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.
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]
Saturday, April 19. 2008
Rick Halsey of the California Chaparral Institute talked to residents of Del Dios today about wildfire, wildflowers, and the future of the chaparral in our area. Then he led a walk through part of the San Dieguito River Park to illustrate his words. Here's a photo that Janet took of the talk:
As you can see, they do these things nicely in Del Dios, with music, a potluck, organized by Michelle DePriest. The walk took about 35 to 40 participants of all ages through a part of the park that is closed to the general public, and many interesting plants and insects were found including a nice stand of Phacelia grandiflora - the latest act in nature's big wildflower show this year.
Rick will be doing another presentation and wildflower walk at the Elfin Forest Garden Festival on April 26th, 2008. Read about it here and reserve your tickets.
Tuesday, April 15. 2008
I was riding my bike, the other day and I had stopped to listen to the birds in a riparian zone when I detected motion near my feet. I looked down and saw a whole bunch of these ladybug larvae:
I didn't have my camera with me, so that photo is from Bugguide.net, an excellent site for identifying insects.
There were a lot of these larvae crawling around and attaching themselves to a whole crop of small, 4" tall plants alongside the road. When I got home I looked them up and found that they are Seven spotted lady beetle larvae, unfortunately non-native.
Today I was riding there again and stopped to look. They had all attached themselves and some had finished pupating (is that the right term) into adults, but most were still in the process. I didn't have my camera today, either, so I snipped off a piece of plant with the pupa on it and brought it home with me. Here's a closeup:
You can click that picture to see a larger version.
After I had taken some photos and put the plant outside I got to looking at them and finally noticed the plant that they are on. Look at those tiny flowers. What in the world are they? Here's a photo that shows a bit more of the plant:
I had snipped off the top half of a plant, but the bottom is mostly stalk with one or two branches similar to these. Oh, and you can see the remains of another SSLB that has already finished pupating.
So what you thought was a posting about a non-native insect has turned out to be another plant ID question. If anyone knows what this plant is, could you let me know? Thanks.
[Susan M. ID's this as a Spergularia, but exact species unknown. Thanks Susan!]
Wednesday, April 9. 2008
A couple of weeks ago I was riding my bike and looking at all of the masses of native wildflowers growing out there and I got to wondering how the all come to be pollinated. There are a couple of ways it could happen. The pollen could spread by wind or it could be transferred around by animals (usually insects, but also bats and hummingbirds).
If spread by the wind, I reasoned that the flowers would have to produce a lot of pollen and that it would be easily dislodged, so I got off of my bike, held my hand behind a flower and blew on it. No pollen came off. Then I rapped the base of it with my finger and no pollen came off. So I reasoned that it must require the assistance of a pollinator and started looking around for one. I didn't have to look far before I noticed a whole lot of what I had just assumed were some sort of little "hoverflies". Upon looking closer I began to wonder if they were actually flies or bees. Since then I've looked at quite a few of them and found that we have a wonderful array of tiny insect pollinators. Honeybees are not native to North America, but there are many other kinds of wild bees and they are out there right now, today. Go take a look.
Meanwhile, here's a sampling for your enjoyment. One of these days I'll have to start learning more about pollinators. Without them we wouldn't have these wonderful shows of wildflowers after the rains.
This first one seems to be the most common kind:
Look! Here he is again:
This one is similar but different. Look him poking his proboscus down into a tiny nectar-pot of a flower.
Here's another one and you can see his/her proboscus, too. What a treat: I learned what a "proboscus" is while playing Cootie when I was a little kid, but I rarely get to use the word. Today I got to use it twice.
If you click that last picture you can see a larger image. Take a look at the flower this bee is standing on. If you look closely you can see that it is really a massive cluster of little flowers, each with petals, stamens, pistils, and a dab of nectar at the bottom to pay off the pollinator. Beauty is nice, but bribery gets things done. You can also see that they open in a progression from the outside towards the center. I guess that is probably an insurance policy so a day or two of bad weather can't occur on "pollination day" and ruin their chance to reproduce. There are probably other reasons as well. Nature is wonderfully complex.
Wednesday, April 9. 2008
Janet found this Phacelia grandiflora on one of her walks in the San Dieguito River Park, so she sent me out to photograph it. First, the whole plant:
Here's a view of just the flowerhead:
Did you see that beetley-looking insect on one of the flowers? Here's a couple of photos showing them in close-up:
And even closer...
So does anyone know what kind of insects these are and if they have some special relationship with this species of plant or if they just happen to be there by chance? Are they pollinators? (More on pollinators in my next posting.) You can email me or answer by clicking the "comments" link at the beginning of this posting.
