The Tiburon mariposa lily (Calochortus tiburonensis) is a species of rare flowering plant that, apparently, grows nowhere else on Planet Earth but the serpentine soils atop Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve in Marin County. Yesterday I spent three hours looking for the damn thing—five hours if you throw in the bus rides to and fro and the additional walk to the trailhead—tramping about the preserve with no real idea where the plants might be, no idea if they'd still be blooming, and no real idea how large or recognizable they'd be if they were (it's way late in the season and I'd heard reports that the flowers were well on their way out).
|Big, beautiful, gnarly oak tree.|
|Coyote mint (Monardella purprea)|
|Chick or gully lupine (Lupinus microcarpus densiflorus)|
|Indian pink (Silene lacinata)|
|Tidy-tips...a fave! (Layia platyglossa)|
After a two hour solo ramble I was feeling a bit discouraged; it was windy as hell up there and the June grasses were tall and brown, hiding lots of detail in the folds and crags of the mountaintop. I was certainly enjoying the whole first-time adventure but realized that my chances of finding the fabled plant—and a blooming one at that—were fading with each passing step and each passing minute. Alas...as the sun slanted toward the summit of Mount Tam to the west, and remembering plans to meet some friends for a 5 o'clock beer at Sam's in Tiburon, I reluctantly turned back toward the trailhead. Disappointed that the search was a bust, I nonetheless kept looking on the tricky descent, my gaze volleying back and forth from one side of the trial to the other. I cautioned myself to take it slow, as well—do NOT trip and break anything, Palmer!—which was (as always) good advice, because, lo and behold, tucked near the base of another jumble of serpentine rock, hidden in a tangle of other flora, I somehow noticed a teeny-tiny little bloom.
I knelt down to inspect further. Is it? No. Wait...that can't be. It's puny! Oh my god, I think it is!
Yup, it was.
|Behold, in all it's prehistoric-looking glory,|
the Tiburon mariposa lily
Shaking my head in amazement (I still don't believe it!) and chuckling to myself with amusement, as I walked on I noticed a few more blooms here and there; all superbly camouflaged, and all much, much smaller than I'd have guessed. Further down the trail my chuckling turned to outright laughter, and, once I remembered that there was no one else around, my laughter turned to a big vocal skyward "YEE-HA!" in celebration.
I feel as tho I've become part of a somewhat small but blessed and wonderful subset of humanity...someone who's seen a Tiburon mariposa lily live and in person. (I also feel as tho I've crossed over into unabashed wildflower geekdom, here.) But throw in a slew of other blooms, including an abundance of shockingly pink/violet Farewell-to-spring on the last actual day of spring, and the fact that the trek was my first on Ring Mountain (WOW!), and, well...I'm pleased as punch.
|Harvest brodiaea (Brodiaea elegans)|
|Soap plant, a lily (Chlorogalum pomeridianum)|
|Farewell-to-spring, another fave. (Clarkia ruicunda)|
And happy trails,
Peter J. Palmer