Tejon RancH Conservancy eNews March 2017

On the Ranch

The wildflowers of Tejon are beginning their spectacular annual show, and in this issue we’ll learn why they grow where they do, how to identify our wildflowers, along with some striking photos that, as beautiful as they are, barely capture their splendor. On that note, it’s interesting to think about how we assign “beauty” to some plants and not to others. Is a milkweed any less beautiful than a poppy?

Our annual Wildflower Viewing starts in Mid-March and runs through April. Reservations are going fast and are mandatory as Tejon Ranch is privately owned. We are privileged to offer this opportunity to the public, along with other access and member activities. The 2008 Ranch Wide Agreement that placed 90% of the Ranch’s 270,000 acres under conservation makes Public Access a priority for the Conservancy. We look forward to growing these opportunities in the coming years.

Join us in welcoming new board member Mike Campeau, Vice President of Operations at Tejon Ranch. Mike has been on and around the Ranch most of his life and we look forward to working closely with him. Mike replaces founding board member Randall Lewis who helped guide the Conservancy from the beginning. Thank you Randall for your wisdom, support and leadership!

We also hope you’ll enjoy a glimpse into the secret life of Tejon wildlife with a few more video clips, some insight into our local climate, researchers on the Ranch, and native bryophytes…you know what those are, right?

As our surprisingly wet winter turns to spring, we’re enjoying getting out in the field more and more and welcoming our members and guests to the ever intriguing Tejon Ranch.

See you on the Ranch!

Bob Reid

Photo by Lorraine A. Murphy

Meet the Wildflowers!

By Conservancy Science Director Mike White

Tejon Ranch is known for its incredible wildflower displays, with dozens of species showing themselves in different places on the Ranch at different times. Whether you are visiting Tejon for our Wildflower Viewing or just driving by, with spring blooms starting to show up, we wanted to introduce you to a few of the most common wildflowers on the Ranch.

California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) – Our California State flower! Botanically it is a member of the Poppy family (Papaveraceae), and is one of the most common wildflowers on the Ranch. In some years, California poppies can come out in tremendous displays, where entire swaths of landscape turn orange. Up-close, a sunlit poppy shows off a remarkable florescent hue, one of the most amazing colors in nature! (Did you know that California poppies are an invasive species in other parts of the world?)

A field of California poppies in the Antelope Valley.
An amazing show of California poppies lights up the slopes above Cedar Canyon in the San Joaquin Valley.

Lupine (Lupinus spp.) – Tejon Ranch has a very diverse lupine flora. To date the Conservancy and our partners have identified 15 taxa of lupines! Botanically, lupines are in the Pea Family (Fabaceae), and the latin name Lupinus means wolf. Different lupine species can be found in many different habitats across Tejon and range in height at maturity from an inch to a couple of feet. Their colors are mostly glorious purple and blue shades; some can be pure white.

Sky lupine (Lupinus nanus) detail. In this species, the white portion of the petal turns purple after pollination.
A patch of lupines in the San Joaquin Valley. While some species of lupines are white, these are just white individuals of the same species (sky lupine).

Popcorn flower (Plagiobothrys spp.) – There are several species of popcorn flowers at Tejon – at least six taxa. Botanically, they are in the Boraginaceae (Borage or Forget-Me-Not Family), often characterized by a coiled flower. In some years, popcorn flowers can be very abundant on Tejon. In fact, because of the extensive blooms of popcorn flowers that occur there, the floodplain of Tejon Creek has been nicknamed the “Tejon Milky Way!”

Cattle in the "Milky Way" in the San Joaquin Valley portion of Tejon Ranch, an extensive field of popcorn flowers.
Detail of popcorn flower.

Fiddleneck (Amsinckia spp.) – Like popcorn flowers, fiddlenecks are also in the Forget-Me-Not Family (Boraginaceae), and at least eight taxa are found on Tejon Ranch. The plants have sharp hairs on their leaves and stems and can be very irritating to the skin. As well as providing us showy displays of color, fiddlenecks can provide a good seed source for certain birds, in particular Lawrence’s goldfinches.

Fiddlenecks create a show of gold in the San Joaquin Valley.
Detail of fiddlenecks (note the coiled flowers of the Forget-Me-Not Family).

