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January 11, 2019

Dear Skyliners,


Happy New Year - on two counts.  One is by the calendar and the other is by nature, which in California begins with the new rains and seedlings sprouting everywhere.  Even though our rains started over a month late this year (in late November), we're making up for it with the last rainy month: over 15 inches so far at Skyline.  We're now caught up with normal.  For the rest of January, we'll be out Sunday mornings at 9:30 and Thursday afternoon at 2:30, weather permitting, so please let me know if you can make it.  Rain will cancel, and in that case, we send out a "night before" email to those who have signed up.


To catch up on recent events, thanks to the many people who wrote to the EB Parks board on the Bunchgrass Trail issue; at my count, over thirty Skyliners weighed in on that.  We won a partial victory there.  The possibility of new trails in the Twin Canyons area of Sibley Park was kept in the plan, but the exact placement of the trails and who might use them (hikers, horses, bikes) was downgraded to "undetermined" pending further discussion and formation of a trail users group.  In short, public concern moved those trails from a 'definite' to a 'possibility' and that's a big step in the right direction.  This issue will likely take several years to resolve, and we're confident of a good outcome there.


Since the rains, we've been focused on two things: controlling invasive seedlings and planting out new natives.  We've been spraying vinegar on nearly every clear day and have sprayed over 200 gallons so far; purchased two new sprayers (we now have 5) and now have ten people trained to do the spraying.  After we spray, we weed by hand, and we do that when the weather's not good for spraying.


In terms of planting, we've grown over 600 new native plants from seed we collected at Skyline, to keep the local genetics pure up there.  Here's a photo of some of our new plants, all grown from seed:

seedlings in Glens nursery.jpg

At the end of last August, these plants were all just little seeds in envelopes, in rows in a shoe box.  Now look at them!  Setting aside the two round pots, which have bulbs for future years, we have, from bottom left, clockwise:  Red Cobweb Thistle, Wooly Mules's Ears, Silver lupine, Poppies, California Phacelia, Fleshy Lupine, Chia, Wild Rye grass, Squirreltail grass, and Sticky Monkey.  So far we have planted out over 300 of these at Skyline, so we're right on track there.  The rest will go in over the next month.


One of the big challenges in spraying vinegar and in hand weeding is identifying all the various native and invasive plants in their seedling stage, which is not so easy.  So we'll be featuring baby seedlings in our reports so we can learn them.


Let's start with our state flower, Calilfornia Poppy.  These are quite distinctive.  Here's a three-week old California Poppy:

3 week old poppy.jpg

This one is growing in one of our nursery flats; the cell is one inch across, for reference.  In this shot, you can see two very different kinds of Poppy leaves.  The lowest leaves are the long, forked "snakes tongues", Poppy's seed leaves.  The upper leaves, or true leaves, are emerging from the center.  The true leaves of nearly all plants are usually quite different from the seed leaves, so that adds to the challenge of knowing them when they are young.  In the case of our Poppies, the forked, blue-green "snakes tongues" are quite distinctive and easy to learn.


If we follow the growth of our Poppies in the nursery, in about six weeks, the true leaves become many and the roots take the shape of the container.  Here's one of our "Poppy cubes" taken out of the nursery flat:

Poppy removed from cube.jpg

Poppy here already has a rosette of eight or more leaves and a thick set of roots.  This one is ready to plant out.  Poppy cube here is one-inch wide and 2 and 1/2 inches deep. When we plant them out, we dig a hole just deep enough for the roots, firm the soil around, and give them a shot of water.  From then on, they're basically on their own, and the vast majority do just fine.


Let's take a closer look at the roots:

Poppy roots.jpg

This shot taken under a 20x microscope.  Looking closely, we can see not only the thread-like Poppy roots, but the millions of fuzzy root hairs, like fine cotton.  These are where the real action is underground, in terms of taking in water and nutrients.  If Poppy here was not confined to a nursery flat, these roots and root hairs would already be close to a foot deep in the soil.


Now, lets' go above ground again and take a peek into the center of Poppy's leaf rosette, where new leaves are forming:

Poppy leaf rosettes under scope.jpg

Here again, under the scope, we can see a new leaf unfolding.  Look at the new leaf with the little ink tips.  Honestly, what could be more precious?


Rain; new life emerging; hope arising.


Happy Trails,



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