The dramatic changes from bud-to-flower-to-seed make this large dandelion intriguing to photograph. In the sunflower family, their pale yellow flowers range from 2-4” in diameter and stand 1-2’ tall. The scaly bud is about the size of a gopher snake’s head that bursts into reds and yellows as petals develop. Likewise, as the dandelion head explodes into filaments, remnants of the yellow petals retain their color with red accents before turning white, all happening in a matter of days.
I first noticed the wildflower in April 2014 as a pale yellow patch on a south-facing bank of sand in the company of some Yellow Pincushions that were barely noticeable by comparison. Once found and identified, I revisited the same location last year and recorded the sighting with Calflora. At that time, it was the northernmost sighting in the state, as all other sightings were at elevations between 5,000-7,800’ in the Southern Sierras on latitude with Johnsondale, and on either side of the Kern River. However, returning to the website this morning, Calflora indicates another observation in April 1940, now the earliest recorded on Calflora, by Lewis S. Rose, above the town of Three Rivers at 2,000’. The Jepson Manual sets its elevation range between 300-7,800’.
The 1940 observation, east of the Kaweah River above the town of Three Rivers, was prior to the construction of the Terminus Dam. These Scalebud are photographed below Terminus in a highly disturbed area around 500′ that has been subject to the heavy construction of the dam in the early-60s, rock and gravel mining from 1950-1970, as well as the 1955 Flood.
As an amateur photographer and neophyte botanist I find the elevation differences intriguing that such an isolated dandelion family can be dispersed so far apart over such rough terrain into different watersheds. An observation in 1975 by the Consortium of California Herbaria on the Little Kern River may be a clue: Farewell Gap, the common connection between the watersheds. It may be that the Scalebud is more dependent on the unique mineralization of the granite from the Mineral King area than it is on the dispersal of its seed.
None of this matters, of course, and why in the hell would an aging cowman waste what’s left of his time on some dandelion when he could be otherwise occupied with the spectacle of 2016 GOP Presidential Primaries?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…