Blue Dick (Dichelostemma capitatum) - Unlike the annual wildflowers we have met so far, the blue dick, or wild hyacinth, is one of our perennial geophytes (earth lover) or blubs. Blue dicks are in the botanical family Themidaceae (related to the lilies). They are often very abundant in heavier clayey and loamy soils.

Field of blue dicks in the clay soils of the Tejon Hills.
Monolopia on the Tejon Hills. Photo taken February 15, 2017

The California Naturalist Series

“April Flowers bring May Flowers” – Except in California and other Mediterranean Climates. By Paula Harvey, California Naturalist

If you followed that 1886 proverb, you’d miss out on all the pageantry of California’s wildflower season that starts in February and continues through April. That’s because California has a Mediterranean climate. In other regions of North America, the wet season and warm season occur at the same time, from May to October. But in California these seasons do not overlap. The warm season is characterized by drought. It almost never rains with the exception of summer thunderstorms in higher elevations such as the Sierra Nevada. November to April marks California’s wet season.

If you define spring as the time when seeds sprout, then spring in California begins in November! While some animals hibernate in cold climates, there are animals in California that “estivate” in the hot, dry season.

California shares this unique climate with four other places in the world: the Mediterranean, Chile, southwestern Australia and the Cape region of South Africa.

So don’t wait for May; enjoy our unique and beautiful wildflowers right now!

Why do wildflowers grow where they do?

By Conservancy Science Director Mike White

Most people are interested in when wildflowers are going to bloom, but a closer look at where they bloom is just as interesting. First a little wildflower Ecology 101. The wildflowers at Tejon can be divided into two broad categories: annuals and perennials (bulbs). In the Mediterranean climate of California, winter rains trigger germination of annual wildflower seeds in the soil, which grow into mature plants that flower, set seed, die, and drop their seeds into the soil which wait for the next rainy season.

Annual plants get all of their water and nutrients from the soil they grow in and the water it holds, and they survive the dry season or drought years by remaining as a seed in the soil. Perennial plants on the other hand, remain alive through the dry season with an underground bulb or tuber that stores water and nutrients. The bulbs send out leaves after the onset of winter rains and then a flower stalk that sets seeds, which fall to the ground the same way an annual’s do. However, bulbs can also propagate themselves by dividing – budding off bulblets. Like annuals, perennials rely on water and nutrients in the soil, but unlike annuals, they have their own underground storage structure, which helps them survive when conditions for growth and flowering are not appropriate. Being an annual plant or a perennial with an underground storage structure are adaptations that allow these plants to thrive in environments with uncertain amounts of rainfall. Why do we care about all of this? Because when these plants thrive, we get wildflowers!

So back to why wildflowers grow where they do. While wildflowers get their water and nutrients from the soil, the amount of water and nutrients depends on the type of soil and where it is located (for example its elevation or amount of rainfall, slope and aspect, the direction the slope faces). Different species of wildflowers are adapted differently to these environmental conditions. For example, our grassland/rangeland research has shown that different “communities” of plants (a community is a group of species that tend to co-occur) can be found in distinct Ecological Sites on Tejon. An Ecological Site is an area of land that has a unique combination of physical features that create unique environments for plants.

Plant communities that are dominated by different wildflower species create the mosaic of colors that we see painted across the landscape, and that mosaic is a product of the weather and underlying environmental variation that occurs across a landscape such as Tejon. As a preview of what we might expect in this year’s wildflower show, we share a few of these communities for your enjoyment.

California goldfields, here with California poppies, can carpet sandy desert soils. Also found in this community is one of the few native annual grasses that occur on Tejon, small fescue (Festuca microstachys).

California poppies, sky lupine, and popcorn flowers are common in relatively flat sandy areas of the San Joaquin Valley.

Yellow hillside daisies and purple phacelias are clay soil lovers in the Antelope Valley. This is a unique community of plants found on clay soils derived from ancient lakebed deposits.

California poppies and coreopsis cover slopes with sandy soils derived from these eroding granite boulders.

Common goldenstar, a relative of the lily family, is common across a range of habitats including valley grassland, oak woodland and yellow pine forest.

Goldenstars (top) and brodiea are perennial bulbs that grow together in clay soils, often with nonnative annual grasses.

Blue dicks (a perennial) and the rare Tejon poppy (an annual) on the unique Pleito clay soils of the Tejon Hills.

