Wildflowers of the High Sierra and John Muir Trail

Wildflowers of the High Sierra and John Muir Trail

by Elizabeth Wenk


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Wildflowers of the High Sierra and John Muir Trail by Sierra expert Elizabeth Wenk includes photos and descriptions of approximately 300 species of wildflowers and flowering shrubs in the High Sierra. Focused on areas above 8,000 feet in elevation from Yosemite south through the Whitney Region, by restricting the collection of species to higher elevations, the book can include all commonly seen species and nearly half of all higher elevation species in a compact guide. Make plant identification more approachable to hikers, this book differentiates between species using features easily identifiable to a non-botanist. Descriptions include the species' common and scientific names, family name, growth form, flowering time, elevation range, region, specific locations on popular trails, and how to identify the plant using color, petal number, leaf shape, height, and more.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780899977386
Publisher: Wilderness Press
Publication date: 03/10/2015
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

From childhood, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Wenk has hiked and climbed in the Sierra Nevada with her family. Since she started college, she has found excuses to spend every summer in the Sierra, with its beguiling landscape, abundant flowers, and near-perfect weather. One interest lies in biological research, and she worked first as a research assistant for others and then completed her own PhD thesis research on the effects of rock type on alpine plant distribution and physiology. However, much of the time, she hikes simply for leisure. Obsessively wanting to explore every bit of the Sierra, she has hiked thousands of on- and off-trail miles and climbed more than 600 peaks in the mountain range. Many of her wanderings are now directed to gather data for several Wilderness Press titles and to introduce her two young daughters to the wonders of the mountains. For them as well, the Sierra, and especially Yosemite, has become a favorite location. Although she will forever consider Bishop, California, home, Wenk is currently living in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, Douglas, and daughters, Eleanor and Sophia. There she is working as a research fellow at Macquarie University and enjoying Australia’s exquisite eucalyptus forests, vegetated slot canyons, and wonderful birdlife—except during the Northern Hemisphere summer, which she continues to spend exploring the Sierra.

Read an Excerpt

Chrysolepis sempervirens (bush chinquapin)

Family: Fagaceae

  • Distribution: Common throughout, on both sides of the Sierra Crest
  • Habitat: Dry, sandy to rocky slopes
  • Elevation: 4,500'–11,000'
  • Season: Early July–late August
  • Locations: Lundy Canyon, Clouds Rest summit, Bear Creek, Lamarck Lakes Trail, North Fork Big Pine Creek

Leaves and Stems: Usually less than 2 m in height, this shrub forms imposing thickets on dry, rocky slopes. If, however, you don’t need to fight your way through them, enjoy their showy features. A golden powder covers the young stems and the underside of the leathery leaves. Because the leaves tend to be oriented in all directions, the shrubs are quite beautiful when the sun catches the underside of the leaves early or late in the day.

Flowers: The flowers themselves are not showy because, like most other members of the Fagaceae family, they are wind pollinated. They occur in long inflorescences, and notably, male and female flowers have separate inflorescences. The fruits are immediately noticeable because the prickly light-brown balls are up to 3.5 cm in diameter.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

Introduction 1

Scope of This Book 1

Vegetation Zones and Conifer Species 2

Habitats 5

How to Use This Book 8

Parts of a Flower 15

Flower Descriptions 18

Green Flowers 18

White Flowers 28

Yellow and Orange Flowers 86

Red and Brown Flowers 146

Pink Flowers 164

Blue and Purple Flowers 206


The Importance of Fire 20

Meaning of Latin Names 26

UV Radiation 37

Leaf Size and Plant Size at High Elevations 43

Rock Glacier Environment 47

Why Are So Many Plants Renamed? 55

Miscolored Plants on Calcitic Soils 59

How Old Are Alpine Plants? 60

A Tale of Two Columbines 67

Too Much Light 69

What Is a Scientific Name? 79

From Rock Type to Soil Nutrients 89

Flowers in the Family Asteracea 91

A Rainbow of Flowers 95

Plants of Calcareous Soils 99

Glacial Refugia 105

Treeline 110

Decisions Plants Make 113

Global Climate Change and Alpine Plants 115

Apomixis 120

So Many Monkeyflowers 126

Glossy Petals 131

A Bee's-Eye View of a Flower 133

Some Famous Botanists 135

Sierra Nevada Endemics 137

What Is a Petal? 143

Pollen Color 145

How Do Snow Plants Get Their Carbon? 150

The Paintbrushes' Dark Secret 153

Adapting to Hummingbirds 156

Biogeography of High-Elevation Sierra Plants 157

Pollinators 167

Mycorrhizae 173

Generalists and Specialists 184

Annual Plants at High Elevation 189

To Sweat or Not to Sweat 192

Buzz Pollination 197

Carl Sharsmith 1214

N-Fixation 226

Sky Islands 228

Hybrids 233

Red Versus Blue Penstemons 236

Nectar Replenishment 237

Pika Diets 241

Albinism 244

Bibliography 248

Scientific Name Index 255

Common Name Index 260

Ruler And Metric To English Conversion Table 265

About The Author 266

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