Sunday, June 17, 2007

Striped Shore Crab

Scientific name: Pachygrapsus crassipes
Common name: Striped Shore Crab
Range: Oregon to Baja California
More information: P. crassipes has a very close cousin, P. transversus (the Mottled Shore Crab), who occupies the Atlantic coast--from North Carolina south to Uruguay.

The above photo was taken near low tide at a Laguna Beach tidepool. I observed, several days later, that nearly all of the crabs encountered at a tidepool at high tide in nearby Corona del Mar were Striped Shore Crabs.

To find out more, including what these crabs eat, see this entry at VR Tidepool (a really old website).

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Harlequin Bug

Scientific name: Murgantia histrionica
Common name: Harlequin Bug; Calico back; Calico Bug; Fire Bug
Range: throughout U.S. as well as Canada adjacent to New England; especially southern U.S.
More information: The above photo is of a later nymph. He is feeding on bladderpod in Crystal Cove State Park, near Laguna Beach, June 2006.

See Harlequin bug entry at Natural History of Orange County; entry

UPDATE, 7/7/07: I came across a whole bunch of these bugs while walking on a trail near my apartment (Salt Creek Park) in early June, again feeding on a bladderpod plant. They were definitely in a different stage of development, as their markings were of a noticeably different pattern.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


Jacaranda tree growing by La Brea Tar Pits.

Jacaranda leaves, flower, and fruit, up close.

Jacaranda tree growing by my apartment.

Scientific name: Jacaranda mimosifolia
Common name: Jacaranda; Green Ebony; Brazilian Rose Wood; Blue Jacaranda, Black Poui
Range: native to Argentina and Bolivia
More information:

Jacaranda entry at California

"Blue Jacaranda" at Wikipedia

"Jacaranda" (genus) at Wikipedia

Friday, June 8, 2007

Weeping Bottlebrush

Scientific name: Callistemon viminalis
Common name: Weeping Bottlebrush
Range: pending
More information: pending

Here in Orange County and in the Los Angeles area, I've seen many members of the myrtle family in the form of medium-sized eucalyptus trees as well as large, woody bushes.


So it's worth noting that this is definitely not the only species of myrtle used in landscaping here in Orange County. (More on the other species, later...)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Bush Monkeyflower

Scientific name: Mimulus aurantiacus
Common name: Bush monkeyflower, Sticky monkeyflower
Range: southwestern Oregon through most of California (according to Wikipedia entry)
More information: entry, Bush monkeyflower; Wikipedia entry, "Mimulus aurantiacus"

It is sometimes called "Sticky monkeyflower", presumably because the leaves are sticky to the touch. (I will have to try this.)

According to Introduction to the Plant Life of Southern California (Rundel and Gustafson), the name "monkeyflower" refers to the two-lipped flowers which resemble small faces (from the front).

Also, even within southern California, the flowers vary quite noticeably in shape and color--a curious fact worth further exploration. (Rundel and Gustafson mention that this "may reflect an evolving change from bee to hummingbird pollination").

The stigma (female part) of the monkeyflower is sensitive to touch, like a few other plants (e.g. Mimosa). It closes shut a few seconds after being touched. (Again, I will have to try this!)

This website says that the young leaves and stems can be eaten, but are quite bitter, and that also it was used as a poultice by Indians.

According to the Wikipedia entry, monkeyflower "grows in many climates and will thrive in many types of soil, wet, dry, sandy, or rocky. It even grows in serpentine, a soil that most plants have difficulty thriving in because of its unique mineral composition."

The above photo was taken Sunday on the rim of Badlands Park (elev. about 1000 ft.), at the southernmost edge of Aliso & Woods Canyon, overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Monarch Beach.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

California Sea Lion

Scientific name: Zalophus californianus
Common name: California Sea Lion
Range: coastal northern Pacific Ocean
More information:

The major distinction between sea lions and seals is that sea lions are "eared seals". (Seals are earless.) It's worth looking here for a comparative look at the skeletons of the seal and sea lions--this also gives you a sense of how similar the Pinnipeds (seals & sea lions) are to dogs, cats, and bears (mammals of the Order Carnivora, which includes dogs, bears, cats, weasels and their close relatives).

