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Rancho Cordova in Sacramento County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
 

Vernal Pool Grassland

Mather Vernal Pools

 
 
Vernal Pool Grassland Marker image. Click for full size.
July 6, 2012
1. Vernal Pool Grassland Marker
Inscription. When rain falls on a vernal pool grassland, some water sinks into the ground and the rest flows into streams or into depressions in the landscape. The water cannot move deeper into the ground in a vernal pool grassland because a hardpan blocks its path.

Hardplan is a layer of clay or minerals that water cannot pass through easily. Once the soils are saturated, rainwater perches on top of the hardpan. Only where there are depressions in the landscape can you see the perched water - as ponds of all shapes and sizes called vernal pools. The only way for the water to leave the vernal pools is by slowly moving through the ground or by evaporation.

Vernal pools are a special kind of wetland. Wetlands are a transition between water and dry land. Throughout most of the world wetlands serve many important functions: They hold rainwater that might otherwise cause flooding. They purify storm runoff by removing sediment and nutrients. They are home to hundreds of species of plants and animals. Many of these plants and animals are rare and endangered due to the destruction of our nation's wetlands.

During the winter, vernal pools are home to many dozens of species of aquatic organisms, all linked together in a complex food web. With the warmth of spring, water evaporates from the vernal pools, revealing concentric rings
Vernal Pool Grassland Marker image. Click for full size.
July 6, 2012
2. Vernal Pool Grassland Marker
and patches of showy wildflowers. While winter ponds are common throughout the world, the special animals and plants in California's vernal pools make them unique.

Nearly 90% of California's original wetlands have already been destroyed by the conversion of land to agriculture and other types of development. Despite laws intended to protect them, wetlands continue to be lost every day. Preserving vernal pools and other wetlands is vital to preserving rare and endangered species, and the quality of the water we drink. So, we help ourselves when we watch out for wetlands where we live.

The Dry Phase
During the summer and fall, the vernal pools are completely dry and the vegetation is brown. Although the critters and plants are gone, they have left behind microscopic eggs, cysts, spores and seeds that will survive one or more long hot summers to produce the next generation.

Even when they appear dry and barren, the grasslands and vernal pools support many animals throughout the summer and fall. Seeds left behind by the flowering plants provide food for summer residents such as insects, birds, voles and gophers. Other dry-season residents include hawks, coyotes, snakes, and toads.

The Wet Phase
During the winter, vernal pools appear as ponds of water dotting the landscape. Rainwater
The Dry Phase image. Click for full size.
July 6, 2012
3. The Dry Phase
collects in these low depressions and cannot immediately soak into the ground because of a hardpan beneath the soil surface.

During the wet phase, vernal pools are teeming with life. At the bottom of the food chain are last year's decaying matter and microscopic bacteria, algae and protozoa. Higher on the food chain are fairy shrimp, tadpole shrimp and tadpoles. Many of these animals live no where else on the Earth and are important food sources for migratory waterfowl.

The Flowering Phase
As the weather warms, the pools begin to dry down and the flowering phase begins. Because each species of plant has unique requirements for water, warmth and light, you can often see concentrated rings, or patches of different colored flowers in vernal pools.

Flowering vernal pools are like snowflakes in that no two are alike. While each pool usually has 15 to 20 different species of flowers in it, the mix can be different in every pool. Goldfields (Lasthenia spp.) and Sky Blues (Downingia spp.) are just two of the more than 60 plant species in California that live only in vernal pools. The peak bloom of each plant species coincides with the emergence of the pollinator insect that will visit the plant.
 
Erected by Mather Regional Parks.
 
Location.
The Wet Phase image. Click for full size.
July 6, 2012
4. The Wet Phase
38° 31.988′ N, 121° 15.66′ W. Marker is in Rancho Cordova, California, in Sacramento County. Marker is on Eagles Nest Road 2 miles south of Douglas Road. Click for map. Markers are located at the end of the paved road. A gravel road continues through the area. Marker is in this post office area: Mather CA 95655, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Welcome to Mather Lake (approx. 1.6 miles away); Honor Roll (approx. 1.6 miles away); Mather Air Force Base Navigators Monument (approx. 1.8 miles away); F-105G “Wild Weasel” (approx. 3.3 miles away); Mather Field (approx. 3.3 miles away); Fifteen Mile House (approx. 3.9 miles away); Sheldon Grist Mill (approx. 4.3 miles away); Sloughhouse (approx. 4.3 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Rancho Cordova.
 
More about this marker. The Dry Phase, Wet Phase and Flowering Phase markers are to the left of the main marker.
 
Regarding Vernal Pool Grassland. Additional vernal pools are located at Phoenix Park which has been designated a National Natural Landmark. The Calif. Native Plant Society has worked to protect these open areas. Red Tail Hawks and a variety of birds are observed seasonally.
Spring is the preferred time to view the area.
Blooms
The Flowering Phase image. Click for full size.
July 6, 2012
5. The Flowering Phase
last about three weeks, including Loeb's Poppies, Mallow and Fiddler. (Bring a field guide).
 
Categories. EnvironmentNatural FeaturesNatural Resources
 
The Dry Phase, Wet Phase and Flowering Phase Markers image. Click for full size.
July 6, 2012
6. The Dry Phase, Wet Phase and Flowering Phase Markers
View of Wetland During the Dry Phase image. Click for full size.
July 6, 2012
7. View of Wetland During the Dry Phase
Mather Vernal Pool - Wet Phase image. Click for full size.
By S B, circa March 23, 2009
8. Mather Vernal Pool - Wet Phase
This is a Protected Area image. Click for full size.
By S B, circa March 23, 2009
9. This is a Protected Area
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by S B of Sacramento, California. This page has been viewed 502 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on .   8, 9. submitted on , by S B of Sacramento, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
 
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Clear in-focus photo of the vernal pools during the wet phase. • Photo of the vernal pools during the flowering phase. • Can you help?
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