***Phillip Roullard thinks it's a blister beetle. I Googled it and I think he's right. I don't know if they are "good" or "bad", and Wikipedia says there are over 2500 species of blister beetles world wide, so I suppose there is still more to learn. And more interesting news: the "blister" in "blister beetles" is a toxin called cantharidin which will cause your skin to blister if you touch these beetles, but will kill you if you eat one. I know they look tasty, but don't say I didn't warn you!
Monday, March 3. 2008
I know the wildflower displays are really marvelous right now, but here's a surprising scene. I photographed this burned-over hillside across the canyon from the Lake Hodges Dam viewing turnout along the Del Dios Hwy. (Click the picture to see a larger version.)
What's interesting about it is all those splotchy-looking green areas. They are wild cucumber, Marah macrocarpus, also called manroot. Their root can be very old and gigantic, weighing hundreds of pounds. In the spring they put out crawling, climbing vines which become covered with flowers and which provide the starches to help the root grow. The fruit is covered in spines. After the fruit ripens, the vine dies and the root waits deep down in the ground for next spring to roll around again. The vines in the photo are such a pale green because they are really covered with white flowers. Here's a photo of one that was just starting to bloom in our yard a couple of weeks ago:
Saturday, March 1. 2008
I took a camera on my bike ride on 2-26-08 and here is what I saw. It's my old, 1999 digital point and shoot camera, so please accept my apologies for the image quality. It doesn't do so well in really bright sunlight.
First the Good. And please remember that you are always welcome to correct me if I get something wrong! Unfortunately, you will notice that even when there is something "good" in the photo there always seems to be some filaree in the background.
(Note, captions are above the photos.)
Check out this Canada Goose. He was just standing out in the middle of nowhere, not near any water or corn fields or anything. Weird.
Here's an interesting thing. During the rains, the trails sometimes become very wet and muddy. Then after things start to dry out all of these red ant colonies start digging out through the firm mud. Their nests must somehow form bubbles underground or something. A lot of these are dead ones that have been removed, but the colonies always seem to survive, somehow.
A portion of the San Dieguito River is backed up here, forming a temporary marsh. The willows are charred, but the reeds seem happy to be getting more sun. They dance constantly in the current of the river. Here you can see an egret (flying away from me.)
Here went a raccoon, at the edge of the above pictured marsh.
One more print, then I'll stop. This was a deer. I see a lot of coyote prints and a lot of deer prints. I guess the deer must be smarter than they seem.
A nice view.
Here are some tiny white flowers. My camera really doesn't do them justice, but if you recognize them, please let me know what they are. You can click the picture to see a larger one.
Some Sun Cups, Camissonia bisorta.
There are a lot of these plants out there. They are about a foot high and have little tiny yellow flowers on them. Cindy B. tells me they are Amsinkia, or Fiddleneck.
Every now and then you see one that looks similar, but is three feet tall. It's the plant ID game again!
Here's a pretty hillside.
Look at these toad flax. (Thanks Janet and Cindy B.) Man, I wish I could show you a better picture. I gotta get out there with my good camera. Unfortunately, it is too awkward for bicycling and my feet are too bad to walk very far. We'll see.
This one looks big in the picture, but in fact that yellow flower is only about 1/4 inch or so across. It's Camissonia Californica.
Here is a Dudleya that looks like it was rabbit food for a while right after the fires.
That was the good (and some unknown - I am an optimist). Now for the Bad.
Yes, there is a lot of mustard out there.
There is a lot of filaree out there.
There is a lot of wild radish out there.
Are these African daisies? (This is really two pictures stuck together.) Yes, they are. Confirmed by Connie Beck. Thanks!
There are patches of this Yellow Oxalis along the river. It is very invasive. Thanks again to Connie Beck for the ID.
I'm told that it is also called Sour Clover, Sour Grass and Bermuda Buttercup. Here's a closer look.
Then there's the Ugly. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder. Here you can see that the fire burned through the river bottom, charring most of the willows. Then the floods raged through here, re-arranging the banks and channels, and leaving a thick coat of mud. It's messy, but I think this will grow back and be very nice again. (You can click the image to see it bigger.)
Some people just have to make things uglier. I discovered this morning (3-1) that these motorcyclists also have been drinking, building campfires, throwing trash around, and shooting off a .45ACP pistol. Unfortunately, it is a regular occurance for this group. This part of the park will probably be closed until they catch these guys.
Besides, the trail is washed out, anyway. There's a lot of recovery to do and no money to do it with. Anyone want to volunteer to help?
That's all for now. If you made it this far, you are way too bored. Get out and see some wildflowers!
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