Calypso Orchid, Big Deal!

Calypso orchid
Calypso Orchid (photo credit: Charles Russo)

Where:  Pescadero, CA (25 miles south of Half Moon Bay, and 35 miles north of Santa Cruz)

Note: The Calypso Orchid blooms only in the spring. It tends to bloom from the middle to the end of March in Butano State Park, Pescadero.

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Seen last weekend at Butano State Park, the tiny Calypso Orchid (also called Fairy Slippers). When John Muir came across these rare plants in the 1890s he wrote:

“I never before saw a plant so full of life, so perfectly spiritual, it seemed pure enough for the throne of its Creator.”

Calypso bulbosa, you are beautiful but you failed to bowl me over. Perhaps it was the idea of finding you, rare as you are, that colored Muir’s reaction. Look! You are barely visible, hiding as you are in the underbrush on the forest floor.orchid, spying one

Butano State Park

Sitting in a redwood filled canyon in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Butano is one of the lesser known parks in the California State Parks system. It is located three to four miles from the San Mateo Coast and offers the hiker over seventeen miles of uphill and downhill trails. If you wish to get a good view of the ocean from inside the park, hike the Mill Ox loop. You won’t be disappointed (unless the coast is blanketed in fog). The campgrounds, closed when I visited, are open from April through November. There are also guided nature walks and weekend programs at the campfire center during the summer.
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ACTIVITIES: Hike, camp, dog walking (dogs are only allowed on the paved roads and in campsites; they should be leashed at all times)
REGION: off the San Mateo Coast
HOURS: Day use area from 8:00 a.m. to sunset; overnight camping
COST: $10 day use fee; $35 overnight camping fee (Book reservations via reserveamerica.com or by calling 800-444-7275. Dogs are allowed at the campground but not on the trails.)
LOCATION/VENUE: Butano State Park, 1500 Cloverdale Road, Pescadero, CA 94060 Phone: (650) 879-2040
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Kalypso Calypso

Sensuous Kalypso
blissfully isolated
beneath giants
roots skirting,
writhing, touching
until lovingly you emit
just one single bloom
before withering,
dying, falling
backwards
into self.photo 1

2,000+ Year Old Trees and Such, Oh My!

Some of earth’s largest trees are here in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Sequoia, the nation’s second national park, was established in 1890. The largest of the large trees in these two parks is the General Sherman, a giant sequoia that stands 274 feet tall with a base diameter of 36.5 feet. The shot to my left is my favorite photograph from my walk among the big trees. These trees look as if they are marching right along with me. No, that is not the General Sherman.

A Park is Born

As late as the 1860s, people came from all around to chop down the big trees in the Sierras for lumber. Thanks to John Muir’s nature writing and newspaperman George Stewart’s editorial comments, public opinion led to the formation of Sequoia National Park a few decades later. Today, there are a number of trails leading park visitors to the few isolated groves of sequoias that remain in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Some of these trees are said to be over 3,000 years old!

Mountain yellow-legged frog, courtesy/Adam Backlin, USGS

Endangered Species

Although the sequoias are not an endangered specie, other plants and animals in the park are. The mountain yellow-legged frog, the highest-dwelling amphibian in the United States, is one such creature. It lives along the headwaters of the Kaweah River in Sequoia National Park and hibernates nine to ten months of the year. Its numbers have collapsed by about ninety percent. For more information on this once-abundant frog, read John Upton’s 2012 Bay Area Citizen Wildlife Magazine article at http://www.baycitizen.org/wildlife/story/once-abundant-frog-may-deemed-endangered/

Of Beetles and Rocks

photo courtesy of MCZ Type Database @ Harvard Entomology

Trachykele opulenta Fall, a bore beetle, may or may not be threatened. It was discovered at Beetle Rock in Sequoia National Park around 1906. Because these beetles live in tree tops during their flight period, they are seldom seen. Their status has not been evaluated.

The photograph above is of an adult Trachykele opulenta Fall. This particular specimen was collected from Beetle Rock in 1906. It is part of Harvard University’s H.C. Fall Collection. If you go to Sequoia National Park, visit Beetle Rock. Maybe you’ll spot one of these creatures. I didn’t, but lying on this mass of granite enjoying the sun and views was enervating. When you visit Beetle Rock also go see The Sentinel tree, a 2,200 year old sequoia  that is just a stone’s throw away from the rock. Of course, don’t forget to go see the rest of the mighty giants in the Giant Forest.

Below are photos of:

  • Beetle Rock where Trachykele opulenta Fall was discovered around 1906, and
  • two of the mighty trees, the Sentinel and the General Sherman.
beetle rock, i
2,200 year old Sentinel Tree
General Sherman Tree, older than the Sentinel Tree(?)

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