Field Trip 11: Mt. Tamalpais [Pt.2] | 050219

Cassandra Odulio

  • Date: May 2, 2019
  • Location: Mount Tamalpais Pantoll to Steep Ravine 37.924659, -122.596728
  • Habitats seen: forest, coastal cliff
  • Weather: sunny, warm, breezy

This hike started out in the forest, on dirt trails riddled with roots. I had to watch the ground every second to make sure I didn’t trip. There were some new weird-looking plants in this forest, like sticky snakeroot, salmon berry, five-fingered maidenhair fern, and trail plant. At one point, the trail became very narrow, and the plants grew close to the path. I had to dodge branches, but unluckily, the one branch I was not able to dodge was poison oak. It only hit my shirt, but I don’t know if the people in front of/behind me were so lucky. Alec gave us some advice about cleaning off the oils (use cold water, scrub with normal soap and a washcloth). Eventually, we emerged from the forest onto a beautiful sunshiny cliff overlooking the ocean. We saw some vultures flying overhead, I think, and we also identified a few plants there while waiting for the cars to pick us up.

Adiantum aleuticum – Five finger maidenhair 

This herbaceous plant is in the Pteridaceae family. The leaves grow out of a black circular stem and are pinnately compound. They grow on embankments and in serpentine soils, which is why they are also known as serpentine maidenhair.

Adenocaulon bicolor – American trailplant

This herbaceous plant is in the Asteraceae family. Apparently it is/was used to mark trails/directions if one is lost in the forest, by flipping the arrow-shaped leaf upside down to show the white underside. The leaves are thin and rubbery, and the flowers are small and white, growing out the tops of tall stems. (I don’t know why one of the pictures is sideways, but oh well.)

Aralia californica – California spikenard

This herbaceous plant is in the Araliaceae family, and yes, it is herbaceous, even though it is taller than me. The leaves are large and bipinnately compound. It likes to grow in wet areas, and is almost always found near streams. The inflorescences are weird-looking, and I don’t know how to describe them, but Jepson eFlora calls them “umbels in clusters of 2–few or in spreading panicles.”

Field Trip 10: Mt. Tamalpais [Pt.1] | 042519

Cassandra Odulio

Date: April 25, 2019

Location: Mount Tamalpais Middle Peak to Pantoll 37.924659, -122.596728

Habitats seen: serpentine rocky outcrops, forests, grassy hills

Weather: sunny, hot

This hike, we walked down the top half of Mount Tamalpais, and it was a warm and sunny day, making it difficult on those steep inclines. We saw quite a few new plants, which was surprising, but it shouldn’t have been. There are so many different plants in existence. We also saw a bunch of organisms that weren’t plants! We had a little side lesson about acorn woodpeckers, who peck holes in dead trees and put acorns in them. We also saw some puffball mushrooms, which release their spores into the air when they are physically disturbed. Something super cool that happened was that we saw a ton of adorable lizards and one huge snake, all of which were able to escape our attempts to interact with them. Reptiles are so fun.

There were a couple of mystery plants that we were supposed to guess for extra credit. I honestly am having a hard time with them, but it couldn’t hurt to make a guess.

Mystery Plant #1: My guess is Githopsis specularioides, Common bluecup

Mystery Plant #2: My guess is Viola pedunculata, California golden violet

Whipplea modesta – Modesty

This herbaceous plant grows matlike on the ground. The leaves are simple and opposite. The small white flowers grow in dense cyme or raceme inflorescences.


Cirsium occidentale – Cobweb thistle, Western thistle

This biennial herbaceous plant can grow pretty tall, with light grayish-green leaves, and when flowering, has bright pink aster flowers. Thistles have spikes all over, including on the leaves. This species is covered in cobweb-like hairs, giving it its name.

Allium falcifolium – Sickle leaf onion

This herbaceous plant has thin long leaves, like a sickle. The flowers are bright pink, all bunched in an inflorescence. They are small and have six petals. These plants grow in rocky serpentine soils.



Field Trip 9: Ring Mountain | 041119

Cassandra Odulio

Date: April 11, 2019
Location: Ring Mountain,
37.910330, -122.485807
Habitats seen: serpentine grasslands
Weather: windy, cloudy

Matt and I played portable chess on the drive to this upscale neighborhood, so we weren’t paying attention and it was startling to arrive and see all the mansions around us. The hike started just past the edge of the neighborhood, where the beautiful hills of serpentine grasslands began. It was extremely windy, which agitated Matt’s allergies, and he was sneezing and sniffling the entire time. Good thing I had two packs of tissues in my backpack!

We saw a surprising amount of different plants, and the interesting natives can usually be found in rocky areas, where the grasses can’t take over. If you see an empty rocky patch of serpentine rocks, usually you can find some good flowers there.

Minuartia douglasii – Douglas’ sandwort

This herbaceous plant is in the Caryophyllaceae family. It is a small plant with thin stems. The flower has five striped white petals, and the leaves are thin and small, like needles. The stamens are long, coming out of a yellowish-green center.

Calystegia purpurata – Smooth Western morning glory

This herbaceous plant is in the Convolvulaceae family. It grows like a vine, and the leaves are spade-shaped. The flowers are funnel-shaped with five white fused petals and five stamens. Before the flower has bloomed all the way, the petals are pinkish, but when it’s bloomed and white, there are still some visible traces of pink. Interestingly, the seeds are psychedelic.

