Long and winding trail to the False Indigo

For the last year or so I've suffered a minor obsession to find the False Indigo.

My interest stems from a childhood peak experience. In 1960 I netted a male California Dogface in our Los Angeles neighborhood. I instantly recognized this iconic insect; and with remarkable presence of mind, deftly gathered it in to take to my brothers killing jars and spreading boards. It then had pride of place in his well-organized collection. Sadly that great work of obsessive love was to be gifted a decade later by our clueless sister to a hippie friend to hang in her cannibis-scented pad... I'm still hoping to get over the casual stupidity of that loss.

Anyway, few years after my triumph, Mr. Reagan signed this beast into official status as our 'state insect'. Despite my esteem for the dogface, I really couldn't agree. While locally abundant, the Dogface is rarely seen in most of California. So a bit too elitist a choice. There's the further issue that that master communicator should have given approval to the 'Flying Pansy' to represent our great state. Had he'd asked me, it would have been the Western Tiger... Likely, another example of his delegating essential decisions to his staff.

I only saw my second Dogface after moving to Sonoma county. I didn't expect it here--it's more a SoCal bug-- but have learned through Inat that it can occur. So this brings up the matter of the False Indigo. Just how prevalent is that?

In principle, we've at hand formidable resources in finding these sorts of things, but it still took a while. Looking at the few posted images didn't help much. Maybe it's me; but I've a lot of trouble working from a few photos and then going out to locate something. It works great the other way: from my own pictures I can go to Calflora or another member's site and be rather sure. Sadly, photographs deceive even as they inform. Proportions are often distorted badly, key features are often not included or blurred. Do others find these problems?

Calflora helps with its site mapping of observations; but in this case not much. Almost all of the places are inaccessible without trespassing. The one exception for A. californica was a Santa Rosa site now covered by a freeway sound wall. The other public spot in a park was within 1/2 acre thicket subsequently enclosed in a 7' fence by the California Native Plant Society...

The key for me was a nice online movie made in the San Bernadino mountains by a lepidopterist. This includes movies of impressive stands of the plant stirring in the alpine breezes. Seeing this was a revelation: Movies are a huge improvement when you want to get the necessary gestalt for rapid visual ID. In the future, maybe video clips will replace the static images of today. We shall see.

Thus prepared, i found a specimen the next day; right along a trail I'd hiked the week before, looking for Amorpha. It was providently still carrying a bit of bloom; but I'd swear i recognized it swaying gracefully in the light breeze just as in the movie clip. Makes me think: how rare is it, really? Not sure how questions of species prevalence are answered.

If it really is disappearing, maybe I'll try to grow a bit myself.

Posted by icosahedron icosahedron, May 29, 2013 15:14


Photos / Sounds


Napa False Indigo Amorpha californica var. napensis




May 28, 2013 10:20 AM PDT


Location approximate; but easy to find just on the north side of the trail, about 1/3 0f the way up creek trail to the pond...


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