Tuesday, June 16. 2009
Over 1600 fires are started each year by people cutting grass, weeds, and "brush". It's important to have that defensible space around your home, but please use your brains before doing the work. We do get rain here in San Diego county during the winter months. That is when you should be doing your outdoor trimming work. It's not worth a fire just to have your landscaping look perfect all summer. If you would plant drought-tolerant plants it won't grow during the summer, anyway. So trim it in the winter and then leave it alone once things dry out.
Better yet, use hand tools. How many people use power tools for their yard work and then go to the gym to "exercise"? What a farce! My wife uses hand clippers, a big pair of loppers, and a small pruning saw to trim the deadwood from plants within 100 feet of our house. They are so quiet that she can hear and enjoy the birds around her as she works.
Sunday, April 26. 2009
Here are a few more native plant inventory photos from our yard. First, here's a nice cluster of Mission Manzanita, Chamise, Black Sage, Laurel Sumac, Wild Cucumber, Mimulus, and who knows what all else...
If you poke around in the bushes you can find all kinds of interesting creatures. Like this guy:
This quail was right in front of the cluster of shrubs in that first photo:
Here's a better look at a chamise:
Here's a single branch:
Up close and personal you will find that those white flowery fronds are just jammed with little tiny flowers:
And what use would those flowers be without pollinators?
Manzanita means "little apple" in Spanish. Here are the fruit of the Mission Manzanita (Xyloccocus bicolor):
(I have back-dated this entry to the day I took these photos.)
Saturday, April 25. 2009
This evening I went out to work on our photo plant inventory. Here's what I got before the sun went down.
Last fall we bought and planted six Penstemon spectabilis around the house. Now we have discovered a volunteer at the far corner of our property. It wasn't from one of the plants that we planted, they are barely blooming right now. What a pleasant surprise!
In the background you might see some black sage. Here's a closer look at the top of one:
And right next to it there's some yarrow:
It's such a vibrant green plant with beautiful yellow flowers. The whole hillside, above is covered with blooming yarrow right now. Here's a single plant:
And a close-up of just a flower head:
You might have noticed that orange color in the background. It was evening when I took these photos so depth-of-field was shallow, plus DOF is always very shallow in close-ups. Those orange blotches are Mimulus, or Monkey flower!
Here's a red one:
Here is some pearly everlasting:
Janet tells me this one is golden bush:
The laurel sumac sure look pretty when they are putting on new growth:
I thought deerweed just had yellow flowers, but here is a branch with yellow and red both.
Whether you have an urban yard landscaped in natives or acreage you should try to keep an inventory of what you've got growing. It's fun and could help you keep track of changes over the years.
Saturday, April 11. 2009
I think it's pretty well established that the reason so many houses burn during our wildfires is that they are poorly designed and/or maintained. Here is a very well written and illustrated guide to making your home much more fire resistant than it probably already is. Please read it and follow as much of their advice as possible. It may save your home or even your life.
Saturday, March 7. 2009
Yesterday I posted some photos, but two of them turned out to be of invasive non-native weeds. In researching them I found that they are actually edible and quite healthy. So you can do nature and yourself some good if you just eat them! (But be sure you know what you are picking.)
Here is some Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) that grows in a low, damp area along the trail I ride on.
They grow in abundance in one area:
From what I've read, they are very common and often grow in masses like this. The leaves are said to be edible raw or cooked and have a mild minty flavor.
Another plant which often grows with Henbit is Chickweed (Stellaria sp., perhaps Stellaria media). And here it is:
Chickweed can be eaten raw in salads or steamed. I will try some and report back on it.
Friday, March 6. 2009
Yeah, the desert wildflowers are getting all the press, but we've got a lot of pretty flowers here in chaparral country, too. Here are some photos from a couple of recent bike rides I took in the San Dieguito River Park.
There is a low place along the trail just before you start the climb up to Raptor Ridge. Willows grow there and miner's lettuce and such. Willows are important to the Least Bell's vireo. Right after the Witch fire of 2007 the rangers went around sticking Mule Fat twigs in the ground. A couple of them took root in that same area and are starting to bloom already. I have seen a Least Bell's vireo in the area pretty regularly lately.
Here are some poppys. Are they California poppies or something else? Notice how red the stalks and leaves of the plant are:
The Perry's Phacelia are just starting to bloom. Here are some with some overexposed Sun Cups and Popcorn flowers.
So if you don't have time to drive all the way out to Anza Borrego, go poke around your own local patch of wildland and see what you can find. You might be surprised.
Friday, February 20. 2009
wildbird in Laws & Regulations
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[This note from Kay Stewart, Landscape architect and native plant activist, was posted to the CNPSSD listserv. It is reprinted with her permission. This is a terribly important issue, and not just for greenies. If your house is in the potential path of a wildfire you should be paying attention and not just trusting your government to do the right thing.]
