of California's Sierra Nevada Foothills

Read excerpts from Jim Conrad's Naturalist Newsletter concerning these Foothill trees & bushes:


PINES (species profiles here)
  • Ponderosa Pine -- extensively occurring throughout foothills
  • Sugar Pine -- higher, moister elevations
  • Digger Pine -- lower, drier elevations

flowers of Pacific Madrone, Arbutus menziessiPacific Madrone, Arbutus menziesii,  is an abundant, small tree with leathery, evergreen leaves 3-6 inches long, flowering in early spring. At the left you see how clusters of white, globular flowers form at the end of branches. The tree is easy to identify because its trunk is smooth, reddish-brown color, and has a tendency to peel into thin, irregular sections exposing greenish-brown inner bark. In the fall it becomes even easier to identify because of its bright orangish-red, spherical but bumpy fruits. The various manzanitas are similar but they are bushes typically around 3 feet high and most of them have rounder leaves than those shown at the right.

Mountain Misery, also called Kit-kit-dizze, is Chamaebatia foliolosaMountain Misery, also called Kit-kit-dizze (Chamaebatia foliolosa), gets the "misery" part of its name from growing in such dense, knee-high thickets that when you try to walk through them it's a miserable experience. Also the leaves are so resinous and gummy that they wad up on your feet. However, on warm, sunny days the resin creates a nice fragrance. From the flower and immature "hip" developing in the picture at the right you might guess that the species is a member of the Rose Family. Since the plant grows so low you might be tempted to call it a wildflower, not a shrub. Here it is considered a shrub because of its tough, woody stem. Often the plants forms extensive carpets so dense that few other plants can survive. Their resin causes them to burn readily, but they resprout from underground roots quickly.

Fremontia, also called California Flannel Bush (Fremontodendron californicum) is spectacular when flowering, a small tree up to 15 feet high and with yellow flowers as large as 2 inches across. Note the small, figlike leaf just below the blossom in the picture below. Its evergreen leaves are covered with reddish-brown hairs. In the foothills it is abundant south of Mariposa County and sometimes planted beyond its native distribution.

Fremontia or California Flannel Bush, FREMONTODENDRON CALIFORNICUMCalifornia Flannel Bush, FREMONTODENDRON CALIFORNICUM -- flower

Deer Brush, Ceanothus integerrimus, unlike some other Ceanothus species, has deciduous leaves and the flowers are so fragrant that many foothill folks call the shrub "Wild Lilac." It is abundant in the foothills, in the forests as well as along roads and at field edges.

Deeer Brush flowers, Ceanothus integerrimusDeer Brush, Ceanothus integerrimus

Mock Orange, Philadelphus lewisiiMock OrangePhiladelphus lewisii, is a much-branched bush up to ten feet high, in late spring capable of being gorgeously arrayed with dense clusters of 25ยข-size white flowers. The flowers of some Mock Orange species are fragrant but ours isn't terribly so. Indians used the slender stems to make shafts for arrows. Our species' Latin name honors Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Oak Mistletoe, Phoradendron villosum, growing on California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggiiMistletoe, genus Phoradendron. At the left you see Oak Mistletoe, Phoradendron villosum, growing on California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii. Though seven species of Phoradendron occur in California, in the Foothills this is the common species. Other California species either possess scale-like leaves or their stems are hairless or nearly so, while the stems of Oak Mistletoe are velvety.