Monday, June 9, 2008

Another Walk, Different Canyon

I have found a new canyon to walk on Palos Verdes, the George F Canyon. It's another preserve managed by the Palos Verdes Land Conservancy. I can't believe that yesterday was the first time I explored this canyon. Like the Lunada Canyon, there is only one trail about three-quarters of a mile long. This one goes up the hill and then you turn around and go back down. Somehow that is easier to do than the other way round. Like at Lunada there is a creek running through the middle of the canyon, but this one had quite a bit of water in it still. Lunada Canyon is on the south side of the peninsula and has a lovely view of the ocean as you have seen from my photos. The George F is on the lee side of the peninsula and the view from the top, when you get there, is of the Los Angeles Harbor to the east and more canyon to the west.

I heard about this canyon from a friend who has shared her extensive research into the plants of the Palos Verdes Peninsula with me. She had just come back from a hike up this canyon last week when I met with her and after she showed me her photos taken that morning, I decided that I just had to see this canyon for myself. In particular, I wanted to find the wild Southern Honeysuckle that she said grew there.

I found the honeysuckle quite by accident. As I hiked up the trail, I was taking photos right and left, there were so many interesting plants to see. I took a couple of pictures of what I thought was the honeysuckle along the way up. On the way down, I took two photos of this plant but couldn't find the other one again. Turns out, this is the honeysuckle and I still haven't figured out what the other one is. I'll have to get more photos when the buds open up.

Many of the plants were the same ones we have seen at Lunada, so I will only show photos of the interesting new plants that I found. Up top is the lovely, and huge, Matilija Poppy. This plant was obviously one that was planted by the conservancy. I might mention that the George F Canyon has an irrigation system in place, although I don't know how often they use it. One whole hillside was covered with new plantings. While these were all California natives, and probably native to Palos Verdes, it makes it difficult to tell which plants are truly growing wild. The other photos I will show you were taken further up the trail where the chances are greater they got there by themselves.

One patch had several of these Heart-leaved Penstemons. It was growing as a shrub although it can be a climber and is also known as wild honeysuckle. It is native to California and much of the South and Southwest and can be found as far north as Oregon.

This white, lacy plant may be Poison Hemlock, the stuff they used to kill Socrates. If it is, it will have purple spots on the stems. Unfortunately, I didn't get much of the stem in my photo. I'll have to go back for a second look. Poison Hemlock is known to grow on PV.

Next comes Snowberry or Symphoricarpos mollis. The frosty-looking berries will turn pure white by fall. This is another member of the honeysuckle family.

I found this one lone Clarkia, Clarkia purpurea. It is also known as Farewell to Spring, which may be why I only found one.

I thought this wild pea plant was very striking and was disappointed to learn that it is not a native. It is from southern Europe and is considered invasive. I only found two plants. It is called Everlasting Pea or Lathyrus latifolia. There is a species of Everlasting Pea that is native to California and Baja California, Lathyrus splendens or the Pride of California. It is an endangered species in Baja but is stable in our state where it has been known to hybridize with latifolia. Hmm...

And last but not least, the canyon was full of Toyon, California Holly, Heteromeles arbutifolia, the bush that some say gave Hollywood its name. Right now the bushes are covered with blooms, by fall they will be covered with berries. There were several very tall plants in the canyon which suggests they have been there a long time.

Addendum - July 20, 2008

It has been brought to my attention that the last photo is not Toyon, but Mexican Elderberry, Sambucus mexicana. Both plants grow in the George F Canyon and both were in bloom at the time of my walk. By now both probably have berries which would make identification much easier. The Toyon will have green berries which turn red in the fall, and the elderberry has beautiful frosty blue-gray berries. I have recently seen both of these plants with berries at Oak Canyon, so I am learning to tell them apart.

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