July 3, 2018
Besides mopping up thistles and wild oats, we've been lately focusing on the dreaded Burr Chervil (Torilis). These stickery devils are also known as Sock Destroyer, Velcro Plant and you name it. I think we've all spent too much time pulling these little rascals off of our clothes and gloves.
Right now, these seeds are still well attached to their stems, so we can gather big bouquets of them without the seeds falling off. We make piles of these bouquets and then stuff the works deep in the shade of the Bays, where there's not enough light to sustain them, once it rains. In this manner, we've completely cleaned them out of the Yampah Bowl area, the lower part of the Euc grove below the tower, and pretty much the entire shoulder of the the Skyline Trail itself. This work really qualifies for combat pay - so hats off to us!
Now it's on to Scattergrass and defending our gains of the past two years the Bay Grove. Because Wednesday is the 4th of July, we'll be going out this week on Thursday at 3pm and Sunday, 9:30 am as usual. Please let me know if you can make it.
We've also been collecting seeds for next season's plantings. Poppies have been big winners this year, and we have plenty of open ground for them come the rains. So let's look more closely at Poppies and how they go about it.
We'll start with the flowers.
There's someone else in this flower, and this someone is Yellow-faced Bumblebee (Bombus vosnesenskii). These native bees are one of the main pollinators of our Poppies. They scramble around the boss of stamens in the center, gathering pollen, a rich source of protein. The bees mix pollen grains with their 'saliva' and paste these dabs on to their 'pollen baskets,' which are widened areas on their hind legs. In this shot, you can clearly see a large, orange pollen basket right there on the bee.
All this crawling moves some pollen around and some lands on the tip of the ovary organ (stigma) which will begin fertilization. Here's the beginnings of that:
Here we have the just-fertilized Poppy. The petals have just fallen off and we can see the beginnings of the seed pod. At the tip you can see an orange, curlicue part - that's the stigma with some orange pollen. Below the tiny seed pod is a pink ring. That's called the receptacle, and the large, pink receptacle is diagnostic for California Poppy.
In a couple of weeks, this tiny seed pod will grow to a long, beaked structure. Here are several:
One of these, as we shall soon see, can hold up to a hundred seeds. At this point, the seeds inside are still green and not fully ripe. The shape of these California Poppy seed pods are also quite distinct. Most poppies have turret-like seed pods, but ours and one other native, the yellow Bush Poppy, have the long, slim pods, which shows their close evolutionary connection.
With time, these pods will turn brown and snap open, throwing seeds all asunder. Then, the pods will fall to the ground like this:
All these slim crescents are halves of Poppy seed pods. (Thanks to Mike for this photo.)
But if we catch a pod just before it splits open, here's is what we'll see:
The seeds are all lined up in a row inside (under a 20 X scope). When the seeds are nice and black, they are mature and ready to gather.
Here are a few of them:
They are round, but very rough. Some still have a flaky, crusty coating. Hello, Poppy seeds.
Those we have gathered will sit in envelopes in a cool room. We'll plant them in late August, in flats, to give them a head start.
Otherwise, they will lie on the ground and get a good baking. The oily embryo inside will be protected from drying by the thick seed coat. Some will be eaten by birds and small mammals. And some will make it.
Either way, within five days of water or rain, up they will come:
These little sprouts are ten days old. The seed leaves (or cotyledons) of our California Poppies are forked 'snakes tongues', very distinctive. In the center you can see the first true leaves emerging. This, too, shall come to pass.
As we settle in to this dry season, the quiet time for lowland California, let us not forget that wonders lie waiting.