Buttercups (yellow), blue-eyed grass (purple), and death Camas (white) are all perennials found in a unique marsh habitat in the Antelope Valley. Note a different community of yellow hillside daisies and California poppies on the slopes in the background.

Help Support a Healthy Wildflower Environment!

Joining the Tejon Ranch Conservancy helps support the rich biodiversity of this critically important conserved land. At 240,000 acres, Tejon provides unparalleled opportunities for scientific exploration, applied research, education and amazing adventures on the land. Members enjoy special opportunities to meet researchers, get priority registration for tours and hikes and join others in celebrating Tejon at special events throughout the year. Most importantly, you are supporting science, stewardship and access to this amazing place, an icon of California.

Join Today!

Please support our Wildflower Viewing Sponsors!

A foray into Tejon Ranch’s non-vascular flora: botany on A different scale

By Conservancy Senior Ecologist C. Ellery Mayence

The Conservancy was fortunate to host a team of Bryologists in mid-February for what amounted to the first – yes, THE first, detailed investigation into the Ranch’s non-vascular flora. Because the survey was limited to a mere 12 hours in the field, there certainly is a lot more work to be done. Taking part in the survey were ecologists Paul Wilson and Daniel Palmer of CSU, Northridge, and Ken Kellman, a self-taught botanist visiting from Santa Cruz County who turned his attention from flowering plants to bryophytes several years ago and has not looked elsewhere since. For those unfamiliar with bryophyte field botany, it requires a lot of time on one’s hands and knees peering through a 20X hand lens often in low light conditions. In other words – it’s REALLY EXCITING stuff!

Bryophytes include mosses, liverworts, and hornworts and represent the evolutionary move from the water to the land. Bryophytes are transitional between unicellular green algae and vascular plants (i.e., plants with xylem and phloem, the tissue required to transport water, minerals and sugars throughout the plant). Though bryophytes are most common in moist forested habitat or along the edges of streams and wetlands, they are by no means confined to these locations, as many species of mosses inhabit dry and hot desert settings. As such, and not unlike their vascular plant relatives, bryophyte diversity is influenced by substrate type (soil, rock, wood), latitude, elevation, moisture and temperature regimes, and aspect, among other factors. Sphagnum, perhaps the best known moss because of its role in the commercial nursery industry, is not only economically valuable, but covers more than 1% of the Earth’s surface and plays an essential role in the global carbon cycle.

Research Update

Aside from CSU, Bakersfield’s Mitchell Coleman’s ongoing saltbush restoration research, a group of bryologist’s from CSU, Northridge, Paul Wilson and Daniel Palmer and colleagues, and a group of students from UCLA's Institute of Environment and Sustainability, who visited the ranch in mid February to complete a senior practicum on a possible Tejon Field Station, Conservancy-partner research activities have been a bit subdued due to winter storms and wet weather. Nonetheless flowering plant enthusiasts, consultants and researchers, including consulting botanist Neal Kramer and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden PhD student Nick Jensen, are itching to emerge from their winter shells eager to get out on the ranch, as a lot is happening, particularly on the lower elevation and warmer San Joaquin Valley side of Tejon.

Higher temperatures in March and annual plant growth will essentially usher in a multitude of researchers including the Range Ecology Laboratory from UC Berkeley and Devin Orr and colleagues from UC Santa Barbara who both have long-term landscape-scale projects on the Ranch. Equally as exciting, the Conservancy did host Kat Superfisky and Aaron Dang of Mia Lehrer + Associates, urban design and landscape architecture firm based in Los Angeles, https://mlagreen.com/ who are assisting with the design of the Conservancy’s planned campground on the Antelope Valley side of Tejon. Watch for the preliminary designs and more information on how you can get involved in an upcoming eNews.

Photo by Conservancy Volunteer Chuck Noble

Meet Our Newest Board Member Mike Campeau

The Conservancy welcomes new board member Michael L. Campeau, Vice President of Ranch Operations for Tejon Ranch Company. Mike is responsible for the day-to day field operations on the Ranch which includes its hunting, equestrian, cattle, and filming operations. Mike joined Tejon Ranch in 2008, but has been associated with Tejon for many years through its various outdoor and hunt programs.

“As a Tejon Ranch employee for going on nine years now, and having been associated with Tejon Ranch for over 40 years, I have developed a deep passion for the Ranch. I look forward to continuing this passion for the Ranch as an active member of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy Board for years to come.”

