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EV Articles by Paul Gipe

June 29, 2021
Paul Gipe

Covid­-Escape: The Great Greenhorn Fritillary Hunt


This Covid-Escape wasn’t as adventurous as most. It required an hour’s drive east from Bakersfield into the Greenhorn Mountains where we met our friends, experienced amateur botanists, at the Shirley Meadows ski slope. From there, we threaded our way down a graded Forest Service road in search of the rare Greenhorn Fritillary (Fritillaria brandegeei).

Our preferred route, Rancheria Road, was closed by the Forest Service because of hazard trees threatening to fall on or trap cars in the remote area. The forest has been under assault for more than a decade now from fire, drought, and bug infestations. There are dead and dying trees everywhere and the Forest Service’s priority is removing hazard trees from more trafficked routes than Rancheria Road.

We effectively bypassed the closure by taking another Forest Service road that wasn’t closed. I am sure the Forest Service wouldn’t have approved.

The Greenhorn Fritillary is rare, very rare. It’s found only in a small mountainous portion of Tulare and Kern County, naturally enough in the Greenhorn Mountains.

And where it’s found, it’s not abundant. It’s very easily to overlook it on the forest floor.

We spent several hours slowly driving up and down the dirt road south of Cook Peak, below the Shirley Meadows ski area. Nancy and I had never seen this fritillary before except on the Calflora web site. We really didn’t know what we were looking for. Others in our party did, and we relied on them to spot the plant.

We did find some other interesting in plants that you had to get down on your knees to see, “belly” plants famed naturalist Carl Sharsmith called such little beauties.

There were some immature fritillaries. The leaves looked like plastic trash to me. I was shocked to learn they weren’t trash and were our objective for the day.

Then there was a shout and we found one—yep, just one—plant. It was hidden in the shade. And it’s not an easy one to photograph either with its nodding flowers. But it was a successful hunt nonetheless.

It was an enjoyable morning, cool, and brisk and the scent of pine in the air.

Not an exciting adventure for the Bolt. We followed a Prius and if a Prius can make it so can we. Just another full day exploring California in our EV.

Here’s the route we took since Rancheria Road is closed because of hazard trees: https://goo.gl/maps/cg3CXsmDmTBr3n1X7.


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