi  

Another species of Phacelia that is beginning to bloom: Caterpillar phacelia (Phacelia cicutaria var. hispida). The hairy coiled and uncoiled inflorescences remind one of prickly caterpillar larvae.

Yet another species of Phacelia that is beginning to bloom: Wild Heliotrope or Blue Fiddlenecks (Phacelia distans). It has coiled (scorpioid) inflorescences typical of the genus that is now placed in the borage family (Boraginaceae). The closely-related P. tanacetifolia has much longer (exerted) stamens.
  See Phacelia tanacetifolia With Longer (Exerted) Stamens  

A Yellow-Orange Fiddleneck In The Related Genus Amsinckia

Yellow fiddleneck or rancher's fiddleneck (Amsinckia intermedia) = syn. A. menziesii var. intermedia. A member of the Boraginaceae with coiled inflorescence resembling a fiddleneck. There is also a common fiddleneck with smaller flowers A. menziesii.

In Jepson Manual of Calif. Vascular Plants, the key to Amsinckia has corolla 7-11 mm for A. intermedia and corolla 4-7 mm for A. menziesii. There are also A. intermedia hybrids. A. intermedia is very common in disturbed areas and even competes with naturalized weedy forbs and grasses.

California encelia or bush sunflower (Encelia californica) native to the coastal sage scrub. It hybridizes with the desert encelia called brittlebush or incienso (E. farinosa). On my ant-hunting trips to Arizona I noticed small, amber-colored resin droplets near harvester ant nests. I finally discovered the resin was coming from the stems of brittlebush. In fact, this is why the shrub is called incienso, the Spanish word for incense!
  Images Of Brittlebush In The Superstition Mtns  


Tuesday 6 April 2021

It is April and hairy lupine (Lupinus hirsutissimus) is now beginning to bloom.

Be very careful when reaching into dead branches in the burned area!

A beautiful southern Pacific rattlesnake: Crotalus oreganus ssp. helleri (syn. Crotalus viridis ssp. helleri). I was surprised at its mild disposition for this sp[ecies. The red diamond rattlesnake (C. ruber) also inhabits these local hills of coastal sage scrub. See the following link to my images of these 2 species on nearby Owens Peak

This Is A Very Camouflaged Species On Dark, Ash-Covered Ground

  Rattlesnakes On Owens Peak  

A Blister Beetle: One Of My Favorite Beetle Families

This is probably a more accurate representation of the number of described species of beetles compared with other animals, plants, algae and fungi. There are at least 350,000 described species. Considering all the undescribed species, the number may exceed 400,000!

The blister beetle family (Meloidae) includes some very interesting and colorful beetles on desert wildflowers. The body fluids of some blister beetles contain cantharidin, a substance that causes severe irritation and blistering of skin. This chemical is very sensitive to mucous membranes and is the active ingredient of "Spanish-fly" made from the ground up bodies of a European blister beetle (Lytta vesicatoria) . Although it has been used as a counterirritant, its use as an aphrodisiac is very unwise unless you are raising livestock or chickens. I found an interesting species in one pitfall trap called the red-eared blister beetle (L. auriculata). I guess I am not a serious entomologist because I hate to kill my trapped insects. In fact, I gave this beetle a honey-water mixture that it loved and then released it.

Blister Beetles On Colorful Species Of Desert Wildflowers

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