Tejon RancH Conservancy eNews March 2019

On the Ranch

By Operations Director Tim Bulone

Recently I got a look at the Conservancy’s new official organizational chart. It’s very colorful with boxes and lines showing how the Staff and Board of Directors and Committees are connected. It’s good to know where you stand in an organization and that org chart lays it all out.

"I am going to tell you a secret about who I really work for."

Photo by Ben Teton

Whispering now, lean in a little bit. I am going to tell you a secret about who I really work for. You’ve seen them on our website and on our YouTube channel, and if you look, you’ll find them on our species list. There’s just an abundance of life on this Ranch that is footed, rooted, or winged, and it all fills me with wonder. These are my real bosses.

Photo by Ben Teton
Black bear and cubs

I can suffer almost any number of endless spreadsheets, conference calls, meeting minutes, and mailings knowing that condors fly freely in the clear blue sky above Tejon Ranch, black bear moms forage with their young cubs among tall trees, young pronghorn bucks traverse undulating desert vistas, mountain lions preen near hidden springs, California poppies, lupines, owl clover, and hundreds of other colorful species paint stunning landscapes in the vast, conserved open space on Tejon Ranch. Yup, this is where I work. They’re who I work for.

Well, the secret is out. Now you know.

Western bluebird (Sialia mexicana). Photo by G. Smith

You may not always be able to visit us, but with this newsletter, you’ll get a small taste of Tejon Ranch. We’re happy to share. Hope you enjoy it!

Happy trails!

Tim Bulone

Photo right: California condors on Tejon Ranch.

Germinating annual grasses and forbs in the Old Headquarters area of Tejon Ranch. This is what the grasslands look like after only a few inches of rain! Photo by Mitchell Coleman

Wildflowers: Fizzle or fantastic?

By Science Director Emeritus Michael White, Ph.D. and Biologist Mitchell Coleman, M.S.

Here we are at the start of another wildflower season!

The plants found in Tejon Ranch grasslands are mostly annual species, meaning they germinate from a seed in the soil, quickly grow to maturity, reproduce (dropping their seeds for future cycles), and die, all in the same year. In many parts of the country, including parts of California such as the high Sierra Nevada, vegetation goes dormant in winter. However, in parts of California with a Mediterranean climate, fall and winter precipitation actually start this annual growth cycle, and we see germination of many annuals not long after water begins to hit the ground.

A mix of annual grasses and forbs in the White Wolf area of Tejon Ranch. The small white-petaled plants are popcorn flower, the yellows are fiddlenecks, and the pinks are redstem filaree. These annuals are often the first to germinate after a precipitation event.

These annual plants include both grasses and the broad-leaved plants called forbs that produce our showy wildflowers. In our San Joaquin grasslands, almost all the native plants we see are forbs (although there are also non-native forbs), while virtually all the annual grass species that occur here are not native to North America. Throughout Tejon Ranch, native wildflowers (forbs), like popcorn flower (Plagiobothrys sp.), fiddleneck (Amsinckia sp.) and blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum), are a part of the native biodiversity that we are charged with enhancing. Wildflower blooms are also some of the most popular resources for visitors to the Ranch.

A fiddleneck in the Old Headquarters area of Tejon Ranch. Fiddleneck is generally one of the first native forbs to germinate after a precipitation event.

Winter is the time Tejon Ranch Conservancy staff start speculating on the spring wildflower bloom. We wait anxiously for news of further precipitation events rolling in from the Pacific, which tend to increase the amount of rainfall in the southern part of the state. More rain means more flowers, right? Well, not always.

A very dry year can certainly depress the wildflower bloom, but one interesting aspect is that the timing and patterns of weather (rainfall and temperature) can affect the abundance of grasses versus forbs, and thus the wildflower display that we see in the spring. In years when weather patterns favor grasses over forbs, we may have a lot of annual plant growth, but have poor wildflower displays (even with lots of rain!). Research suggests that early rain, for example during October and November, encourages annual grass growth, whereas when fall months are drier, we see more forbs.

A mature blue dick on the Antelope Valley side of the Ranch.

So, what will this year’s spring bloom look like? The safe answer is “let’s wait and see.” Thus far, we have had a wet January and February. Things are now greening up quickly on the Ranch, but we are still early in the season. However, if we were betting people, we’d say, “Dust off your cameras and wildflower field guides, and hang on for a colorful annual ride!”

Want to see wildflowers on Tejon?

It's still a smidge too early to guess when and where wildflowers will be. To keep informed about the wildflowers and when opportunities exist to see them on the Ranch, like our page on Facebook, join our mailing list, and check our calendar regularly.

Frazier Mountain High School students learning on Tejon Ranch.

A second chance for students

Did we make our February 12th deadline to raise $40,000? Sadly, no. But great news: Our lovely benefactress has extended her personal challenge. She wanted to pick a date people would remember. So she picked a day that lives in infamy for many, Tax Day! This year it’s April 15th.

She will match our $40,000, if raised by April 15, with a $60,000 grant! This money will be used to provide the unique educational experience that a place as large as Tejon Ranch can provide. There’s no doubt that conifer forests, oak woodlands, stands of Joshua trees, and rocky alluvial plains make learning far more interesting, whether it’s mathematics, science, journaling, or art! These experiences have long-lasting effects on students and their teachers.

Be a part of that excitement! Help us meet this generous match that will see students, many from underserved communities, experience learning in a very different, very real way.

Let's take a hike!

Photo by Ben Teton

From the Let-Me-Help-You-Adjust-That Department...

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Thank you!

Tejon Ranch Conservancy E-News produced by co-editors Tim Bulone and Susan Chaney. If you'd like to contribute to E-News please let us know.

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