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April 25, 2019

Dear Skyliners,

 

It's been way too long since the last report, mostly because we've been so busy.  A special highlight this year has been doing a class on Restoration Ecology with UC Berkeley through the DeCal program.  The 2 unit class has 13 students and we meet on Wednesday afternoons at Skyline Gardens for 3 and 1/2 hours of nature study and restoration work. Each week has a theme.  There is a course Syllabus, which I'd be happy to share, with readings focused on our local natural history. 

 

As for the volunteers, yes, we go out every Sunday morning at 9:30, and most Thursday afternoons at 3pm.  Please let me know if you can make it.

 

As to the wildflowers, we're having our own version of superbloom at Skyline Gardens.  Partly it's the weather, and partly it's our removal of invasive plants to create space for the natives to increase.  Here's the view from Diablo Bend:

This shot is trailside, looking out to Mt. D in the distance.  Three years ago, this trail shoulder was solid Italian Thistle with a few Poppies and less than ten Popcorn Flower plants struggling in the weeds.  These were so few that we considered them rare here.  For three seasons, now, we have diligently prevented the invasive thistles from making seeds: by cutting off the flower stalks, by spraying young seedlings, and by hand weeding.  Now the thistles are nearly gone, and just look at the increase in native wildflowers.  Results like this sure keep us coming back.  (Thanks to Meredith for the photo, which EBMUD Downtown now wants to use in their publicity!! )

 

The off-trail areas along the ridge are also lovely right now.  Here's a shot approaching the ridge-top:

It's a five-color symphony!  The red flowers are Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja affinis) and the blue are Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum).   The big yellow sunflowers are Mule's Ears (Wyethia helenoides.)  I can also see Bisquit Root (yellow) and a few Fiddlenecks (orange).  

 

And, here's the cap of Barberry Peak, where we've spent over 120 hours on our knees, hand weeding in the last three years removing Italian Thistle, Wild Oats, and the biggest nemesis of all False Brome (Brachypodium distachyon).  

Every plant you see in this shot is now a native one, from the poppies and lupine to Wild Cucumber, Goldenrod, Phacelia and three species of native grasses.  We've catalogued over 25 native species right in this spot alone.  The lovely red Cobweb Thistle (Cirsium occidentalis), which grows here, will bloom again this year in late May.  And most exciting of all, these are now seeding freely throughout this spot.  We've counted over 30 new seedlings this year, which is a huge increase over the first year, when there was only one plant.  This native thistle is a biennial (blooms in year 2), so hold on to your hats for next year.

 

Anyway, that's the headlines.  Come on out!!

 

"Our hands imbibe like roots, and so I place them on what is beautiful in this world"  (Francis of Assisi)

 

Happy Trails,

 

Glen