Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Trailing Arbutus

It's more or less peak season for spring ephemerals and woodland wildflowers here in southern New England. This clump of Epigea repens (Trailing Arbutus - family Ericaceae) was growing on a seep on an open slope on Wachusett Mountain in west-central Massachusetts. There was quite a bit of variation in flower color, with most being pure white, and this individual being about the darkest violet I could find. Trailing Arbutus flowers have a strong sweet smell, which is difficult to compare with other flowers. I think it's a little like rubber cement, but I haven't met anyone who agreed with that assessment with any real enthusiasm. It's pretty close to the fragrance of Conophytum hammeri flowers, not that that comparison is going to be of much use to most people.

Epigea is rare in my traditional stomping grounds in Connecticut and the NY metro area; I can think of maybe half a dozen spots where a few plants grew, and some of those have disappeared since the '80s. It still seems to be fairly common in woods up in the greater Worcester area, though.

Monday, May 2, 2011

San Diego Trip

Washingtonia filifera, Mountain Palm Springs, Anza Borrego State Park.

I'm back from Southern California, and mostly recovered from a long but exciting week of plant talks, desert walks and generally eating a lot of avocados and oranges. My presentations at the CSSA Conference went over pretty well, it seemed. The one on nomenclatural changes (the breakup of the portulaca family, the disappearance of the genus Monadenium etc.) got a bigger audience response than my Conophytum show, weirdly enough. I attended a lot of great talks, too, and was especially interested in the presentations by the two South African speakers, Gideon Smith and Andrew Hankey.

I went on one of the CSSA field trips to Anza Borrego State Park, which was spectacular, with thousands of barrel cacti (Ferocactus cylindraceus), ocotillos (Fouquieria splendens), and a walk out to a refreshingly cool palm oasis. I also spent some time at Balboa Park in San Diego, visiting with Steve Hammer in Vista, and exploring beautiful Torrey Pines State Reserve on the coast. I'll write more later, and maybe try to work some of my better photos together into some kind of slide show for the Connecticut CSS.