Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chovendo na Roseira

We had a cold snap earlier in the week. Low was around 37 degrees on Tuesday, 4/20, along with a fair amount of rain (just over an inch, according to our rain gauge). Rather unusual for this time of year in SoCal, but just right for a lovely rainbow.

4/20/10 View of rainbow from outside the kitchen door. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Treks on the Santa Rosa Plateau: Vernal Pool Trail to Historic Adobes

Our destination today was the historic Adobes on the Santa Rosa Plateau via the Vernal Pool Trail, and rounding back on Ranch Road to the Trans Preserve Trail.

Weather was perfect: 70s, hazy, and mildly breezy. The grasses are in good form, especially the Purple Needlegrass, with their lovely, drooping, burgundy-tinged panicles.

4/17/10 Purple Needle Grass (Stipa pulchra). Vernal Pool Trail.

4/17/10 Western Buttercups (Ranuculus occidentalis), Vernal Pool Trail.

The water level in the main vernal pool is substantially lower from just a couple weeks ago, and it's now a sea of green with what appears to be a lush growth of Spike Rushes (Eleocharis acicularis)? 

There's also been a population explosion of Two-Striped Garter Snakes in the vernal pool.
4/17/10 Two-Striped Garter Snake (Thamnophis hammondii).

4/17/10 Clover Fern (Marsilea vestita).

4/17/10 Main Vernal Pool, with a dense growth of Hooked Popcorn Flower (Plagiobothrys undulatus) along the receding edge of the water.

4/17/10 Hooked Popcorn Flower (Plagiobothrys undulatus)

4/17/10 Main Vernal Pool.

Continuing past the main vernal pool along the vernal pool trail towards the Adobes, there was an abundance of Poppies, Bush Lupines, Muillas, Owl's Clover, and a literal sea of Blue Dicks (or Wild Hyacinth, if you prefer)...

4/17/10 Bush Lupines & Poppies, Vernal Pool Trail.

4/17/10 Bush Lupine/Grape Soda Lupine (Lupinus excubitus var. hallii), Vernal Pool Trail. For some, it smells like Grape Soda.

4/17/10 Owl's Clover (Castilleja densiflora), Vernal Pool Trail.

4/17/10 Blue Dicks/Wild Hyacinth (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum), Vernal Pool Trail.

4/17/10 Muilla (Muilla maritima), Vernal Pool Trail. The common name is an anagram of "Allium" (just spell it backwards). Sorta looks like an allium, but is not. 

4/17/10 Caterpillar Phacelia (Phacelia cicutaria var. hispida), Vernal Pool Trail.

4/17/10 California Everlasting (Gnaphalium californicum), Vernal Pool Trail. These also grow on our property, and make for some really cool dried flower arrangements. 

Bush Monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiacus), Vernal Pool Trail. The colors of our Monkeyflowers on the Plateau vary from red to an almost "burnt' orange.

4/17/10 Vernal Pool Trail to Adobes.

4/17/10 Blue Dick/Wild Hyacinth (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum), Vernal Pool Trail.

4/17/10 An unusually pale, almost whitish variety of Blue Dicks (Dicholestemma capitatum ssp. capitatum), Vernal Pool Trail.

4/17/10 Purple Sanicle (Sanicula bipinnatifida), Vernal Pool Trail.

4/17/10 Checkerbloom (Sidalcea malviflora ssp. sparsiflora), Vernal Pool Trail.

The Adobes are historic landmarks. The Moreno (1846) and Machado Adobes are perhaps the oldest standing structures in Riverside County: 

"Adobes have stood the test of time" 5/13/07 North County Times 

From the Adobes, we headed back by way of Ranch Road and the Trans Preserve Trail. 

4/17/10 Trans Preserve Trail.

4/17/10 Trans Preserve Trail.

4/17/10 Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum), Trans Preserve Trail.

4/17/10 Sticky Cinquefoil (Potentilla glandulosa ssp. glandulosa), Trans Preserve Trail.

4/17/10 South Coast Morning Glory (Calystegia macrostegia), Trans Preserve Trail.

4/17/10 Common Bedstraw (Galium aparine), Trans Preserve Trail.

4/17/10 Tarantula (Aphonopelmus reversum), Trans Preserve Trail.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

First Rattlesnake of the Season

Late afternoon today, around 5:30pm, Gilbert found a rattlesnake next to a clump of deer grass along the driveway. It was a baby, about a foot in length, and appeared to be a Southern Pacific Rattlesnake.

4/14/10 Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri).

This is the fourth rattler we've seen on the property since we moved here in 2006. Two of the previous others were also baby Southern Pacifics, and another was a 4 ft. long Red Diamondback which I found basking in my herb garden last summer.