Within the Order Carnivora, evolutionary biologists have reason to believe Pinnipeds are Caniformes, or descendants of the same ancestor of dogs and bears. (Carnivorans are either Caniforms, or Feliforms). You can find a little bit about this at the entry for "Pinniped" on Wikipedia.

The above photos were taken Sunday while on a marine mammal boat cruise out of Dana Point. These sea lions are perched on "Seal Rock", which is just off the coast of the city of San Clemente in south Orange County (background). The dominant male sea lion stands out. Also, a cormorant is hanging out, on the far left. (Possibly a juvenile Double-crested cormorant?)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Sea Lavender

Scientific name: Limonium californicum
Common names: Sea-lavender, Sea Lavender, Marsh Rosemary, California Statice
Range: Oregon to Baja California; common near coasts & other saline environments
More information: More photos at Common Plants of Upper Newport Bay; "Sea-lavender" entry at Wikipedia

Be sure to touch these flowers if you ever encounter them--the dried feeling of them is very distinctive. Sea-lavender is in the Leadwort Family of plants (so it's not a type of lavender or rosemary, despite its common names). There are only 3 species of Sea-lavender found in North America (compared with 120 worldwide, with most of those found in the Mediterranean and central Asia--see the Wikipedia entry).

Monday, June 4, 2007

Giant Keyhole Limpet

Scientific name: Megathura crenulata
Common name: Giant Keyhole Limpet
Range: Central California to Baja California.
More information: Entry from Molluscs [sic] of Orange County; possibly worth learning more about: immunological studies of Giant Keyhole Limpets; hemocyanin

Believe it or not, a limpet is a primitive type of gastropod (snail), and that's what this is. He obviously doesn't fit within his shell, though. Now, this is the only Giant Keyhole Limpet I've yet encountered, but, from all the photos of other specimens I've seen, this guy is unique in having an extremely small shell given his body size. The others are big, but the shell doesn't seem nearly as useless on them.

According to my Audubon field guide, the Giant Keyhole Limpet "feeds on algae and colonial tunicates. Native Americans used the conveniently perforated shell on wampum belts."
UPDATE, 7/7/07: I observed my second Giant Keyhole Limpet at a tidepool in Laguna Beach early last month. Its coloration was different from the above, and I got to see its underside and really get a sense of its anatomy. I will post photographs in a follow-up entry.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Pacific Tree Frog

Scientific name: Hyla regilla
Common name: Pacific Tree Frog
Range: British Columbia south to Baja California, west into Idaho & Nevada.
Also, "The Biogeography of Pacific Tree Frog" looks interesting.

The above photographs of a young Pacific Tree Frog were taken by me at Crystal Cove State Park in June of 2006.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Bush Poppy

Scientific name: Dendromecon rigida
Common name: Bush poppy
Range: California and Baja California, in Pacific Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada foothills.
More information: Wikipedia entry here. article & photos here.
I encountered Bush poppies in the Santa Ana Mountains while visiting last June--and that's the setting of this photo. These were growing on a southward-facing side of a slope, at an elevation of (I think) about 2000 ft.

Be prepared to see more photos of poppies in the next few weeks--I'd be remiss if I didn't showcase our state flower (California poppy), which I've lately seen blooming along Laguna Canyon Road.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Western Tussock Moth (caterpillar)

Species name: Orgyia vetusta
Common name: Western Tussock Moth
Range: California north to British Columbia; east to portions of Idaho and western Nevada.
More information:
This caterpillar has the costume of a dancing dragon at a Chinese parade.

Be sure to see an image of what it will ultimately become (see especially the second image on the left, here). My wife says, "Look at that moth--it's evil! No way am I going to let you keep that caterpillar."

This was my first encounter with this species. I found this caterpillar on a leaf of Toyon at a shopping complex about three miles inland from the coast (Laguna Niguel/Dana Point area).

A local biologist I've been corresponding with wrote, "The genus name tells you how they mate. ;7) And they say scientists have no sense of humor...".

Well, they stand corrected!