|1. White Fir (Abies concolor)
|This aged White Fir has fallen victim to age and disease. Notice the large scar on the
trunk which may have been caused by a rock slide. The White Fir grows in the southern Sierras
between 3500 and 8000 feet elevation. It can reach five feet in diameter and 150 feet in height.
The White Fir and Red Fir are the only true firs inhabiting the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
|The earliest human inhabitants of the Tehachapi Mountain region were a native American
Indian tribe known as Nuooah or The People. They harvested great quantities of black oak
acorns and pounded them into meal in rock mortars such as the one on this spot. Since much
discussion of daily events took place while pounding acorns into meal, rock mortars are also
known as gossip rocks. After water leached the bitter tannic acid from the acorn meal, it was
placed inside tightly woven baskets with stones hot from the fire. After the meal baked, the
Nuooah ate it with their fingers. It is estimated that every inch of depression in the rock is the
result of ten years of constant use.
|3. Black Oak (Quercus kelloggi)
|The California Black Oak is the largest mountain oak in the West and derives its name
from its blackish bark. A mature Black Oak usually grows to about three feet in diameter and
may reach 60-80 feet in height. Another characteristic of this tree is leaves that vary from 4-10
inches long, each distinctly lobed with bristle tips. Spring leaf growth appears velvety red,
turning bright green in summer and finally brown in Fall.
|4. Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi)
|The Jeffrey Pine is often mistaken for the Ponderosa Pine; however, the cones and bark
differ from the Ponderosa. Mature Jeffrey cones are usually 6 or 7 inches long and about 5
inches thick, while Ponderosa cones measure only about 4 by 3 inches. Also, the spines on the
scales of the Jeffrey point down rather than sticking out as they do on Ponderosa cones. Sniffing
the bark reveals another difference: Jeffrey pine bark smells like vanilla.
|Notice the different patches of brown, gray, yellow and black crusty or leaf-like growths
on the rock. These are lichens, plants that grow from a symbiosis between algae and fungus.
15,000 species of lichens have been identified; they are also further classified into subspecies
within algae and fungus groups. The algae produce food through photosynthesis. The fungi feed
on this food, anchor it in a suitable spot and shelter the algae from drying winds. Lichens
contribute to the weathering of rock and the eventual disintegration of rock into soil.
|6. Willow (Salix sp.)
|The Willow prefers to grow along stream banks or in spring-fed locations. It often forms
a shrub with many slender, erect stems rising from a clump. The Sierra Indians used willow
twigs to make baskets.
|7. Blue Elderberry (Sambucus caerula)
|Elderberry is a vigorous, fast growing, large shrub that may reach tree size if conditions
are favorable. Small white flowers in flat-topped clusters appear in early spring, followed by
clusters of blue-black berries in fall. Birds love Elderberries, but people prefer them in jams,
jellies and wine.
|8. Sierra Currant (Ribes sp.)
|The Sierra Currant grows among Ponderosa Pines in damp places, particularly along
stream banks. This small shrub has tiny rose-like flowers and produces small black berries
which birds and bears eat. Indians mixed the fruit of this shrub with dried meat to make a
|9. Mixed Conifer Forest
|The view northwest over the forest shows one of the major California plant
communities, the Mixed Conifer Forest, present in Southern California at elevations between
5,000 and 8,000 feet. Soils in these locations are mostly residual upland soils, moderately to
strongly acidic with depths of 3 to 6 feet. The characteristic plants we see here are the Ponderosa
Pine, Sugar Pine, White Fir and Black Oak. (The mixed plant growth is even more evident at the
scenic Water Canyon park entrance where Digger Pine, Blue Oak, Elderberry, Fremontia, Bitter
Cherry and Cottonwood give way to a magnificent grove of White Oak.)
|Lightning causes significant destruction in forests by sparking fires. Trees, like lightning rods on houses,
serve as electrical grounds. (Counting the interval between the first sighting of lightning and the
clap of thunder gives an idea of the distance to the lightning flash. The number of seconds
between seeing the flash and hearing the thunder, divided by 5, gives the distance from the
observer in miles.)
