On September 7, two colleagues and I attended the Bighorn Music Festival at the summit of Mt. Baldy ski area. During the event we decided to take a little hike around the area, which is at about 2300 m. elevation and characterized by rocky, scree slopes and mixed oak and conifer forest (heavy on the conifer).
Across these rocky slopes we spied several rosettes of Pyrola dentata nestled amongst the rocks and two or three plants that had flowered this year, now in fruit. This species in southern California (also in other parts of CA and Baja California) has smaller, more round leaves with entire margins, but it has the same glaucous surfaces as those plants in northern California and the Pacific Northwest.
This plant is often identified as P. dentata variety integra A. Gray or P. pallida Greene, because it’s margins are smooth rather than dentate. However, P. dentata var. integra was first described from plants observed in Washington state near Mt. Adams. Additionally, these plants had oblong leaves like the type from British Columbia, only lacking dentitions along the leaf margin. Similarly, P. pallida (also recognized from time to time as a variety or subspecies of P. dentata), was originally described from plants in the Cascade Ranges of northern California and Oregon and has leaves that are larger and more obovate than the small, round-leaved plants that grow here.
In contrast, the P. dentata we find here has small, round leaves with a transparent layer of cells at the leaf margin. The same morphotype is found in the Sierra San Pedro Mártir, Mexico.