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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rock Midgets and Arroyo's part 1

We are going to have to take a brief respite from bulb blogging tonight. In the interest of me refreshing my memory on the intricacies of plant breeding and to sort out the complications of Jane's bee hybridized Fritillari purdyi and Fritillaria biflora crosses. I'm going to stop and gloat a bit about my greenhouse full of death valley monkeyflowers.

Mimulus rupicola
The Famed Death Valley Monkeyflower
At last, blooming in my greenhouse, among the rarest in the genera and found only in the Southern California region of Death Valley and the Sky Island mountains.  I looked for this plant for so long, through all the seed catalogs. I asked Ron Ratko if he could make a special trip. Then I made the trip myself to Death Valley to look for it, but it always eluded me. I searched Hanupah Canyon for a whole day, climbing from 300' in elevation to well over 3000'. Picking my way through barrel cactus and huge patches of the gleaming white Encelia farinosa. I never could find the preferred habitat of craggy limestone cliffs.
Death Valley is an old rift, once a giant lake, now split into the  Panamint Mountains and the Amargosa range.
This still goes down as one of the most magnificent campsites I've ever had, and I've camped a lot of places. All alone on the Hanupah alluvial fan, looking over the salt flats to watch the sunset on the Amargosa range.
I thought I was looking in the right habitat, but all I found was Salvia dorii and Echinocerus engelmanii....and a ton of other cool plants, but not the monkeflower I was looking for.

Astragalus coccineus
This picture was actually taken just north of Death Valley in the White Mountains outside of the town of Bishop, California.

Astragalus laynae or funereus.
I think you have to see the pod to be sure, this is in Death Valley proper.

A selection of must have reading material for any botanizing trip to Death Valley.
The Charcoal Kilns
So bizarre to drive all the way up Wildrose canyon, in one of the most inhospitable places on earth and come across these giant, beehive looking structures. They seem completely alien in the making. Built in the late 1800's  these structures were used to convert Juniper to charcoal to fire silver ore smelting operations in the valley below.

End of Part 1
I have so many pictures and reminiscing about this great trip and the rewards of now growing Mimulus rupicola is making me nostalgic so I'm going to continue this chapter tomorrow.

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