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Forest of the Nisene Marks

January 31, 2016 visited Forest of the Nisene Marks State Park that is near Aptos, California in Santa Cruz County. That morning a chilly cold core low had left about a quarter inch of rain in this coastal redwoods park making all surfaces wet. When I arrived temperature was 47F degrees with skies fully cloudy and breezes slight. Good conditions for imaging understory plants. The park lands were logged until 1924 and since then a second and third growth redwood forest has risen with modest size trees. My interest this day was not the forest but rather one of the region's most interesting looking wildflower species fetid adder's-tongue, scoliopus bigelovii. At this time of late January, few other wildflowers will have risen in our area parks. Within redwood forest one will see milkmaids and a few early blooming redwood sorrel. Redwood sorrel are abundant about the slopes of Aptos Creek though only about 2% have begun to bloom. By March it is one of the better parks to see sorrel beneath redwoods. The entrance fee for driving into the park is $8. Despite the weather or maybe because of it for locals, the Aptos Creek Fire Road had lots of people especially joggers and bike riders. Cabrillo College is nearby and many of the joggers were very healthy looking coeds. But also many groups and families with kids hiking all about. A very popular place in the summer for bike rides because it is down in a shady redwood forest not far from the cool Pacific Ocean. Just outside the park entrance is considerable parking so many bike riders ride in for free.

California State Parks website for Nisene Marks
Redwoodhikes.com website for Nisene Marks trail descriptions

The fetid adder's-tongue shown at page top, is a member of the lily family with typical long linear leaves. When most redwood forest species bloom in late winter, all that remains of this species are the beautiful spotted leaves. Accordingly many who hike in late winter and early spring never see this species flowering. About other regional redwood parks, the species is never abundant and tends to grow in spotty groups here and there. During winter one drives into the park on the Aptos Creek Fire Road. The old gravel road follows the namesake stream for a bit less than two level miles to George's Picnic Area where one can park at roadsides. The road is gated just ahead but continues for hiking and biking a few miles further. Dogs are allowed on leash for another mile along the road. Right at this picnic area are more fetid adder's-tongue than I've seen anywhere else. The plants are all along both sides two trails, Buggy Trail and Aptos Rancho Trail for about 100 yards. The peak bloom will be by next weekend so if anyone wishes to see this uncommon species, this is the time.

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The above shows a perpendicular downward view of a plant with two leaves and two active flowers. At center towards the bottom are 4 pedicels (flower stems) with gone to seed flowerless 3-cleft stigma that look much like the eye appendages of banana slugs that readily dine on the leaves. The female stigma have areas of red and green hues against cream. After flowers polinate, petals fall off and stems wilt to the ground. The 3-petal flowers are brown striped on a slightly brown cream hued background. View the "enlarged vertical slice view" for a more detail view of a vertical crop of this image. The 3 male oblong anthers are down underneath the stamen. Both images have redwood sorrel in the frame and the one above has redwood violets that are weeks away from coming out with their yellow flowers. The dark damp decaying leaves below the green plants are redwood needle and tanbark oak leaf debris. At frame upper right corner are two witches butter, tremella mesenterica, a fascinating yellow hued jelly-like fungus. Note a large rain drop probably from a tree above fell at the end of the right leaf. A 7 image blended focus stack.

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This next image above is a group of small mushrooms on a fallen mossy tanbark oak branch. With all the rain the last couple months, it is a banner winter for mushrooms and fungi. An 11 image blended focus stack.

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The image above is another type of fungi on the fallen side of a mossy tanbark oak branch. The branch probably fell within the last year and the fungi arose in the last couple months looking very fresh and vivid. The vertical slice view shows an egg sack with many dark dots of some creature on the side of the log. A 12 image blended focus stack.

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Next is another fallen branch with the very common turkey tail fungi, trametes versicolor, amid redwood sorrel. The small white specs are another fungi species I am not familiar with. An 11 image blended focus stack.

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And a final side view of a fetid adder's-tongue plant. The "enlarged vertical slice view" has an excellent view of the green hued stigma and darker anthers below. At the left frame edge at center are two small red balls at the ends of filaments. When one looks closely these lush temperate redwood forests mid winter during our rainy season show many fascinating small fungi species. An 11 image blended focus stack.

All these images were shot with my 60mm F2.8 DN Sigma lens on a 24 megapixel Sony A6000 mirrorless body atop my Benbo Trekker tripod. All were focus stack blended using Zerene Stacker then processed with Photoshop CS6. Focus stack blending allows all elements of the frame to be in sharp focus and most of the key elements were with my lens at F11, ISO 100. The 300 pixel wide enlarged vertical slice views were downsized at 50% and a browser moves to those pages. To return to the feature page use your browser Back button. At 250 ppi, the image at page top can make a sharp 20 by 15 inch print.

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2016 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

   David Senesac
   email: info@davidsenesac.com

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