The Mount Diablo Buckwheat disappeared in the 1930s. It was thought to be extinct. A single population was rediscovered in 2005. And then last year botanists found a new population numbering in the millions. How has this rarest of rare plants survived?
David Rains Wallace
Land of the Salamander
North America has more kinds of salamanders–the tailed, mostly four-legged amphibians–than any other continent. Your backyard is probably full of them right now!
Naming the ‘fire lizards’ of the world
For an animal that’s been given mythic properties, the salamanders of the world have some pretty colorful names.
Point Reyes: Renewed by Fire
When I started visiting Point Reyes in the 1970s, the landscape from Limantour Beach up to the crest of Inverness Ridge had a special appeal. I had spent my early childhood in the New England countryside in the 1940s, so vestiges of the pre-Seashore ranching days made me nostalgic–homestead sites, dammed lakes, fence lines, timothy hay growing in old fields. On the other hand, watching the wild ecosystem come back, with its brush rabbits, jackrabbits, quail, hawks, and bobcats, was endlessly fascinating.
Western gray squirrels, the forest thumpers
Tree squirrels can seem marginal in cities. But in the bishop pine forests at Point Reyes National Seashore, Western gray squirrels are the only animals known to open pine cones and disperse the seeds. They are bold, sizable, and entirely wild — unlike their urban cousins. And their sheer bravado shows what a spirited creature a squirrel can be.
Mount Diablo: A Place for Raptors
Mount Diablo’s woodlands and canyons provide habitat for a fantastic variety of raptors, from kestrels to golden eagles (of which the northern Diablo Range hosts perhaps the world’s densest population). In the 1950s, however, the mountain lost one of its … Read more
Speak of the Devil
Mount Diablo is such a towering icon of our landscape that it is sometimes easy to forget how much complexity lies within its familiar outline. Indeed, the mountain holds many stories: from the drama of its birth under the ocean, to its (mis)naming by early American settlers, to last year’s rediscovery of the rare Mount Diablo buckwheat. Today the story continues, with the mountain and its surrounding ridges and canyons anchoring a bold vision for a broad swath of protected open space and wildlife corridors stretching from Concord to Livermore.
The Summit Loop Hike
This strenuous 5.3-mile hike circumambulates Mount Diablo’s summit, and traverses many of the mountain’s geological and botanical features. When I was there in early April 2006, the air was startlingly clear, and the snowy masses of the Sierra Nevada and … Read more
When European explorers and naturalists began coming to California a few centuries ago, most sailed right past the fog-shrouded Golden Gate. But those few who did stop here, including the botanist-poet who first described the California poppy, left tantalizing clues to the world they saw before the Gold Rush transformed the Bay Area from backwater to boomtown.
Where the Elk and the Antelope Played
A million years ago, in a climate much like ours today, the land around an ancestral bay teemed with large animals: mammoths and saber-tooth cats; bears, horses, and peccaries. By 300 years ago, the mammoths were gone, but grizzlies, elk, condor, and pronghorn were abundant.European settlers wiped out many of those animals, but programs to reintroduce some of them are now under way. Which raises the question: What should a healthy, native megafauna look like now?