Monday, February 25. 2008
We have been encouraging some live oaks to grow up in our front yard. When they get large enough to make some shade we will remove the eucalyptus that is there now. These oaks belong to this area and are relatively very fire resistant, the eucalyptus are non-native and more likely to burn. We trimmed the eucalyptus radically last fall because one of the oaks was shrinking away from it. That side of that oak is now budding out like crazy. Here's the tip of one branch:
(You can see subsequent photo of this branch above in the blog or click here.)
Saturday, February 9. 2008
wildbird in Plant Inventory
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Continuing from yesterday, not all of my photos required the kneepads. Janet is the plant IDer here at our house and she is out weeding right now, so if I get any wrong, don't be shy about telling me!
Here is the first bloom of California buckwheat at our house.
I think this next one is California Sagebrush. There is quite a bit of it growing on our land. It is an important ingredient in California gnatcatcher habitat. The gnatcatcher maps show their habitat extending right up to our property line, but left us out. Who can fathom the mind of the bureaucrat? Anyway, we are trying to encourage these shrubs in the hope that they may provide cover for some of the gnatcatchers that were displaced by the fires last October. (Just click this picture if you want to see a bigger one.)
We don't know what the following plant is. It is low growing. This photo covers a width of a couple of feet. Maybe we'll catch it when it blooms and ID it that way. If you recognize it, please let me know. [We have a suggestion of Mirabilis laevis - Wishbone - for this one, and another suggestion of Mirabilis californica. Janet has been thinking Mirabilis, too. Maybe we'll know for sure when they bloom.]
I am kind of embarrassed about this next photo. Janet says the plant is Deer weed. But you might have a hard time realizing it from this photo. It's almost as hard to see in real life. That's the thing about this chaparral: it is all intertwined. It's difficult to go through and even difficult to see as individual plants. I will have to put some work into learning how to photograph it.
Janet has spotted a weed and pounced. Notice she wears a long-sleeved denim shirt, even though it was a hot day? The chaparral will get you if you let your guard down!
Janet thinks these next plants are Pincushion, but she isn't sure. They're still pretty small, but growing rapidly. These were in the shade, as were most, but not all, of them. (The bright spot is a bit of sun shining through the Laurel sumac canopy.) If you click the photo you can see a bigger image. [Eucrypta chrysanthemifolia - Common Eucrypta - has been suggested. Janet researched that and agrees that it is very possible, but we'll wait until it blooms to be sure.]
Here you'll see some of the possible Pincushions along with what looks like some more of the Phacelia campanularia that we ID'd here on the blog last year.
We have found three or four Wood rat nests on the property. This is one of them. I suppose this pile of dry twigs is a fire hazard, but we can't bring ourselves to put the rats out of a home. (Nor do we wish to drive them into ours.)
The Indian cucumber is blooming...
And finally, another reason not to clear the chaparral. This is our neighbor's lot - this is the land next to us which is included on the California gnatcatcher habitat map. They cleared it and now it is a weedy, eroding mess.
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.
Thursday, April 26. 2007
I just learned that a setting was wrong and anyone who tried to post a comment was receiving an error message. That is supposedly fixed now, so please give it another try.
And not wanting to miss this opportunity, would anyone like to try and ID this plant?
It is about 24" tall, overall. You can click the picture to see a larger image. Let me know if you need additional photos. Please try leaving a comment so I know that feature is working. Or email me.
Cindy Burrascano thinks it is Blue flax - Linum lewisii. I looked it up and I agree. Thank you, Cindy!
Monday, April 23. 2007
Here's another in what will probably be a long line of questions. As I've mentioned before, I want to inventory every native plant (and eradicate most non-natives) on our property. Since I am not an expert on chaparral plants I'm asking for help with my plant IDs. We did a hard one the other day and I this this one might be easier.
If anyone wishes to ID this plant, please try leaving a comment. I need to know how the comment feature works for you, so perhaps you could let me know if it was hard or easy and any problems you may have had. To enter a comment, click the comment link at the beginning of this posting. If you can't, or don't want to leave a comment, you can email me with your answer.
Sunday, April 22. 2007
I wrote a message about the blue flowers which I was asking about a few days ago (see April 19th in the archives) but it somehow got deleted. I'm still learning how to use this blog. So here was the gist of it:
Bert, from Las Pilitas native plant nursery (www.laspilitas.com) tells me they are
I was wandering around the lot on Friday and noticed that we have one that apparently grew naturally. It is quite far from where we spread the wildflower seeds and is not downwind from there. Here is a picture of it. Click the image to see it in its environment.
Friday, April 20. 2007
My little blue flower question worked out well, so let's try a little yellow flower question. Can anyone ID this flower for us and is it native/non-native? (Click it to see a larger image.)
As before, you can post your answer in a "comment" (click the appropriate link, above) or you can email me directly.
Thursday, April 19. 2007
When I started this blog I had no idea that the next six months would be even tougher on us than the previous six. Life has a way of directing your attention away from the things you want to do, doesn't it? And the fires we must fight are not always in the chaparral.
My wife and I are trying to save the chaparral that we have growing on our property, to try and keep non-natives out of it, and to try and re-introduce native plants into areas of our lot where they do not currently exist. In the process, we must be able to identify many plants which we may not recognize. Though members of the California Native Plant Society (San Diego branch) we are not native plant experts. So we need help. In the long run I hope to create an inventory of the species on our land. For the time being, we need to know what to keep and what to dig out. I have asked for help on the CNPSSD mailing list, but I hate to overuse that resource.
Until I have a fancier method developed, I will just post photos here and ask for IDs.
Here is a closer look at some of the flowers:
If you can ID this plant for us, please either post a comment to this entry, or email us directly.
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