We were talking about starting to list inconsistencies in the City of San Diego's Brush Management regulations and the fact that if you apply one, you end up with very different outcomes than if you apply the other:
Please open the Fire and Emergency Dept. Clarification FPB Policy B-08-1.
Now please open the Bulletin #1 Guide.
This means that in coastal sage scrub, or maritime succulent scrub, where most of plants are 4' or shorter, the end result will be 12" high hat racks standing in the groupings, with 6" stumps between them. I think type conversion seems likely, what do you think? Monitoring will tell; but by then three more years will have passed, and several thousand more acres gone to weed, if that is true.
So, though I didn't realize it, I had made a choice without thinking about it: I've been using the Clarification as my guide. Maybe those who wrote the regulations would say I chose the wrong one. But perhaps I chose the rule that makes the most sense. Why should taller vegetation types be left with groupings of viable plants, but shorter plant communities be guaranteed to be destroyed? Why would the policy encourage type conversion of the shrubs that could suppress highly flammable weeds which grow much taller than the native shrubs will, and which pose much more danger to homes as a result?
Maybe, also, I was trusting that Bulletin #1 reflected a City policy that really does care about the quality of the wildlands, as it says on page 2 about the concerns in creating Zone 2, that it is to be done "...without harming native plants, soil or habitats, as described on the reverse side of this Bulletin."
p.s.: I just saw the below (verbatim) on the Fire and Emergency Services website. After you read these, I wonder, does anyone else besides me wonder what is going on? Since when did Brush earn the title of "the predominant native plant community"? What does the age of a plant have to do as a measure of flammability? When was this written and who wrote it? Can we find out?
"Brush" is the predominant native plant community in the canyons of Southern California. When adjacent to homes, brush management is required to protect the the homes from wild fire. Inspections of brush-covered areas adjacent to buildings are performed on a complaint basis only.
The predominant plant community in the canyons of southern California, comprised of shrubby plants that have adapted to dry summers and moist winters.
Fire Resistant Plants
A plant that is less flammable than another containing the same amount of fuel. This can be a consequence of the live-to-dead fuels ratio, the oil and resin content of the foliage, the percent of fuel moisture, or the age of the plants
[Kay also asked that I add the following]
The City of San Diego is trying so much harder to preserve native plants than most juriscitions. Unfortunately, the regulations have contradictory instructions. I and others hope to bring these contradictions to the attention of the City, and then work with legal and other writers so clear guidelines result. I sincerely hope they will result in WUI low-fire-risk zones with more slow-growing native shrubs being left to suppress exotic fast-growing weeds.
Wednesday, February 11. 2009
I photographed some flowers on my trail ride in the San Dieguito River Park today. Here are some of them:
First, Sun Cups:
And Miner's Lettuce I found out at the West Raptor Kiosk:
Unfortunately there are nasties coming out, too, like these Filaree:
Now for a couple of ID questions. This one was growing amidst the Miner's Lettuce. -- Jean K. tells me it is a fiddlehead. Sheesh! I know fiddleheads when they are bigger, but I have problems with lots of plants when they are just getting started. Thanks, Jean!
And these little gray bumps have been along the trail since I started riding again in December. I don't know if they are dead, waiting to green up, or if this is their normal state. -- Greg R. says "I think those dead mounds may actually be Doveweed (Eremocarpus), which is a native annual. It's in the Euphorbia family, smells like xmas trees, and can produce a slight stinging sensation when touched
Here's a look inside of one (I didn't make the hole, it was already there.) I'm not here in the summer, so maybe these are something I would have recognized last spring when they were fresh. But I don't know them now.
Please let me know if you can ID these. Thanks.
Monday, February 2. 2009
Janet found two small shrubs on her trail patrol route in the San Dieguito River Park and she is hoping that someone can ID them for her. Here is a photo of one of them. Yes, it is very difficult to make out because it is growing in a tangle with some brittlebush, sagebrush, buckwheat, etc. That's how things grow in shrublands.
Here is a closer view of one of the branches. This one is better but the high, direct sunlight still makes for a harshly lit photo. I hope someone will recognize the plant from these photos because I don't think we're expecting a high overcast anytime soon. (Click the picture to see larger image.)
So if anyone can ID this plant, please let us know. Thank you.
[Note: Janet has ID'd this as Cneoridium dumosum, or Bush Rue. 2-6-09]
Sunday, January 25. 2009
As some readers may know, I recently created the Wikipedia article for Mission Manzanita - Xylococcus bicolor. Here is a blog article showing an ancient specimen. Awesome. This is what the county wants to burn in the foolish belief that it will make us safer.
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