Salt Marsh 1     Marin CNPS Field Trip, Sunday November 14, 2021

      Field trip leaders: Ann and Woody Elliot
      Field trip report: Susan Schlosser

On a foggy and cold morning, we started our field trip at the Turtleback Trailhead in China Camp State Park. Ann and Woody Elliot lead the way. The hillside trail provides excellent views of salt marsh plains and sloughs. On the hillsides at the beginning of the trail, grassy slopes were interspersed with Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), Common Manzanita (Arctostaphylos manzanita ssp. manzanita) , California Fescue (Festuca californica), and dry seed heads of Coyote Mint (Monardella villosa var. villosa), contrasting with all the dry grasses. The tall shrubs or small trees of Common Manzanita had buds and early flowers. Peak flowering is usually in January. Clusters of Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis) plants, both male and female plants were blooming with creamy colored blossoms.

Soon we were examining the small oaks along the trail. The diversity of leaves on many individual trees indicated they were Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia). Later we saw Black Oak (Q. kelloggi), Blue Oak (Q. douglasii), and Valley Oak (Q. lobata).

Turtle Back Trail Susan SchlosserThe trail drops down alongside the salt marsh to a boardwalk. A beautiful tapestry of fall colors was on display: pink, gold, yellow and green. Salt marsh plants we identified were: Salt-marsh Gumplant with flowers (Grindelia hirsutula var. hirsutula), perennial pickleweed (Salicornia pacifica), introduced Australian Goosefoot (Atriplex semibaccata, Alkalai Heath (Frankenia salina), Salt grass (Distichlis spictata), Sea-Lavender or Western Marsh Rosemary (Limonium californicum).

The remainder of the trail was generally forested with Oak, Bay, Madrone, and Buckeye trees. We wondered about the reason(s) for large thickets of Madrone, (Arbutus menziesii), we saw along the trail. They were about 10-12 feet tall and very dense. Were they found where trees had fallen? Or did plant seedlings come up densely ater a fire?

Along shady areas of the trail, we saw Short Snowberry (Symphoricarpus mollis) with leaves emerging and California Honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula). Fallen trees had very interesting mushrooms. Trail banks were covered with lichens, liverworts, and mosses. Ferns including Common-wood Fern (Dryopteris arguta), California Maidenhair (Adiantum jordanii) and Goldback Fern (Pentagramma triangularis) all had spores. The California Polypody Fern (Polypodium calirhiza) had newly emerging, bright green fronds.

We saw some interesting and exciting wildlife including a bald eagle, egrets, a red-breasted sapsucker, a ruby-crowned kinglet and trapdoor spiders with fog droplets on their webs. There were fresh tracks of raccoons, egrets and others on the exposed intertidal mud. It was a very enjoyable field trip with wonderful plant enthusiasts.

Wood fern sporangia Susan SchlosserManzanita flower