As a kid in Taiwan, I used to be absolutely terrified of snakes. Not too surprising since the island was home to a number of venomous species whose very names conjure up images of Dante's Inferno gone wild, such as Taiwan Banded Krait, Green Bamboo Viper, Red-Ringed Coral Snake, Pointed Scaled Pit Viper, Russell's Pit Viper, Rice-Spoon Head/Taiwan Cobra, and the Hundred Pacer (an especially poisonous pit viper which you would supposedly not survive, once bitten, past a hundred paces).

Also feeding my fear was the fact that my sister and I used to cut through a dense bamboo grove near our house (hello...where does the Green Bamboo Viper live?) and that my grandmother, when she was a young woman living in the rural mountainous region of Northern Taiwan, had actually been bitten by a venomous snake. By her own account, it was excruciatingly painful and took over a year for the wound to fully heal. She has long since passed, bless her heart, but to this day I still remember the permanent deep scar around her ankle where she had been bitten. 

But that was then, this is now. Here in California, venomous snake species are relatively few, and in my years of hiking the deserts and local mountains, I've rarely encountered them, and my terror has evolved into fascination and respect. Snakes are not evil, and the rattlers here have a very special role in our ecosystem by keeping the rodent population in check. 

In the end, Gilbert used a snake grabber (yes, you can actually buy these online) and got this feisty one into a bucket. We then hiked up the hill behind the house and released him into the chaparral brush. It's all good, so long as he keeps outta my herb garden!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Memento Mori, dear aphids, as in a carton or two of ladybugs...

The typical spring infestation of aphids on new plant growth this year hasn't been all that bad, but I did notice several concentrations of these sap-sucking, thufferin' thuccotash, plant lice (pardon my French) on the hybrid tea roses, penstemons, coast sunflowers and bush mallows. So off it was to Armstrong Nursery this past Sunday to get a couple coveted cartons of live ladybugs to pick off these nasty freeloaders from their 24-7 feast fest.


It was cool and overcast that afternoon, perfect weather to release the ladies, and so I did. And, as always, they went right to work on the offending faction. I've been using ladybugs every spring for the past several years as a biological control and they've always, without fail, kept the aphid population in check. 

Speaking of bio controls, I've got to give a plug here to Rosie's blog over at Leaves 'n Bloom, because she has a great post called "Biodiversity and Lacewings in the Garden" . It's really fun and informative, and takes on the clever guise of an ad campaign for a new Five Star luxe "Lacewing Hotel." You go, girl!

The California natives are continuing to bloom in the garden, and I snapped these shots before the wind really kicked up in the afternoon. We did get over an inch of rain from last night's rainstorm, which will undoubtedly help to prolong our wildflower season. 

4/11/10 Blue Flax (Linum lewisii). Native to dry slopes and ridges throughout California. I've seen these in the Eastern Sierras (Virginia Lakes in the Toiyabe National Forest) and in Modoc County (County Rd. 73 to Big Sage Reservoir in the Devil's Garden Natural Area). In full bloom, they are a real sight to behold with their multitude of sky-blue flowers along wispy, arching wands. Available from Las Pilitas Nursery and Annie's Annuals. 

4/11/10 Prickly Phlox (Leptodactylon californicum). 

4/11/10 'San Gabriel' Fremontia.

4/11/10 Ruby Chalice Clarkia (Clarkia rubicunda blasdalei).

4/11/10 'Shamini' Clarkia (Clarkia rubicunda).

4/11/10 'Blue Springs' Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus).

4/11/10 'Margarita BOP' Penstemon (P. heterophyllus x P. laetus). An indispensable selection from Las Pilitas Nursery.

4/11/10 Eaton's Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii). The vibrant scarlet flowers of this drought tolerant penstemon bloom on spikes up to 3 feet in height. Native to the foothills and mid-elevations of the San Bernardino and desert mountains.

4/11/10 Desert Four O'Clock (Mirabilis bigelovii). Native to the E. Colorado & Mojave deserts. This plant is about 2 years old and, surprisingly, thriving in my "wanna be" desert garden. From an 8" tall sproutling in a 1-gallon container, it's now grown to about 2' x 4'. 

4/11/10 Salvia "Celestial Blue" (Las Pilitas Sage). According to Las Pilitas Nursery, "a hybrid between Salvia clevelandii x S. pachyphylla, or a 3 way hybrid with 'Pozo Blue.'" Either way, a stunning blue-flowered sage. 

4/11/10 Douglas' Meadow Foam (Limnanthes douglasii).

Fivespot (Nemophila maculata). Native annual, endemic to California.

4/11/10 Sticky Cinquefoil (Potentilla glandulosa). Common in many habitats throughout the California Floristic Province. I've seen them streamside in montane areas (San Jacintos, Cuyamacas, Eastern Sierras) and under the shade of oaks on the Santa Rosa Plateau.

4/11/10 Goldfields (Lasthenia californica).

'Shasta Sulphur' Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum). 

And last but not least are the scarlet-bloomed monkey flowers that are native to our site. You can also see a gazillion of these blooming right now off Clinton Keith Road just past the Bear Creek Fire Station as you drive up to the Plateau. 

4/11/10 Bush Monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiacus)