Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Canyon in February

What a difference a little rain makes! Joan, Jeff, Karen and I managed to squeeze in our monthly Lunada Canyon walk this morning before the rains started up again. Click on the link to see how the canyon looked last June. This morning we found the canyon bursting with new greenery.

The path had been obliterated and was it ever muddy! I think that's the end of my Beverly Hills Reeboks. Joan and Karen kept trying to clean the mud off their shoes, but Jeff stated pragmatically, "You'll only get more." The problem was that the mud would build up so much, it made it difficult to walk. If you stood in one place too long, you got stuck there. BTW, I am delighted to admit I was totally wrong about the rains this season, especially since it means that L.A. is getting so much water. According to Grace at Bad Mom, Good Mom, we have been downgraded from moderate drought to abnormally dry.

One of the plants that has literally taken over the Canyon is wild cucumber. There are five species of Marah that are native to California and I am not sure which one this is, but I suspect it is Marah macrocarpus also called Cucamonga manroot. This fascinating plant can have a root the size of a large man, hence the name manroot. The root lays dormant underground in the dry season and then bursts forth with rapid growth when the rains come along. In fact the plant is more than 99% water. The fruit is not edible, but the small white flowers are very pretty nestled against all that green. You can see the dried flower at the end of the "cucumber" in the photo. Those spikey things are very soft, not sharp.

Everything was putting out new growth. Plants that had looked dead in December have come back to life with new green shoots. Blooming plants included the lemonadeberry (Rhus integrifolia) which had both blooms and berries.

Lupine was everywhere! I got so excited over one lone plant last June, and now the hillsides are covered with it. It looks like there are two kinds in the Canyon. I think the one on the left is bush lupine, Lupinus longifolius, but the other one (on the right) was lower to the ground, the flowers were a darker purple, and it was growing more on the shady side of the canyon. Maybe they are both the same. I will have to check on that with the people at the Palos Verdes Land Conservancy who know more about native plants than I do. Or maybe Chuck B. at my back 40 (feet) or Brent at Breathing Treatment can help me out. We seem to share the same love of gardening and especially native plants.


  1. Nice photos and what a nice morning for a hike.

    I'll leave the plant IDs in your capable hands - I don't know my lupines very well at all, but from the looks of you're doing quite well.

  2. What I know about lupine identification could fit on the back of a postage stamp! :) Plus, I understand they're notoriously difficult to key out.

    I can attest to the large size of the manroot tuber... I've dug up several in Golden Gate Park the size of big pumpkins. Nasty vine that shades out everything underneath it in no time at all.