Field Trip 5: Mt. Tamalpais (Ridgecrest) | 030719

Cassandra Odulio

  • Date: March 7, 2019
  • Location: Mount Tamalpais, Ridgecrest, 37°55’44.0″N 122°35’02.3″W
  • Habitats seen: grassy hills, stands of shrubs, cliffs, woods,
  • Weather: partly cloudy but still sunny, very windy.

We made multiple stops on this field trip. The first was at the Homestead Fire Road, where we saw poison hemlock, Bermuda buttercups, coyote brush, yellow mats, amole, and checker mallows, among others. We got back in the car and headed to our second stop, which was mostly grassy hills and serpentine rocks. Plants we saw in that area included: leather oak, tanoak, and gold cup live oak. Eventually we reached West Ridgecrest Boulevard, which has a view of the San Andreas Fault. We saw Douglas firs, and we walked into the woods to find the Fairy slipper orchid. Afterward, we took one last car ride to the Mount Tamalpais Watershed area, where we saw chain ferns, rushes, bedstraw, wild strawberries, and the rattlesnake plantain orchid. We also took a very nice class photo today, which was very sweet! Making memories.

Iris macrosiphon – Ground iris

This plant is in the Family Iridaceae, and it is herbaceous and low to the ground, which is why it is known as the ground iris. The leaves are basal, long, and thin. These flowers are blue, but they can also be cream, yellow, or lavender. The petals have a light pattern on them, and apparently, some of the petal-looking structures are actually pistils.

Pseudotsuga menziesii – Douglas fir

Douglas fir trees are in the Family Pinaceae. The genus name “pseudotsuga” means fake hemlock, due to the fact that Nineteenth-century botanists had problems in classifying Douglas-firs and would sometimes classify them in the  Tsuga genus. One key morphological feature is that they have singular needles coming off the stem. The male cones are tiny, and the female cones have special bracts that can be easily identified. According to a California Native American myth, Douglas firs were kind enough to let mice hide in their cones from a great forest fire, and to this day, you can see tiny hind legs and tails peeking out of the cones.

Sanicula arctopoides – Yellow mats

These herbaceous plants are in the Family Apiaceae. Another common name for them is Footsteps of Spring, which I think is adorable. They grow low on the ground, and are bright yellow, almost neon, like a Sharpie highlighter. Even the leaves are yellowish-green. They have tiny flowers in umbel inflorescences, and around the inflorescences are bracts that look like big petals.

Field Trip 4: MtTam Phoenix Lake/Yolonda Trail | 022819

Cassandra Odulio

  • Date: February 28, 2019
  • Location: Natalie Coffin Green Park Entrance/Yolonda Trail
    California 37.958217, -122.572152
  • Habitats seen: rivers, grassy hills, rock cliffs, sparse forest
  • Weather: sunny but kind of cloudy, brisk weather

This field trip was to a very beautiful trail with lots of extremely small flowers that were adorable and difficult to get good pictures of. Also, kind of a difficult hike, considering all the little rivers we had to hop over AND all the trails that were inches away from a steep downhill tumble. I have to say, when you’re acrophobic and hiking on a mountain cliff trail, it’s a little bit hard to concentrate on rock lettuce.

Adiantum jordanii – California maidenhair fern

The California maidenhair is in the family Pteridaceae, and it is a fern with oval leaflets on a long frond. Its stems are thin and black, and it does not look like hair at all, but it is very pretty. We found them mostly in moist areas, like on riverbanks. Interestingly, Adiantum jordanii is a host for the Sudden Oak Death pathogen, which we learned about on an earlier field trip.

Micranthes californica – California Saxifrage 

The California Saxifrage is a plant from the family Saxifragaceae. Its flowers are tiny, with five round white petals. The stems are hairy and the leaves are basal. Each flower has five reddish-green sepals, and ten stamens and two styles. Their scientific name is really cool – Micranthes means small flowers and Saxifraga means stone-breaker.

