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April 10, 2018

Dear Skyliners,


Last week, among the glories of this year's off-the-charts wildflowers, we've been focusing on clearing the Yampah Bowl area of thistles, hemlock, and Shepherd's Needles (Scandix).   And, we've done a second weeding for False Brome (Brachypodium) and thistles in the slope below the Magic Gates, in and among the sunflowers there.  Special thanks goes to Charlotte, for bringing out the Diablo Valley College Horticulture club on Sunday.  And we found a new native plant species, one of the Sanicles (more below).


We'll be out regular days this week: Wednesday at 3 pm and Sunday at 9:30 am.  Please let me know if you can make it.


As a counterpoint to the showy flowers now blooming at Skyline, let's take a look at the subtle end of the spectrum, namely the Sanicles.  The Sanicles are members of the Parsley family, and the flowers are very tiny.  The name Sanicle comes from the Latin sanus, which means "sane or healing," and refers to the use of the European Sanicle as an herbal remedy.  The Sanicles at Skyline are all basically perennials who die down to roots in the dry season.


The most common one at Skyline is Pacific or Woodland Sanicle (Sanicula crassicaulis):

These grow all along the trail in semi-shaded areas.  They have fleshy, lobed leaves that remind me of currant leaves and give a wonderful pattern to the woodland floor.  The blossoms come on thick stems ('crassicaulis' means 'thick stemmed') -- and have always seemed underwhelming compared to the robust leaves.  These are flowers you can learn to love. (Photo from Barry Breckling/Calphoto.)


Next we have Purple Sanicle (Sanicula bipinnatifida):

These are plants of rocky meadows and ridges.  They are real charmers, with purple 'button flowers' on stems about six inches tall. One of the other common names is Button Flower.  The leaves are thick and glaucous (frosty-blue color).  So far, we've found just a couple of individuals at Skyline, but there must be more, as they are found here and there in the High Ridge Volcanic meadows between Sibley and Tilden Parks.


The third Sanicle is a new one for us - we just found a few of these last week.  This is Poison Sanicle (Sanicula bipinnata):

We found these on a grassy, east slope area south of the Bay Grove.  The leaves are quite finely dissected, and easy to miss in the grass.  The leaves are actually twice cut, or pinnate, hence the botanical name.  (Photo from Keir Morse/Calphoto)


And here's a close up of the flower:

That's my hand there, for reference.  With this new find, our Skyline Native plant list has now reached 260 species.  We often go out exploring Sunday afternoon after the workday, so let me know if you are interested in that.


Happy Trails,



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