Mike is replacing Randall Lewis who served for many years and was a founding board member of the Conservancy representing the Tejon Ranch Company.

“While we will certainly miss Randall on the board, we look forward to working with Mike and learning from his on-the-ground ranch experience, and his affection for this amazing working landscape now under conservation,” said Joel Reynolds, Chairman of the Conservancy Board of Directors.

Photo by Lorraine A. Murphy

A volunteering primer

Research, conservation, and public access work at the Tejon Ranch Conservancy is only possible because of the corps of hard-working volunteers who perform, among other things, weather station data gathering, biological surveys, invasive species removal, pipe capping, leading tours and hikes, and incredible feats of strength and virtuosity.

Although the Tejon Ranch is, at times, indescribably beautiful, it can also be a challenging place for the foolhardy or unprepared. So our first step for volunteers, in addition to preparing them for specific tasks, is a Safety Orientation. At Tejon, we want every volunteer and guest experience to be a good one and knowing there can be dangers is the best way to be prepared. So, to get started, fill out a Volunteer Application! Once you’re done it takes a few days for us to process it, but when we are done you’ll be able to sign up for training and events! Yay!

Volunteers can sign up for activities, duties and track their volunteer hours online. For those of you who shy away from computer-y interactions, using it is about as complex as buying something online, something fancy, something shiny, something that makes you happy!

Once your Volgistics account has been activated, start signing up! Here’s how:

Log into your account on Volgistics HERE.

Click on "Check your schedule."

Go to appropriate month by clicking on "Next."

Click on the "Help Wanted" date on which you want to volunteer.

Select the hours you want to volunteer by clicking "Schedule Me" at right.

Review information, and, if correct, click "Yes."

To sign up for another day, click on "Continue."

Now, pat yourself on the back. Better yet, get someone else to pat you on the back because what you’re doing is important! First of all, it’s for this historic and magnificent landscape. But, it’s also for the many and varied creatures and plants that live here, and for generations to come Thank you for joining our work!

Photo by Conservancy Volunteer Chuck Noble

Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities

Ranch Tours will soon be on the calendar and we need tour leaders (takes training) and helpers.

We've got a new Weather Station Team but can always use more back-ups.

We are forming a Wildlife Camera Team, a very exciting opportunity but it does require training and commitment.

We’ll be starting work on the first ever Conservancy Campground on the Antelope Valley side of the Ranch and expanding the Ranch Company campground on the San Joaquin side, for Conservancy use. Watch for fun campground building opportunities coming up.

We'll have pipe capping sessions at several locations throughout the Ranch over the next few months.

And for something different, we welcome your help with graphics, photo cataloging, video support, and some equally important but slightly less adventurous administrative tasks.

So, as you can see, there is a lot going on here at the Tejon Ranch Conservancy. We sure can use your help. And where else do you get to work in such an incredible environment?

To learn more about volunteering at the Conservancy, please contact Tim Bulone at (661) 248-2400, ext. 104 or by email at tbulone@tejonconservancy.org.

A day of pipe capping on Tejon Ranch

On Sunday, February 26th, twenty volunteers joined the Conservancy to cap over 160 open pipes on a corral adjacent to both oak woodlands and a large Eucalyptus grove teeming with a diverse community of birds.

The Audubon Society and several agencies including USFWS, BLM, and NRCS have advocated for capping open-topped pipes due to their potential to kill wildlife by entrapping birds, lizards, and small mammals.

Photos by Conservancy Volunteer Chris Gardner.

Many thanks to the stupendous volunteers who donated their Sunday to helping conserve the wildlife on Tejon Ranch!

Rocky Mountain Elk on Tejon Ranch

By Conservancy Biologist Ben Teton

This month we’re following a group of Rocky Mountain elk bulls as they winter across the high country of Tejon. Our cameras captured a variety of interesting behaviors by this group of restless bachelors as they waited out an unusually wet winter. Please support our wildlife camera work.

These two gladiators clearly aren’t battling to the death in this clip, but are likely just trying to work-out an agitated rack, heavy and ready to shed.

Here the bulls are tempted by aquatic browse despite some unsure footing.

What better way to wait out the stormy weather than munch on some grass and lick on some trap-camera?

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