Who are you? Ft. The Daggerpod.

I wanted to have a section of this naturalist blog where I explore more deeply into an observation. My husband and I upload to iNaturalist very frequently, like we don’t have much of a life outside of iNaturalist. . . and with the quantity we do I don’t get to deep dive into the creature, plant, or insect at a deeper level. This is mainly because we are onto the next location and the next set of observations. So today on a rainy day in B.C. I explored the internet to learn more about the Daggerpod.

The Daggerpod, scientifically known as Anelsonia eurycarpa, is quite a bizarre looking plant. Perhaps more intriguing is where it thrives.

Even in California you can find snow in August. This year, 2019 was a wet winter with late snow storms, so some snow patches were still hanging around.

On August 11th, 2019 we packed up our tent and gear into our backpacks after one of the craziest wind storms I’ve experienced while backpacking. We were exploring the Mokelumne Wilderness (California) over the weekend in order to experience the wildflower bloom. Neither of us slept much. I was convinced our tent poles were going to snap at any point and I was at peace with waking up with the tent on my face because I thought it was inevitable. Thankfully MSR is worth the moola, and no damage was done to the tent. So as groggy as we were, we started to hike up to the top of Round Top Mountain, a 10,390 ft peak overlooking Winnemucca Lake near Carson Pass in the Mokelumne Wilderness Area. While the wind had calmed down from overnight, it was still very windy conditions to hike in. As we hiked further and further up the rocky talus slope, following the narrow trails the wind kept getting stronger. But as we neared the saddle between Round Top and the nearby peak some plants started to appear that were quite different from those at the base of the peak, and the wind was forgotten about.

We camped at the bottom of this valley the year before. A small black bear met us on the trail the following morning. No wonder as there was an incredible amount of bear scat.

After being able to view the other side of the mountain, down into the neighboring valley, where we actually camped the year before; we could see towards Fourth of July Lake, down to Summit City Creek, and left towards The Nipple (yes that’s the real name of the peak). 

Amongst the reddish-brown rock appeared our dude, the Daggerpod! What a fantastic common name. The Daggerpod is in the family Brassicaceae, the Mustard Family. Rocky, and just like where we find it, talus slopes is the preferred habitat within elevations of 1600 to 4100 m. Besides California this perennial herb blooms in Idaho and Nevada in the short window of June and July (Jepsen eflora). 

The fruits are just gorgeous, and remind me of stained glass.

Structurally, there is a lot going, to me it looks like two types of plants forced to be one. Leaves are finger-like, and velvet-like in feeling, true to its succulent nature. The flowers which aren’t apparent in our photos are small and white. But the real star of the show is the fruits. As the fruit develops they totally take center stage. The pod-like structures, seen in the photos, can be white, purple or brown in color and paper or leather-like, described as “saillike.” Contained inside these “sails” are the seeds. Just fantastic! They appear so delicate, but they are super tough, and must be in order to provide a crucial step in dispersal and reproduction even in this harsh environment. 

I was hoping to find more information on this unique species, but most of the papers were full of plant anatomy which to the masses is gobbledygook. I hope to one day reconnect with this magnificently odd plant. 

Reaching the highest point on Round Top was satisfying, but also windy and bright with the morning sun!

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