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April 4, 2018


Dear Skyliners,


We've now moved in to controlling the seed heads of the invasive grasses, Wild Oats and Bromes.  We're using our sickle weeders to clip them off as they spike up, before they bloom and set seeds.  For the last week, we've been working the High Ridge terraces and the slopes of Barberry Peak.  Welcome to Karen, Maggie, and Lucy.


And, in the last week, I led a Saturday class for the Tilden Botanic Garden and a Tuesday walk for volunteers at the UC Botanic Garden.  Thanks to Luke, Linda and Mara for organizing these.  


We'll be out on Sunday this week, 9:30 to 1.  Please let me know if you can make it.


Early April is glory days at Skyline, and this year, with low rainfall, the wildflowers flowers are just outstanding.  Low rainfall means shorter grasses, which favors the deeper-rooted perennials such as Lupine, Poppies, Mule's Ears, and Blue Dicks, who rely on less water and now can gather more sunlight, grow bigger and really blossom forth.


Here's our totem plant Silver Lupine (Lupinus albifrons) on a breezy afternoon:

These are just lovely right now.  But we should also keep in mind that these lovelies are short-lived shrubs; for them it's about five years and out.  Luckily, with the removal of invasives, there are tons of these seedlings coming on.


Up along the High Ridge, Poppies and Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum) are hitting their stride:

Also in this picture are Soap Root, and several native bunch grasses.  All of these were dormant, underground in November when we sprayed the area with vinegar to remove thistles and other invaders. That did most of the work.  Since then, we have done some light hand weeding.  Some have remarked that they've never seen so many Blue Dicks in one place.  That's Oakland in the background.


Here's Diablo Bend: 

In this picture, I can see Poppies, Lupine, Blue Dicks and the white Popcorn Flower (Plagiobothrys nothofulvus).  Two years ago, the spot with the Popcorn flowers was a thigh-high thicket of Italian Thistles with a Poppy and a couple of Popcorns.  It's a really fertile spot there, a volcanic 'bake zone.'  And now, it's a glorious trailside.  We just removed the weeds, and planted nothing.  With a little helping hand, the natives know just what to do.  Success like this sure keeps me coming back.


Also in the above shot, in the foreground, you may see tiny fleks of blue.  These are little Gilia, Yarrow-leafed Gilia (Gilia achilleifolia ssp. multicaulus).  Here's a close up:

Each flower is about half the size of your little fingernail.  Two years ago we found just a dozen of these annuals struggling in a rat's nest of weeds.  Since clearing out the bad guys, we now have Gilia blooming here by the thousands.  Come check them out. (Thanks to Angela for this shot and the next.)  


On the shady shoulders of the trail, we have some early bloomers.  Here's Woodland Star (Lithophragma sp.) hosting another kind of drama:

Yellow Flower Crab Spider has latched on to what appears to be a Hover Fly.  Was Crab Spider lurking in ambush behind a blossom?  


This, too, is nature, all hitched together; life into life forever.


Happy Trails,



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