Tejon RancH Conservancy eNews September 2019

On the Ranch

By Conservation Science Director C. Ellery Mayence

The definition of change — to make or become different — is a rather universally agreed upon concept. What varies is how an individual deals with change, whether they see it as a positive — and potentially an opportunity, a negative — and possibly a burden, or simply neutral — with no meaningful impact.

Some believe, myself included, that change keeps the mind active and the creativity flowing. On the other hand, too much or the wrong kind of change can be discouraging in that constant disruption negates one’s ability to develop a rhythm and be efficient in whatever one is doing.

Change is something the Conservancy has become accustomed to — on what seems like a daily basis. We experience change in scenery transitioning from chaparral to oak woodland, change in weather as the seasons come and go, and change in staffing as employees transition through the ranks of the organization and on to other places of employment.

The Conservancy, owing to the need to constantly multitask, is an organization where one has the opportunity to refine existing skills, while simultaneously developing new ones. As such, working at the Conservancy allows for the proliferation of knowledge, skills, and abilities across a range of disciplines. Depending on career goals — there may become a time when the day to day becomes too routine and change is required — forcing one to look beyond the confines of the organization for not-yet-encountered opportunities — and challenges. The void left by departing staff represents new opportunities for remaining staff — and the cycle continues.

My decision to depart the Conservancy after nearly four years is about opportunity — and the need to change not just my place of employment, but also my surroundings, not solely for myself, but also for my immediate family. Our lives have been defined by change — and this is not likely to cease anytime soon — it is simply time to open a new chapter.

For those with whom I developed friendships over the past few years, and there are quite a few of you out there, thank you for all the memorable times. No doubt my knowledge and level of understanding are richer as a result.

In parting, I say embrace change even if it does not immediately seem overly positive — as noteworthy opportunities are likely to present themselves as a result. I also encourage you to continue embracing the Conservancy — as the organization needs your support more than ever.

The work of the Conservancy is vital to ensuring the ecological assets of Tejon Ranch are managed for the benefit of California’s future generations — and this is a directive that must not change. Thank you!

Photo by Ian Shive

Small, Green, and Obscure: A Sampling of Bryophytes on Tejon Ranch

Article and Photos by Staff Biologist Mitchell Coleman, M.S.

Gemmabryum gemmilucens, a moss, on Winters Ridge.

We often discuss Tejon’s botanical singularity as a thing of wonder. Tejon Ranch is a microcosm of a microcosm when it comes to botanical rareness and diversity. I say this because California is the most botanically diverse state in the U.S., and Tejon is one of the most botanically diverse regions in the state.

Some folks refer to regions such as this as botanical “hotspots,” and this certainly applies to Tejon. To date, over 1,200 plant species are known to occur on Tejon, many rare, and some of which occur nowhere else in the world. This list is still growing. It is this sheer diversity that I, like many, find so fascinating about Tejon’s flora.

Asterella californica, a liverwort, in lower El Paso Canyon.

However, we humans tend to be biased when it comes to plant life, namely, we tend to focus on plants which produce flowers (called “angiosperms”). While angiosperms are the most diverse and arguably the most visually compelling group of plants, they were not the first plants to evolve, nor are they necessarily the most ecologically complex.

We must first consider what is, and what is not, a plant. Most succinctly, a plant is a multicellular organism that contains cellulose and double-membraned plastids in its cells. Plant cells typically contain pigments that are, among other functions, specialized to absorb solar energy and convert it into sugars, but not always. Some plants are completely parasitic or carnivorous; they do not make their own food.

Syntrichia laevipila, a moss, on Tunis Ridge.

Most important, perhaps, is that plants are monophyletic; they all evolved from a common ancestor some 500 million years ago. In that time, multiple “branches” have evolved in the plant phylogeny.

Let’s consider one of those often-overlooked branches: the bryophytes. They are neither angiosperms nor gymnosperms (the “naked seed” plants, like pines); they evolved at least 200 million years before either. Plants akin to bryophytes were some of the first organisms to escape aqueous habitats and colonize the land. Their life history is limited in that they do not have vascular systems to help transport water and solutes throughout their bodies, rather, they depend on simple diffusion, which greatly limits their size and limits their habitat to wet places.

