Tanoaks at El Corte de Madera

JO and I checked out the trees on July 4, arriving a little before 10:00. It was a bit cool, but warmed up to around 75 degrees by noon. The catkins on the trees near some big rocks on the left were still mostly immature. Some on the other side of the trail had some stamens and aroma if you put your nose right up to them.

We found trees close to the gate that we hadn’t looked at the first time. These had some catkins in the sun, at nearly eye level. They didn’t seem to be as brushy-looking as the ones at Long Ridge. Under the hand lens, I could see a few anthers with pollen, and the rest appeared to be closed. The pollen is light yellow and seems pretty much the same color as the anthers.

Tanoak stamen (middle clump) and pollen

Tanoak stamen (middle clump) and pollen

There were some butterflies flying around nearby, but not landing on the tanoaks. One landed on the next door coffeeberry, which seemed to attract obvious pollinators. There was also a honeysuckle vine on the other side, the flowers of which were open with stamens and anthers with pollen.

We noted that the most mature catkins were higher on the trees, and in a cluster, some were more mature, plus on an individual catkin, which is a bunch of flowers, some were also more mature. We also noticed that the lumpy look of some of the catkins seems to be flowers that are about to burst open with stamens. We saw one that was open, and the stamens were coiled up in the lump opening. See JO’s photo.

We decided to try a 10-minute observation period even though not all the catkins were ready. My group had no obvious visitors, but there was a small black beetle at the base of one of the catkin clusters. On this same tree were some large, reddish ants, and a jumping spider. both of which crawled over the catkins that JO was watching. This begged the question, if there are any kind of pollinators (accidental or otherwise) moving around, given the lack of obvious female flowers, is the pollen going to get anywhere useful?

Other interesting things: a pollen-covered sleeping fly or bee in a sticky monkey flower, a pair of spiders apparently mating but then turned into post-mating snacking by the female, more insects and arachnids on the stinging nettles–another jumping spider, more rolled leaves tied with silk, one containing a chrysalis (likely Red Admiral), another containing an earwig, quite a few robber flies, some with prey, and a small colorful orb weaver on a tanoak. We also saw a lizard quickly crossing the trail, but we couldn’t find it after it ducked under the bottom foliage of a tree. It was stocky-looking, seemed smooth with a bluntish nose, brownish with slate-colored sides. It was larger than a fence lizard, maybe 7-8″ long. A Hermit Thrush was singing, Red-breasted Nuthatch and I think Pygmy Nuthatch were calling. Also a Pacific-slope Flycatcher and a Hutton’s Vireo were calling.

Other photos here (the tanoak photos are at the beginning).

Note regarding Windy Hill: DP reports 6-7 small flies visiting catkins seen today.


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