|The Black Oak must compete with the park's conifers (cone-bearing trees,
such as the firs) for sunlight and moisture. As adjacent fir and pine grow to greater heights, they
block light to the oaks. Unless some intervention, such as a forest fire or timber cutting, occurs to
open up the forest, the oaks will eventually lose out to the conifers.
|12. Acorn Cupboard
|What caused so many holes in this tree stump? A woodpecker? The red-topped acorn
woodpecker competes with the squirrels in the park for the nutritious acorns of the oak trees. To
prevent competitors from stealing food, woodpeckers cleverly jam the nuts into the holes,
pointed end first, to thwart the squirrels. This tree stump is also a reminder of the history of
logging in the Tehachapi Mountains in the 1860's. John Brite, an early pioneer of Tehachapi
Valley, owned a sawmill that provided lumber for the settlers of this area. His sawmill sold
1,000 board feet of lumber for $22.50. (A board foot is a piece of lumber 12" x 12" x 1".)
|In 1878, gold was discovered in a quartz-bearing ledge on the other side of the mountain
directly across the valley from this spot. News of the discovery swept the area, attracting F. A.
Tracy, a mining promoter, who developed the site. An eight stamp quartz mill crushed the ore
brought up through an 800 foot shaft sunk into the mountain. Assayed at $25 to $50 a ton, gold
ore kept the Pine Tree Mine in operation until 1901.
|14. Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertina)
|The Sugar Pine is the tallest and largest of all the world's pines; however, this tree is a
rarity in the Tehachapi Mountain Park. Only a few patriarchs grow at higher elevations. This
Sugar Pine specimen probably grew from a seed brought to this spot by an animal. Squirrels, in
their quest for pine nuts, inadvertently help plant many new pine trees.
|15. Canyon Live Oak (Quercus chrysolepis)
|This section of the trail looks almost like an orchard because the Canyon Oak tends to
arrange itself in groves where it can reach 50-80 feet high and three or more feet in diameter.
Early settlers prized the strength of the Canyon Oak and used it for tool handles and wagon
|16. Sierra Gooseberry (Ribes sp.)
|The Gooseberry belongs to the same botanical plant family as the Sierra Currant (at trail
site 8). They look similar, but there are several ways to tell them apart. Gooseberries remain on
the bush, whereas Currant berries break away. Gooseberries are large and spiny, whereas
Currant berries are small and smooth. Also, Gooseberries have stems with tiny spines and leaves
half the size of Currant berries.
|17. Oak Stem Galls
|The swollen stems on this oak indicate attack by Gall Wasps or Gall Flies, insects that
cause hundreds of different kinds of galls (or growths) on oak trees. First, mature female Gall
Wasps lay their eggs on the stems. When the eggs hatch into legless grubs, a gall starts to form
around them as a reaction to a chemical that the insect injects into the stem. The grubs then feed
and develop inside the galls, mature and come out as grown wasps or flies that can repeat the
cycle. Most galls do not harm the tree, but this particular gall, with its tiny holes made by
emerging insects, disrupts water and nutrient movement and causes the present twig dieback.
|The Hedgenettle is a member of the mint family. It closely resembles the Stinging Nettle,
which also grows in the park. If exposed skin touches the stinging variety, a painful rash will
occur at the contact site.
|An adequate water supply is essential to operate a park. At an elevation of 7,000 feet,
Tehachapi Mountain Park receives its share of seasonal precipitation in snow and rain. The earth
and underlying rock strata absorb some of this water. The opening where water emerges from
the ground is called a spring. This rock drinking fountain receives water from a
spring at a 6,500 foot elevation. Flow from this spring varies from 2-6 gallons a minute,
depending upon the season and past precipitation.
|20. Marble and Limestone
|Scattered throughout the Oak Flat Campgrounds are marble boulders. Although neither
marble or limestone were found in commercial amounts in Tehachapi Mountain Park, great
quantities of marble were cut from quarries, and limestone was burned in kilns only short
distances away. Lime led F. O. Wyman to develop the Summit Lime Company just east of
Tehachapi Mountain Park. These materials went onto the fronts of buildings springing up
throughout California in the 1870's.
|Information provided by Judy Lee and the Sequoia National Park Historical Society
|Return to Tehachapi Mountain Park.