Despite their obscurity and biological complexity (I won’t get into that in detail here), you’ve seen bryophytes before; indeed, they are quite common! The three types are: the mosses (12,800 species), the liverworts (5,200 species), and the hornworts (300 species).

Grimmia sp., a rare moss, on Cordon Ridge.

In the Conservancy’s ongoing effort to document Tejon’s unique flora, bryophytes remain one of the most unknown groups. Multiple bryologists have surveyed portions of the Ranch, mostly on the southern side overlooking the Mojave Desert. To date, over 80 species have been positively identified, some of which are rare and exciting finds.

This past spring, a concerted effort was made to survey the bryophytes on the San Joaquin side of the Ranch. While not quite as many species were identified, there were some surprising rare finds, notably Grimmia sp. and Gemmabryum gemmilucens. More work remains to be done and given Tejon’s ecology, this may always be the case.

One thing is for sure: our eyes have been trained not to ignore these beautiful and ecologically important organisms. On Tejon, bryophytes are obscure no longer!

Didymodon sp., a moss, on Tunis Ridge.

Special thanks to Daniel Palmer and Dr. Paul Wilson for identifying the samples.

September Events on tejon

Bear Trap Canyon Tour - September 20th - Cost: $20

Bear Trap Canyon in the western Tehachapi is the only watershed separating the immense Central Valley from the even larger Mojave Desert. It also connects the Sierra & Coast ranges. Tejon Ranch's dedicated conservation easement largely preserves this canyon in its natural state in perpetuity. Join us for a guided driving tour through this rare gem.

Afternoon Photo Walk - Saturday, September 21st - Cost: $20

Join us for an Afternoon Photography Walk on the Tejon Ranch, capturing the beauty of the landscape. We will be doing a 1.5-mile hike around a reservoir where we will have the opportunity to do reflective water photography, including birds and dragonflies.

Big Sycamore Canyon Hike - Sunday, September 22nd - Cost: $20

This hike on a Ranch road in the High Desert features diverse flora and fauna including native grasslands, oak/sycamore woodlands, and if we are lucky, a glimpse of elusive pronghorns in the Mojave flatlands. Difficulty Level: Moderate; Distance: 5 Miles.

Public Access Hike - Saturday, September 28th - Cost: $20

Join us for a moderate 5-to-6-mile hike in the San Joaquin part of the Tejon Ranch.

Cross Ranch Tour - Sunday, September 29th - Cost: $20

Join in an exploration of four ecosystems on Tejon Ranch. We'll start in the San Joaquin grasslands, climb into the blue oak woodlands, enjoy lunch in conifer forests, then descend into the high desert. We might discover Rocky Mountain elk, deer, pronghorn, burrowing owls, and other interesting wildlife along the way.

The Small Print

Please register early, seats are first come, first served. Events may be canceled for any reason including severe weather, hazardous conditions, not enough registrations, etc. Registration is mandatory. Those not registered will not be allowed access to the property. Access to Tejon Ranch is solely at the discretion of the landowner.

Photo by Ian Shive

Our New Location

637 San Emidio Way, First Floor

If you read the August ENews, you know that the Tejon Ranch Conservancy office is moving. Now we can share exactly where it will be.

First, it's important to know that the Conservancy's mailing address will not change. If you need to contact us by mail or wish to mail a donation (see what we did there?), we are still at PO Box 216, Frazier Park, CA 93225.

It's the office address that is changing to: 637 San Emidio Way, also in Frazier Park, as of September 4. (Please don't send U.S. mail here; it won't arrive.)

The new office will open on September 9. The previous week will be tied up with getting it all set up, wired for modern communications and prepped for your next visit.

The Conservancy staff and docents look forward to introducing you to our new “home,” the next time you are up for a tour or hike.

Photo by Ian Shive

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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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