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Lizards and Lupines: Briones

These are wildflower photos from Briones Regional Park. I started out at the Bear Creek staging area. From there I took the Crescent Ridge trail out and the Valley trail back. Next time I'll take the Briones Crest trail back. Valley was a bit flat and boring.

There were quite a lot of wildflowers about, so I took a lot of photos. This is Sisyrinchium bellum according to Calflora distribution map. Unfortunately there is too much contrast in this photo. Calphoto has more and better photos.

Clearly I need to bring my macro lens when I go out hiking in spring so that I can take better close-ups of small flowers such as these.
Blue-eyed grass
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The side of the trail near the archery range was covered with these small, pretty blue lupines. I'm not sure which species it is, could be Miniature lupine, Lupinus bicolor, or perhaps Brewer's Lupine, L. breweri. Whatever their name, walking next to them was lovely.

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Higher up on the Crescent Crest trail I found this Madrone, Arbutus menziesii, in full flower.

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This was a mystery plant to me. The deeply divided petals and the maple-like leaves seemed to indicate a Caryophyllacea, i.e. the Pinks family. But it turned out to be a Saxifragaceae, called the Saxifrage family in English. Using the keys in my Peterson Field Guide to Pacific States Wildflowers, I'm now sure that the genus is Lithophragma but which of them is hard to tell.

I found them in shady woodland, so my first choice would be Woodland Star, L. affine. But my Peterson Field Guide says that their leaves are "nearly without subdivisions." That's clearly not the case. Then again it says that the only other Lithophragma it mentions, the Prairie Star, L. parviflora, grows in "open grassy places." That's clearly not the case either.

Calflora has more Lithophragma species with finds in Contra Costa County but it's only useful feature are the range maps. Calphoto has photos but they seem to be contradicting each other.

Generally speaking I find drawn illustrations much better for plant identification than photos. Skilled botanical illustrators look at lots of specimens and draw what's typical of the species as a whole, rather than a specific individual. Illustrations also never have problems with intrusive backgrounds, awkward shapes or poor lighting. In the Calphoto database they've solved the problem with awkward shapes by scanning tall plants into several photos. That's less than ideal, needless to say.

Illustrations need to be supported by descriptions, ideally descriptions that tell me how to tell this species apart from similar ones. Southwest Colorado Wild Flowers page about Lithophragma is a good example of such descriptions. Telling me to look for the number of cuts in each petal, helped me finally figure out that this is a L. parviflorum, Prairie Star.
Prairie Star
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At first I thought this was the same blue lupine as above, but they're not. Based on the purple banner petal (that's the petal that sticks up) on the older flowers, these are Valley lupines, Lupinus subvexus. That makes sense too, since I found them in a much wetter place among the grass at the valley bottom.
Valley lupine
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I end with the only wildlife I saw during this hike, a lizard. When I saw it, it was cold enough for me to put on my jacket. Even though this little guy was basking in the sun on a water wagon, he was pretty sluggish.

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These photo's reminded me of parts of England. I have the sisyrinchium in my garden and the last flower photo, we call Crown vetch, which also grows wild in my garden. We don't have the lizards though, at least in this part of England anyway. I saw some in Surrey a couple of years ago, which is in the south of England. Thanks for the photo's, they're beautiful.