Tuesday, April 29, 2014

This is California in a Crappy Wildflower Year...

I don't know if I've shared this here yet, but this is my last year (for a while) in San Diego. In August, I'm moving back to Madison, WI to attend grad school at UW. So that means that I've gotta make this wildflower season count since I won't have another chance any year soon.

It doesn't help that we're in a historic drought. I was honestly so bummed I felt like Christmas had been canceled. But honestly, the wildflowers, well, you can see for yourself...

All I have to say is: THIS is why I love living in California. One of the many reasons, anyway.

I decided to go to an area in Mission Trails (a large park within San Diego) called Shepherd's Pond because it burned last year. I was in another part of the park when the wildfire broke out. It was Father's Day. We had ash raining down on us and we were inhaling smoke. Then a ranger on a loudspeaker told us to evacuate. In the end, the fire was contained rather quickly and most of the park did not burn. But some of it did... and that's a potentially great thing for this year's flowers.

A month later, I visited the burnt area:

Recent Burn

Today I sat out a 10 mile hike I was really looking forward to because I'm having major problems with my feet (tendinitis? plantar fascitis?) and they need to rest and heal. So I decided to console myself by going back to the burned area to see what was blooming. There are some flowers that only bloom after fires, and I was hoping some of them would be around (I don't think they were).

I began by seeing some lemonadeberry starting to bloom:

Lemonadeberry, flowering
Rhus integrifolia. Yes, the fruits are edible, and yes, they taste like pink lemonade.

And some locoweed:

Locoweed
Very much not edible.

Locoweed
Locoweed again

Toyon, a.k.a. Christmas Berry, a.k.a. Hollywood does not bloom now. It produces fruit around Christmas and flowers shortly before that.

Toyon

Another common plant is Laurel Sumac. It blooms much later in the year too. But I've got new affection for this plant because I just read that it can be used as a mosquito repellant. Not that we've got too many mosquitoes (another reason I love California).

Laurel Sumac
Laurel Sumac

At last, I began running into my wildflowers:

Parish Nightshade
Parish Nightshade

Parish Nightshade
Parish Nightshade

One of my favorites, Encelia californica, really isn't doing to well right now. At least not in this location. I've seen some healthy ones along the highways.

Encelia californica
Encelia californica.

San Diego Sunflower's not my favorite flower by far, but I'm really happy with this photo of it:

San Diego Sunflower

I've seen some really sad looking white sage plants, like the one in the foreground here, and they worried me a lot about the impact this drought is having, but there are many more very healthy looking white sages around, like the one in the back of this photo.

Sad White Sage in front of Happy White Sage

The closest thing I got to a real wildlife sighting:

Coffee, anyone?
Deer poop

Monkeyflower. An oldie but goody.

Monkeyflower

Monkeyflower

Monkeyflower

There was still wild cucumber vines in various stages of growth all over:

Wild Cucumber Vine

Wild Cucumber flower:

Wild Cucumber

Wild cucumber fruit:

Wild Cucumber

Wild Cucumber

I ran into one of my absolute favorites, Wild Pea:

Wild Pea

Wild Pea

Wild Pea

Some Felt-Leaf Yerba Santa:

Felt-Leaf Yerba Santa

Felt-Leaf Yerba Santa

A blue dick (which is both gorgeous and has an edible corm):

Blue Dick

Wild peas were all over. You can see them growing on this Laurel Sumac:

Wild Peas Growing on Laurel Sumac

There was a large area of Wishbone Bush:

Wishbone Bush

Wishbone Bush

Wishbone Bush

Some blue-eyed grass:

Blue Eyed Grass

Blue Eyed Grass

If you look closely, you can see that a bee photobombed this next shot:

Bee Photobomb

At last I reached the area that burned last year. Here's how it looks now:

Burned Area

An awful lot of our perennials are "crown sprouters." That means that they have evolved for the entire above ground part of the plant to burn and die in a wildfire, but the below-ground part stays alive and resprouts after the burn.

Regrowth in Burned Area
Regrowth in the burnt area

Despite my high hopes for spectacular wildflowers in this burned area, they were no better or worse than the flowers elsewhere.

More Parish nightshade:

Parish Nightshade

Dodder, a parasite in the morning glory family has attacked this Laurel Sumac with a vengeance. You can see dead branches from where the Laurel Sumac burned, plus new Laurel Sumac growth, plus the orange stuff, which is the dodder.

Sad Laurel Sumac, Happy Dodder

Sad Laurel Sumac, Happy Dodder

Another look at dodder on laurel sumac:

Laurel Sumac with Dodder

I thought I made a really great find, with this flower, but it turns out it's not even a native. It's a Scarlet Pimpernel.

Scarlet Pimpernel

Still more Parish Nightshade:

Parish Nightshade

A California Poppy:

California Poppy

Artemisia california appears to be a crown sprouter. You can really see it here. There was a pretty small plant that burnt, and a lot of healthy growth coming back.

Crown Sprouting Artemisia californica

Not the most attractive Morning Glory ever:

Morning Glory

I'd heard that Lemonade Berry does not burn and I wasn't sure whether to believe it. Well, here's the proof. A lemonadeberry that clearly was in the wildfire and stayed alive. A lot of foliage did burn, but it's still alive and growing.

Lemonadeberry that did not burn

Lemonadeberry that did not burn
New growth on the lemonadeberry that burned.

Rattlesnake spurge:

Rattlesnake Spurge

Chaparral bushmallow, with bugs:

Mallow

Mallow

You can still see the charred bits of grass next to the new growth:

Burnt Grass with New Growth

At long last, I reached Shepherd's Pond.

Shepherd's Pond

A patch of yellow sweetclover with some other flowers hidden among them:

Yellow Sweetclover and other flowers

Mint-Leaf Vervain, in the Verbena family:

Wildflower

Closeup:

Wildflower

Yellow Pincushion:

Yellow Pincushion

An early blooming black sage:

Early Blooming Black Sage

Another favorite, Parry Phacelia:

Parry Phacelia

Parry Phacelia

Douglas Nightshade:
Douglas Nightshade

All in all, I had a great day. If this is a crappy wildflower year, I wish I could be here for a good one.

A view of the park and the trail:

Mission Trails

Mission Trails

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