Lupinus albifrons – Silver bush lupine

The silver bush lupine is a shrub in my family Fabaceae, and it is called “silver” because of the leaves’ hairy surface. The white hairs reflect the sunlight and make it look almost shiny. The leaves are palmately compound, and the inflorescences are tall and purple, with a whorled arrangement and the classic fabaceae-type flowers.

Field Trip 3: San Pedro Valley | 022119

Cassandra Odulio

  • Date: February 21, 2019
  • Location: San Pedro Valley, 37°34’15.59″N -122°28’8.39″W
  • Habitats seen: tall forests, dirt paths/cliffs
  • Weather: sunny, breezy

I especially liked this trip to the San Pedro Valley, because the location is close to my house (please do not try to find me) and I didn’t know it even existed! I’d like to take my family on hikes there in the future. It was beautiful and it seemed like a hidden spot of untouched nature, tucked away in a corner of my suburban hometown. We saw a lot of new plants and some plants we had seen before. Incredibly, I managed to lose all the photos I took from this trip, so Matthew kindly sent me some of his (thanks Matt)! Also I took some from the internet.

Eriodictyon californicum – Yerba Santa

click for enlargement


This plant is a shrub that is native to California. It is in the family Boraginaceae. The name Yerba Santa is Spanish for “holy herb,” named so because of its many medicinal purposes. It is most easily identifiable by the coloring of its leaves, which are dark green-black, giving it a muddy and dirty appearance. The leaves are long and narrow, venation is pinnate, and the margins are shallowly dentate and rolled underneath the leaf. It hadn’t flowered yet, but the flowers on this plant during springtime would be small and funnel-shaped.


Cortaderia jubata – Pampas grass

I have seen these plants often growing up, and because of their size, I had never thought of them as grasses. But that’s what they are! Andean pampas grass is a non-native introduced plant from the family Poaceae. They have thin green blades as leaves, and they are recognizable because of their huge poofy feather-like spikelet inflorescences. Interestingly, all of these plants are pistillate, so there are only female plants! They reproduce asexually, developing embryos without fertilization.

Arbutus menziesii – Madrone

The madrone tree is native to California, with a brightly colored red-orange peeling bark. This one was so intensely orange, some of us exclaimed out loud when we first saw it. (Its true color is not fully perceived by this picture.) It is in the family Ericaceae. Its leaves are bright green and glabrous with pinnate venation. We didn’t see any flowers, but they have white, bell-shaped perfect flowers. The fruit are tiny orange spheres, and apparently Native Americans used to dry them out and make necklaces out of them.

Field Trip 2: Presidio Coastal Trail | 021419

Cassandra Odulio

  • Date: February 14, 2019
  • Time spent there: 1:40pm-4:10pm
  • Location: Presidio Coastal Trail, 37°47’43.4″N 122°28’51.1″W
  • Habitats seen: rocky outcroppings/cliffs, serpentine rock, rivers/streams, beach/coast
  • Weather: overcast/cloudy, chilly, occasional rain.

We left USF at 1:24pm after a slight delay in exiting the parking lot. The Presidio trail had beautiful views of the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. There were wooden “stairs” with no handrails and big puddles in each step. This was a pleasant walk, and apparently, the plants there would be similar to those on the field test, so it’s a good place to study.

  1. Polypodium californicum – California polypody
    • Family: Polypodiaceae
    • Native
    • A fern with leaves dissected to two levels. Orange, organized sori on the underside.
      • Habit: Herbaceous. Leaf: summer-deciduous; deltate to ovate, often firm, segments serrate, tips obtuse to acute, veins generally 10–50% fused. Sporangia: round to generally ovate, generally +- sunken, flat.
        Ecology: Shaded canyons, streambanks, n-facing slopes, roadcuts, cliffs, coastal bluffs, rocks.
  2. Marah fabacea – CALIFORNIA MAN-ROOT
    • Family: Cucurbitaceae
    • Native
    • Herbaceous vine on ground. Ribbed stem, has little spiral tendrils. Small greenish-white palmate reflex flowers with parts of five. Leaves palmate venation (kind of lobed like a maple leaf).
      • Habit: Herbaceous. Flower: corolla rotate, yellow-green to cream or (especially inland) white. Fruit: 4–5 cm, +- spheric. Seed: 2–4, 18–24 mm, ovate to oblong.
        Ecology: Streamsides, washes, shrubby open areas. Flowering Time: Feb–Apr
  3. Fragaria chiloensis – BEACH STRAWBERRY
    • Family: Rosaceae
    • Native
    • Herbaceous, on ground. Round trifoliate compound leaves. White flowers with five petals.
      • Habit: Often dioecious. Stem: generally 5–20 cm. Leaf: thick, leathery. Flower: generally 20–40 mm wide; hypanthium bractlets unlobed; sepals 6–10 mm; petals (8)10–18 mm. Fruit: receptacle 10–20 mm; achene 1.5–2 mm.
        Ecology: Ocean beaches, coastal grassland; Elevation: < 200 m. Bioregional Distribution: NCo, CCo; Distribution Outside California: to Alaska; also coastal South America, Hawaii. Flowering Time: Feb–Nov

