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January 14, 2018

Dear Skyliners,

 

Last week, we were out in good weather weeding and planting.  On Sunday, we had another good group and we weeded and planted along First Outcrop Ridge (just beyond the thinned Eucalyptus grove).  Welcome to Steve.

 

So far, we've planted nearly 200 new native plant starts.  In terms of our schedule this year for planting and weeding, we're right on target, as we dodge around these welcome rains. 

 

We'll be out regular days this week: Wednesday at 2 and Sunday at 9:30.  The weather looks dicey for Sunday, so we may switch to Saturday afternoon instead.  Please let me know if you can make it, and if Saturday afternoon would work as a back-up plan. 

 

Last Sunday, we encountered epic fog; thick valley fog was blowing across the ridge from the Diablo Valley.   Here's a shot as we climbed up through the Eucalyptus grove:

We felt like pilgrims, climbing the heights in a mystical land. (thanks to Max for this photo)

 

In our weeding now, we're coming across a number of annual seedlings, so here's several pictures to help us learn them.  All three of these guys have fuzzy leaves, so at first glance, they might be easy to confuse.

 

Here's Popcorn Flower (Plagiobothrys nothofulvus):

Popcorn flower forms rosettes of pointed leaves.  With the right light, the hairs at the edge of the leaves are rust colored.  In flower, these look like tiny, white Forget-me-nots.  They grow on rocky ridges, and are profuse at Diablo Bend, near the new bench.

 

Next we have Fiddlenecks (Amsinkia menziesii):  

These also grow as rosettes with fuzzy leaves, but the leaves are long and rounded at the tips.  Fiddlenecks are plants of meadows and hillsides.  They are orange when then bloom, and the flowering stalk is curved at the tip, like the end of a fiddle.  Incidentally, both Fiddlnecks and Popcorn flower are in the same Borage plant family, so the similarity is based on a close relationship.

 

Here's our third seedling, one of the Tarweeds.  This is Slender Tarweed (Madia gracillis):

This one also has fuzzy leaves, too, but the leaves grow in a cross-pattern (at right angles), so the shape is very distinctive.  When in flower, these bear small, yellow daisies on slender stalks a foot or two high.  The foliage has a lovely, lemon-scented musk.  (Thanks to Josh for all three seeding photos.)

 

Besides seedlings, we also found the first stirrings of the buds of our big perennials.  Here's the buds of Grey Mule's Ears (Wyethia helenoides), just beginning to wake up:

If all goes well, these will be in glorious full bloom by April 1.  Each bud contains all the leaves and flowers that will emerge on that stalk in the coming months.  (Thanks to Max for this shot.)

 

Just like fruit trees, who form their new leaves and flowers in "last year's" buds in the summer, the big perennials do the same. As weather warms in the spring, the buds unfold and we see what they were doing last summer, when the leaves looked dead and brown.  If you were able to look inside these buds, you would see the future.

 

Of course, these are wild plants in wild lands, so anything can happen.  Last year as the first shoots on this very plant were rising up, we came out one morning to find the tips all browsed off.  It could have been a deer, or a rabbit, but no matter who did it, "Bye-bye flowers,"  but "Hello tasty bite."  

 

As to this year, we shall see.

 

Happy Trails,

 

Glen