The Subalpine Marshmarigolds of California

The Subalpine Marshmarigolds of California

I was recently invited to write an article for the Friends of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden, and chose to write about a group of plants I studied for my doctoral dissertation, the subalpine marshmarigolds of western North America. For this article I focused on the two species that occur in California, the hexaploid Caltha biflora and the allododecaploid C. leptosepala. While the hexaploid is widespread in the mountains of California, the allododecaploid is apparently very rare in California, and restricted to the Warner Mountains and High Sierra. It was fun to write in a different style than usual, and hopefully the article will reach an audience beyond the academic community!

Article on San Diego State University Field Stations Program website

Article on San Diego State University Field Stations Program website

Pentagramma triangularis, just chillin’ trailside

Our recent fieldwork at Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve (in Riverside and San Diego Counties near Temecula, CA) resulted in on online article on the San Diego State University Field Stations Program new website!

This spot was absolutely luscious, with lots of topographic diversity, rain, mud, flowering plants, ferns, lycophytes, fungi, and liverworts. We (Forrest and Keir) found the first Pentagramma triangularis of the trip here, which rounded out our other fern and lycophyte collections of the morning nicely. I’m so grateful that this Reserve exists, and that the SDSU Field Stations make this biodiverse region so accessible for research. See previous post for more luscious photos of SMER!






January Fieldwork in S California

January Fieldwork in S California

In mid-January, two researchers from the Rothfels Lab, Keir Wefferling, focusing on Pentagramma (the goldback and silverback ferns in Pteridaceae) and Forrest Freund, with a focus on the lycophyte genus Isoëtes, (quillworts, in Isoëtaceae) visited three SDSU and UCNRS Ecological Reserves and a number of National Wildlife Refuge sites in San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties. Their fieldwork took place amidst some magnificent rains, wind, and sun!

Pentagramma glanduloviscida; looking a little P. viscosa-esque with those +/- entire proximal basiscopic pinnules of the basal pinnae.
Pentagramma glanduloviscida

The collection trip was focused on the pteridaceous fern genus Pentagramma, and they managed to find 3.5 species: the goldback fern P. triangularis and the more or less silverback ferns P. maxoniiP. glanduloviscida, and a likely cross (allopolyploid?) between P. glanduloviscida and P. viscosaPentagramma currently has six recognized diploid species and an unknown number of polyploids (mostly triploids and tetraploids) formed through natural hybridization among the diploids. In order to get a better grasp of the morphological, genetic, and chromosome number variation among different populations of Pentagramma, Keir has been sampling from across the range of the genus, incorporating material from herbarium specimens and from the field. Fresh and living material collected on this trip will be particularly useful as it provides high quality DNA and RNA for sequencing work, is ideal for genome size analysis using flow cytometry, and may yield meiotically active cells suitable for chromosome counting work!

Isoëtes orcuttii and Selaginella cinerascens, N San Miguel Mtn., San Diego NWR


Eriogonum fasciculatum, Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve


Forrest scouting ferns and lycophytes in the field after some serious rains, Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve


Keir feeling good about Myriopteris newberryi, Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve


Myriopteris newberryi


Oasis de Los Osos, UCNRS; westernmost Sonoran Desert, with Pentagramma maxonii!


Pellaea andromedifolia


Primula (Dodecatheon) clevelandii, Elliott Chaparral Reserve, UCNRS


Flapjacks and tattoos in the November sun

Flapjacks and tattoos in the November sun

Many of us Rothfels labfolk gathered today for a brunch in the hot November sun to celebrate brunch and autumn and plants. We shared delicious food, coffee, wine, and many (all?) of us are now rocking biologically-accurate tattoos (supervised by tattoo artist Griffin Rain). It was great to get together outside of the lab and learn a little bit more about each other; e.g., that Carl, Griffin, and Carrie all look really good wearing cat ears! The spread included an amazing veggie-coconut cream-egg bake with optional Parmesan, buckwheat pancakes, gingerbread, fruit (Vitaceae, Anacardiaceae, Rosaceae, Ericaceae, Rhamnaceae…), baked butternut squash, and gummi marine animals.

Thanks to all who made it! [not pictured: Forrest, Keir, Larkin]


Goldback fern chromosomes!

Goldback fern chromosomes!

Under Alan Smith‘s tutelage, over the last few weeks I (Keir) have been learning the science and art of meiotic chromosome counting; from selecting and harvesting material at the right stage (it is so easy to catch sporangia just a little too late) to getting the right combination of blotting, tapping, and pressing, I have learned so much AND had some excellent luck! I also feel super lucky to have access to irrigated material at this time of year from Regional Parks Botanic Garden (up at Tilden)!

Mature frond of tetraploid Pentagramma viscosa (?), or more likely 4x P. triangularis crossed with P. ??. Note the golden, bioflavonoid-rich farina, and dark sporangia along the veins.

Today Alan and I counted our first Pentagramma tetraploid (2= 60II)! It was identified as P. viscosa, but it looks more like a P. triangularis to me…

Tetraploid P. viscosa (?); 2n = 60II. More likely 4x P. triangularis x something else.
Diploid P. pallida; 2n = 30II











…we’ll see upon closer inspection what the subgenomes have to say for themselves.