Field Trip 1: Baltimore Canyon | 020719

Cassandra Odulio

  • Date: February 7, 2019
  • Time spent there: 1:44pm-4:38pm
  • Location: Baltimore Canyon, 37.9369° N, 122.5609° W
  • Habitats seen: rocky outcroppings/cliffs, redwood forests, river/waterfall
  • Weather: clear and breezy

On Thursday, February 7, we left USF at 1:01pm and arrived at the Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve in Kentfield at 1:44pm. The walk to the bottom of the canyon was pleasant and we stopped many times to do plant identifications. The rest of the walk was an intense hike which was absolutely difficult and exhausting, but actually pretty invigorating and the views were gorgeous. We left at 4:38pm, and arrived back at USF at 5:26pm.

  1. Pellaea andromedifolia – Coffee fern
    • Family: Pteridaceae
    • NATIVE
    • Habit: Rhizome long-creeping, branched, > 20 cm, 0.5 cm wide; scales 2–3 mm, tan to orange-brown, mid-stripe dark or not. Leaf: +- unclustered, 20–60(80) cm, 10–20(30) cm wide, green to +- purple; stipe < +- 3 mm wide, +- light brown; blade (2–4)3-pinnate, elongate-triangular; segments generally 6–15 mm, 3–10 mm wide, tip +- rounded to obtuse, notched or not. Sporangia: 32- or 64-spored. Chromosomes: 2n=58, n=2n=87,116. Ecology: Generally rocky or dry areas; Elevation: 30–1800 m.
    • Jepson eFlora Author: Ruth E.B. Kirkpatrick, Alan R. Smith, Thomas Lemieux & Edward Alverson
  2. Arbutus menziesii – PACIFIC MADRONE
    • Family: Ericaceae
    • NATIVE
    • Stem: < 40 m, bark +- red, twigs stout. Leaf: blade < 12 cm, ovate to oblong, glabrous, rounded to pointed at tip, entire to minutely serrate, abaxially +- white, adaxially bright green. Flower: < 8 mm; corolla yellow-white or +- pink. Fruit: < 12 mm, spheric, orange-red, papillate. Chromosomes: 2n=26.Ecology: Conifer, oak forests; Elevation: 100–1500 m. Flowering Time: Mar–May
    • Jepson eFlora Author: Gary D. Wallace
  3. Cytisus scoparius – SCOTCH BROOM
    • Family: Fabaceae
    • Habit: Plant 2–2.5 m. Stem: branches generally 5-angled, green, hairy in youth, then generally glabrous. Leaf: on younger stems sessile, simple; on older stems petioled, leaflets 3, 5–20 mm, obovate to oblong; hairs appressed or 0. Inflorescence: axillary clusters of 1–2 flowers, pedicels < 10 mm, glabrous. Flower: calyx < 5 mm, glabrous; corolla golden yellow, banner generally 15–20 mm, reflexed or not. Fruit: 2.5–4 cm, flat, brown or black, glabrous except margin. Seed: 5–12.
      Ecology: Common. Disturbed places; Elevation: < 1000 m. Flowering Time: Apr–Jul
    • Jepson eFlora Author: Martin F. Wojciechowski