top of page

May 8, 2018

Dear Skyliners,


OK, the garden tour was a great success -- and now it's time to get back to the knitting:


"Wild Oats and Thistles,

Come whack ‘em now.

These are the bad guys,

Who keep our natives down."


Thistle season is open, their stalks are up and the pink flag flowers are showing us just where they are.  Wild oats are doing the same. These are both ripe for the whacking.  Every seed thwarted now is one less for the next season. It's 'All Hands on Deck' time!!


Over the last two years, we have virtually eliminated the invasive thistles from the core Skyline Trail area and the slope above it.  We still have some off-trail pockets to mop up and now is the time to get them.  Come, experience the joys of stumbling through the meadows and brush with our unique, sublime and trusty "Skyline Thistlecatcher."  Long sleeves and sturdy shoes are a must.


Over the coming four weeks, with many invasives now trying to set seeds, we're in position to make major progress eradicating them for the years ahead.  If you can, get out your calendar and see if you could pin down at least one or two dates to come out and join us.  


We'll be out Wednesday, 3pm to sunset and Sunday, 9:30 to 1.  Please let me know if you can make it.


Now, on to a very exciting botanical discovery. 



We've found a small population of Fleshy Lupine, Lupinus affinis in the Skyline area.  This is very exciting because this species is believed to have disappeared (been extirpated) from the East Bay long ago.  This is not a common species anywhere, but in the early 1900's, several populations were found in the Strawberry Canyon, Grizzly Peak and Fish Ranch Road areas. 


Here's a picture of them taken April 25:

These are large flowered and showy plants, very similar to the Valley Sky Lupine (L. nanus) that covers vast expanses of interior hills and meadows.  So far neither species has been found by us in the Skyline Gardens area.  We have confirmed our ID with the help of the Jepson Herbarium and Teresa Sholars, who co-wrote the key to the Lupines in the Jepson Manual. 

These appear to have been hiding in plain sight, right along Grizzly Peak Blvd.  They caught my eye while I was driving, with the strong blue and white banner and wing look.  There are about 20 plants, some good sized there, and they're making good seeds.  The patch is on the west side of the road, on an east facing road cut, so not actually on EBMUD land, but just across the road.   At first I thought they must be the Sky Lupine, L. nanus (also uncommon in our area), but on closer inspection these plants keyed in the Jepson Manual right to L. affinis with the beak in the middle of the the keel being the clincher.


Here's a shot of the patch:

Notice how the flower whorls are distinctly separated on the stalk.  This seems also to be a distinctive feature.


Here's a close up of one flower stalk:

How's that for luscious?


Lupines, like all members of the Pea family, have a three part flower: banner, wing, and keel.  The banner is the upper part with the white center and blue tips; the wing is the blue pouch at the bottom; the keel is inside the wing, and you normally have to pull the wing down to expose the keel.


And here's a shot of the keel, from my 20X dissecting scope:

See right in the middle there's a 'tooth' there?  That's what distinguishes L. affinis from L. nanus - the tooth in the center of the keel.


For comparison, here's a similar shot of L. nanus from Calphoto (Robert Sikora):

You can see the keel, but there's no tooth in the middle.  So now we know.


We believe this could be a re-emergence of the historic Grizzly Peak population that was last documented in 1902 by early botanist JP Tracy.  Maybe they've been hiding in plain sight all this time.  A lot has changed up there.  At the turn of that century, Berkeley was a small town of 6,000 people. The Bay Hills were true wildlands.  There was no Grizzly Peak Blvd (that came in the 1930's).  Claremont Canyon - Fish Ranch Road was the only road over the hills. There were no towers, Eucs and Pines on either Grizzly Peak proper or Sibley's Round top (the fire observation tower on Grizzly Peak came in the 1920's, after 1/4 of Berkeley burned down - from the hills to Shattuck and Hearst - in the September, 1923 Diablo winds firestorm).  Big groves of Eucs have come and gone in the area. Anyway, a lot has changed in the last century, and still these lovelies persist.  Now how wonderful is that??


They're making good seeds this year and I guess we'll have to see if they'd like to use Skyline Gardens as a refuge, too, in the years to come.


Happy Trails,



bottom of page