On May 18th, I made a backpacking trip with Mary Jolles and Tommy Stoughton to Dollar Lake in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Mount San Gorgonio was the southern-most glaciated area in North America during the last glacial maximum and Dollar Lake sits at about 2800 m., about 700 m. below the peak of Mt. San Gorgonio. In forest dominated by mature Pinus contorta, Pyrola picta was collected in the region of Dollar Lake by Philip Munz in 1922 and again in 1947. On this outing, we observed Sarcodes sanguinea across a broad elevation range, Pyrola aphylla at about 2300 m., Chimaphila umbellata starting at about 2700 m., and P. picta right in the vicinity of Dollar Lake. Pyrola aphylla and C. umbellata were both growing under mature Pinus jeffreyi in very thick, soft needle litter, while S. sanguinea was observed with several conifer and Quercus species.
Neither Pyrola species was flowering, but the peduncle of P. aphylla had already elongated to about half the length it will achieve at reproductive maturity. I was surprised to find P. picta in this relatively high elevation habitat, which is home to both alpine and subalpine plant species and is comprised mainly of Pinus contorta with a patchy understory of Chrysolepis sempervirens. The rosettes of P. picta leaves were composed primarily of new leaves, evidenced by the glossy, reddish laminae and nearly chartraceous texture of the upper leaves. We did not observe any old inflorescences or second-year leaves with substantial petioles, which may be due to microhabitat conditions. Although substrate quality seemed optimal, a thick layer of duff and fine litter interspersed with small boulders, these plants were growing on a pretty steep hillside! Adjacent the stand of Pinus contorta (with a few Pinus flexilis) where P. picta was growing were exposed scree hillsides.
I will be curious to see whether any of these P. picta plants produce inflorescences this year.