Monday, May 26, 2008

Another Canyon Walk

What a beautiful morning it was in the canyon this morning! After a weekend of weird weather that included rain, hail, wind, and unusually cold temperatures, things are starting to get back to normal—which is to say glorious sunshine and 70 degree weather. A few pretty clouds and high surf are all that is left of the storm.

One of the things I like about our monthly hikes (although I missed March and April) is seeing how the canyon changes with the seasons, how the plants die back and then return to life when their time is ripe. For the native plants that we are observing, we are learning that each has its own time and it is not necessarily spring. It is very interesting to compare the photos I took this morning with my reports on the canyon in February, December, November, and last June when we started. Of course, every year will be different, too, depending in large part on rainfall since the canyon gets no other irrigation.

Today, the Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla) was one of the star performers. I finally could see why they gave it that name. The bushes were huge and even though the flowers are very small and there might not be many of them, the whole plant looked like a cloud of purple. The Black Sage (Salvia mellifera) wasn't as spectacular but had new leaves and flower buds that had not opened yet.

Another star of the day was the California Buckwheat (Erigonum fasciculatum). We have seen this plant in bloom before, but the blossoms were dry and rough-looking with a very hardy appearance. Today they were soft and delicate at the ends of slender stems. The buds were pinkish and if you looked very closely at the flower, you could see the petals were white with tiny pink anthems at the ends of the stamens (if I have my flower parts correct).

Cliff Aster (Malocathrix saxatilis) was everywhere and the plants and flowers were huge compared to those I had seen before. Some plants were three feet tall and true to its name, there were asters hugging the rocky cliff walls of the canyon.

Bladderpod (Isomeris arborea) was also big and bushy with profuse flowers and pods.

Some new plants that I had not seen in the canyon before included the Sticky Monkeyflower (Mimulus longiflorus) although I have seen plenty of it elsewhere. There were only two plants that we could find today in the canyon.

A totally new plant to me was Giant Rye Grass (Leymus condensatus). This large perrenial can reach heights of ten feet and amazingly, it is a grass. I loved the sound of the wind through its tall reed-like blades. The flower stalks were fascinating and most had not opened out yet. I'll have to be sure to go along for the walk next month to see them when they have.

The Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpus—not a cucumber and not edible), that had been threatening to take over everything in February has dried out and died back. Likewise, someone has gone through and hacked down all the Black Mustard (Brassica nigra) that Joan says was taking over last month. This plant covers hillsides everywhere in Southern California since the Franciscan Padres freely dispersed seeds along the El Camino Real. It is pretty but it is not a native. It is a grain weed from the Old World.

The last photo for today is of a Wild Radish (Raphanus sativus). The Wild Radish is the common garden variety naturalized from Europe and gone back to the wild. The root is edible, but gets tough and inedible after the plant flowers. Jeff pulled up one plant for me to see the root, but I am not sure I want to taste it.


  1. This looks like a good landscape painting. I love the composition and the subtle colors.

  2. The long blades of grass is amazing - MMK