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August 22, 2018

Dear Skyliners,

This past week, we've been hitting the Scattergrass very diligently, and mopping up the last pockets of them.  One more day should do it.

We'll be back to our regular schedule this week : Thursday at 4 pm, Sunday at 9:30 am.  On Thursday, we may do some seed cleaning.  Please let me know if you can make it.

I wanted to highlight several of those heroic wildflowers who bloom and shine now, in the heat and the dry.  And since a number of us have been studying the plant families, I'll also highlight these. 

The first one is commonly known as Wire Lettuce or Wreath Plant (Stephanomeria virgata ssp pleurocarpa).  These grow and are now flowering on the sunny, rocky slopes above Grizzly Peak Blvd about a tenth of a mile south of Siesta Gate.  They grow in the same scree-like conditions as does Chia.

Here's a side view through a grove of them:

Stephanomeria virgata ssp pleurocarpa wi

These are the tall, wiry plants with the small pink flowers.  The tallest plants here are nearly five feet tall.  They are annuals and they have been growing steadily ever since they sprouted with last October's rains.  Their leaves have now completely withered and the plants are basically just green stems with buds, flowers, and swelling seeds.  For comparison, here is the very same clump of plants in early May:

Stephanomeria virgata ssp pleurocarpa wi

This was quite a different season - Chia blooming and Tarweed still in bud.  Two Wire Lettuce plants are near the Chia on the right, with strap-like grey foliage.  In this photo, they look to be about a foot tall. Here is a close up of one flower:

Stephanomeria virgata ssp pleurocarpa wi

The flowers are about the size of a dime.  They are in the Aster family (Asteraceae), in the Chicory tribe.  Each 'petal' represents one flower, so this is really a flower head with six flowers.  This species is often beloved by botanists: they are uncommon, tough, and yet hauntingly beautiful.  And who knows how long each blossom lasts, whether they close up at night, and how long the seeds take to ripen?  


As you might expect, these are essentially Southern Californians who find a home up north on our hot and dry slopes.  They are more often found in our area on Mount Diablo, but there are several populations along Grizzly Peak Blvd.  This grouping is just across the road and 100 yards south of UC signpost number 21.  


While we are dwelling on the lovelies of Grizzly Peak, here's a shot of California Fuchsia near Centennial Drive.  This form has tall stems and very large, showy flowers.  Take a look:

Epilobium canum California Fuschia close

Aren't they grand?  


California Fuchisa (Epilobium canum) are members of the Evening Primrose Family, the Onagraceae.  They grow all over the state in sunny, rocky areas - and have many, many forms.  Some are nearly prostrate, some are tall with very silvery foliage.  Many forms are in the nursery trade and these are great plants for the native and dry garden, bringing color and Hummingbirds in August and September.  In the wild they survive on very poor, mineral soils.  In the garden, with richer soils, they can form large colonies.  

Lastly, the Goldenrod (Solidago californica) have been really great this year.  Here's a close up of one:

Solidato californica California goldenro

Goldenrods are another plant of the Aster Family (Asteraceae).  The ray flowers are much reduced, but they are still there. This clump is blooming right now on the far side of the Bay Grove. (Thanks to Karen for the photo.)


I  so deeply admire these late bloomers, who step forth and shine in the midst of the heat and the dry.  That takes something special.  You have to wonder, what's the secret to their water strategy?


Happy Trails,


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