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June 15, 2018

Dear Skyliners,


Over the last week we were out on Sunday and Wednesday, and Monday, too, a couple of us for extra credit.  We've been doing second pass mop-up on thistles in the long slope above the trail between Nine Grass Bend and Diablo Bend.  We been going through the areas we've already cut once, looking for thistles that may have re-sprouted, been missed, or been buried alive in the first pass.  And, we've started to hit our old nemesis, Scattergrass (Erharta erecta), in the Bay Grove.  We've got some seedlings there who have been hiding out, and are now sending up flower stalks.  Up and at 'em!!


And, we had a lovely evening field trip with the SPANNERS, the creek group for San Pablo Creek.  All of Skyline Gardens is in the upper part of the San Pablo Creek watershed, which drains down through Orinda and then north through San Pablo Reservoir to the Bay in north Richmond.  Welcome SPANNERS.


We'll be out again Sunday at 9:30 and next Wednesday afternoon at 3pm.  Please let me know if you can make it.  Also, if you have  time in between, let me know and maybe we'll do an extra unit. 


As the land dries out and the grass turns brown, we may think that the wildflowers are done.  That's sure not the case at Skyline, where June is one of the best months for many kinds of them.


The native Cobweb Thistle (Cirsium occidentale) is one of the great beauties of the drying time.  Here's the patch at Thistle Corner:

This is looking west.  Two years ago, there was just one of them here.  They are biennials, which means that they grow a rosette of leaves the first year, and flower and seed the second year.  With some good seeding, some careful weeding, and two trips around the sun, look what we've got.  (Thanks to Bill Helsel for this shot and the next).


And the Soap Root (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) - it's a big year for them.  Our Stars of Twilight are just blooming off the charts this year:

Look, hundreds of them.  Each flowers opened around 5pm and will last only till midnight, when they melt like a Morning Glory.  The following day, the next flower opens.  Flowers that bloom in the evening are called 'vespertine' (vespers are evening prayers).  This grove is just below Barberry Peak in a spot we call the Apron.  Early this year, this area was a nasty mess of Italian thistles and weedy grasses.  We had no idea what was buried underneath.  


When Soap Root flowers, they send up asparagus-like stalks.  As these stalks rose this year, we were happy to see that the deer weren't browsing them, as they often do.  In this spot, they never did.


Each of these stems is about five feet high, and to walk through a thicket of them in twilight is pure, sublime, California.  Times like that just feed the soul.  John Muir said it best, "We need beauty as well as bread."


Other creatures are fed in their own way, and top of the list are the Yellow-faced Bumblebees (Bombus vosnesenskii). 

Here's one up close:

They fly from flower to flower, through the twilight, scores of them, gathering pollen and nectar.  


Oh, those lucky bees!


Happy Trails,



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