Achillea millefolium – Common yarrow


This herbaceous plant is in the Asteraceae family, although its compound inflorescences might look at first like Apiaceae. It has little white flowers and interesting lacy compound leaves that come off of the main stem and are almost cylindrical. In antiquity, yarrow was known as herbal militaris, for its use in staunching the flow of blood from wounds. Native Americans had many uses for the plant, including pain relief, fever reduction, and blood issues of all kinds.


Field Trip 8: Edgewood Park | 040419

Cassandra Odulio

  • Date: April 4, 2019
  • Location: Edgewood Park,
    37.473559, -122.278195
  • Habitats seen: streams, sparse forest, gravel road, concrete road, grassy hill with shrubs
  • Weather: mild, cloudy

We saw a lot of new beautiful flowers today, and some new families we haven’t seen before, like Caryophyllaceae, Valerianaceae, and Caprifoliaceae. This was a nice simple hike, except for one moment where we did walk over the edge of a cliff to look at some Royal larkspur. I’m appreciating these hikes more and more, and there are so few left! I will be so sad when this class ends, it’s one of the few times when a college course is interesting, interactive, fun, and healthy!

Melilotis indicus – Annual yellow sweetclover

This invasive herbaceous plant is in the family Fabaceae, which is clear from the unique shape of the flower (banner, fused keel, two wings). It has a small inflorescence of tiny yellow flowers, and the leaves are trifoliate and dentate.

Lomatium californicum – California lomatium

This native herbaceous plant is in the family Apiaceae. It has celery-like basal leaves which are a bluish green. They can get quite tall, and their inflorescences are umbel-like and really cool-looking. The flowers are small and bright yellow-green.


Trifolium depauperatum – Dwarf bladder clover

This native herbaceous plant is in the family Fabaceae, even though the flowers don’t exactly look like the cookie-cutter image of a Fabaceae flower. They have strange inflated reddish-purple flowers, and they’re arranged closely together in a ring, so it looks like a weird puffy crown. As you can tell from their genus name, their leaves are trifoliate.

Field Trip 7: Marin Headlands [Field Quiz 1] | 032819

Cassandra Odulio

  • Date: March 28, 2019
  • Location: Marin Headlands, 37.826765, -122.499425
  • Habitats seen: grassy hills, rocky walls
  • Weather: sunny, clear

Today was the first field plant identification quiz, and I feel like I did alright! We walked up the trail on the Marin Headlands and took the quiz, and I did guess on quite a few of them, but they were educated guesses. We finished the quiz around 3:00 pm, and on the walk back down, we learned a few new plants.

Nemophila menziesii – Baby blue eyes

This herbaceous plant is in the family Boraginaceae, and it has five white (or blue) petals. In this case they were white with light blue veins. It had small lobed leaves, and the lower leaves were more lobed than the upper. The genus name “Nemophila” comes from the Latin words for “woodland loving”.

Lasthenia californica – California goldfields

This herbaceous plant is in the family Asteraceae, which is obvious because of the distinguishing inflorescences. These flowers are yellow, the stems are dark and hairy, and the leaves are basal and round. They got their common name by blooming in large blankets, therefore they are called “goldfields”.

Sparaxis tricolor – Harlequin flower

This herbaceous plant is in the family Iridaceae, and it is a monocot. These were the first bonus question on our field quiz, and I immediately thought they were similar to poppies because of the bright orange coloration of the petals. It was really dumb of me to not get a closer look. The showy petals have an inner ring of black, and then a large yellow center within that ring. This plant is native to S. Africa, and so it is a non-native invasive plant in California.

Field Trip 6: San Bruno State Park | 032119

Cassandra Odulio

  • Date: March 21, 2019
  • Location: San Bruno State Park, 37.697167, -122.433824
  • Habitats seen: grassy hills, rocky walls, shrub stands
  • Weather: sunny, clear

San Bruno State Park had a beautiful hiking trail with plenty of plants for us to identify. We were able to practice identifying Brassicaceae, Apiaceae, Montiaceae, Fabaceae, two new types of Arctostaphylos, and a lot of ridiculously miniscule flowers. Also saw some caterpillars, spiders, and a huge mound of ants, which was a very cool thing.


Sidalcea malviflora – Checker Mallow

This plant is in the family Malvaceae, and its a pink flower with five petals. Each petal has stripes pointing to the center of the flower, considered to be a landing path for bees. The stigma is feathery and multilobed. The leaves are palmately veined and lobed.

Cardamine californica – Bitter cress

This plant is in the family Brassicaceae, and it has small white or pink flowers with four petals. There are four tall stamens and two short ones on the sides. The fruit would be a silique, meaning it’s a long fused fruit.

Claytonia perfoliata – Miner’s Lettuce

This plant is in the family Montiaceae, and it has small white flowers that grow through a circular rubbery bract, making it easily recognizable. It is an edible wild plant, historically eaten by California Gold Rush miners to prevent scurvy, as it contains Vitamin C. I remember learning about this on my fifth grade field trip to Old Sacramento! We all got to eat some. Tastes like spinach.


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