Serpentine, California's state rock, is relatively rare in the rest of the world.
In California, however, it is found in abundance. This is the result of California's
position at the convergence of two tectonic plates and the stresses resulting from
that meeting. Serpentine is a
metamorphic rock characterized by long, fibrous crystals. It is normally a greenish blue color
and has a waxy or greasy feel.
An excellent place to pick up a chunk of serpentine is in the Traverse Creek Special Interest Area off of Georgetown Road in El Dorado County. This is the location of a historic vesuvianite mine. Only a few feet from the trailhead you will find some beautiful blocks of the stuff on both sides of the trail.
Because serpentine soils are uncommon, plants growing in them are often rare. The California pitcher plant, for instance, is able to grow in nutrient-poor serpentine soils because it gets its nutrients from trapping insects. This plant is almost always found in conjunction with serpentine, and so is considered an indicator of it. The same is true of the rare Tiburon mariposa lily, which grows in the Northern California Coast Ranges.
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