Today I was introduced to a new tree. I visited Malliard Redwoods State Natural Reserve and spent several hours hiking through the park looking for big trees, mushrooms, and albinos. While hiking up one particular ravine, I kept getting pricked by something, although I didn't know what it was.
I was mostly focusing on not breaking my legs while navigating up the treacherous ravine. Everything around me was green, so I didn't pay it any mind. It was more of a subconscious "Ow! What was that?" Then I'd continue upstream looking for redwoods.
Then I noticed this awful smell that would meet my nostrils from time to time. Believe me, after all of these miles of hiking, I know my own body odors. This was something new and pungent. Again it drifted into my subconscious. Finally, near the end of my bushwhack, I saw a beautiful tree growing on a hillside that was unlike anything I'd seen before. It definitely wasn't a redwood, or a Douglas fir, although it had similar looking branches. The tree's shape was different, as well as the color of its bark. When I climbed up to investigate, I got pricked by its needles again. "Ow!" I wasn't sure if it was a fir of some type. After looking all over the ground for pine cones, all I saw was little acorn looking things, although there were no oaks nearby. "Maybe a squirrel brought them here," I thought. I couldn't see anything growing on its branches.
Well, after browsing through my California conifer book, I have discovered that this is the California nutmeg tree, otherwise known as the "stinking cedar." What I thought were acorns on the ground were actually nutmegs. In my book, the caption under the picture reads: "Though the 'stinking cedar' is not a large tree nor a common one, its stiff, prickly needles can make many instant impressions on the hapless visitor who stumbles upon it." Hapless visitor indeed.