Friday, February 8. 2008
Janet and I took a little walk around the 1+ acre of chaparral that makes up our back yard today. Well, she walked, I crawled. I brought the camera along and here are a few photos. I'll post more in a bit.
I am kind of partial to mushrooms, so I'll start with one of them. It has been a nice, moist, winter and the mushrooms seem quite happy about that. Unfortunately the sun was bright today which is good for the spirit, but not for the photos.
Here (below) is a wider angle showing its environment. I know many people think of chaparral as "brush", but look closely. Notice the healthy moss and other little seedlings popping up? There is richness here if you just look.
Another little brown mushroom. (Below)
Do you know what mushrooms are? A mushroom is the fruiting body of a fungus. Those gills you see underneath the cap are lined with spores which will fall out when they are mature. Most fungi consist of webs of fillaments called micorrhyzae. Some of the largest living organisms in the world are mycorhyzzal fungi. Fungi do not have chlorophyl and so cannot make direct use of the energy of the sun. They must somehow derive their energy from plants - just as we animals do. Many fungi form a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship with certain plants. The enormous web of mycorrhyzae spreads through the soil, collecting water and nutrients which it then trades to its host plant for energy-containing carbohydrates. Other fungi live in dead plants, breaking them down to extract the carbohydrates stored within. If you see a mushroom, don't stomp on it. It is trying to help make your world a better place.
The lichens are all hydrated and flourishing. Here's a big one, but if you look close the rock is covered with them.
Now here is something interesting. Much of our soil is topped with a natural crust. It just looks like dirt, but according to Rick Halsey, a chaparral biologist and director of the California Chaparral Institute, it takes from 50-200 years to form such a crust. (I really need to learn how to photograph the crust. I know it's hard to make out in this photo.)
Next we see a lichen growing as part of the crust - no rock underneath it at all! Unfortunately, you can also see that the rain has really hammered this bit of crust. We had to thin some of our chaparral because of an abatement notice that we received in 2006, so there is no vegetative crown above this to break the fall of the raindrops.
Crawling over the drainfield for our septic system you see what happens in a disrupted area. No nice crust. No soft moss. Mostly just these pesky filaree plants. Oh! Look there ... more mushrooms! The entire drainfield was covered in them.
Here is a clump of tiny sprouts that I found near our driveway. I don't know what they are, but it seems unlikely that they are natives.
If you saw anything here that you care to ID, go for it! Mushrooms and seedlings are both quite challenging.
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