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June 13, 2016

Dear Skyliners,


We are making great progress on the thistles.  We have narrowed them down to a final, long, dense arc that runs at the top third of the big Monkey Flower slope.  EBMUD mowed both sides of Tank Road at the top this week.  Last Wednesday, we made a big push in from the north.  Yesterday, we pushed in from the south.  Finally, we've got them surrounded!!


By the way, the Monkey Flower (Mimulus aurantiacus) are just gorgeous right now.  They are worth a visit just to see them alone.  Also, first Farewell to Spring (Clarkia rubicunda) are starting to bloom here and there along the trail. Here's a picture from last year

Of special note are two native annuals who grow on the volcanic scree along Grizzly Peak Blvd, not far from the Siesta Gate where we gather.  This volcanic talus or scree is part of the Moraga Volcanics that extend from Sibley Park north through Vollmer and Grizzly Peaks to form the San Pablo Ridge.  At the spot on Grizzly Peak Blvd, the lighter colored bands of rock are probably lithified volcanic ash that is crumbling down the road cut.  This whole area is the western face of the same ridge of which we are restoring the east face.  Several of the annual plants that grow here also grow in isolated spots towards Barberry Peak.  I have been clearing thistles along this section of the road this year, because it is botanically rich and noteworthy.  Several of us visited this area after "work" on Sunday.


These two plants are of special note because they are typically found in hot inland areas, such as Mt. Diablo, and also further south in the Coast Ranges, through Santa Barbara, LA and down into Baja.  They are very uncommon in our area.


The first is Chia (Salvia columbariae).  Chia is an annual sage, noted for their profuse seeds.  They are very nutrituous, you can buy them in a health food store.  The seeds were an important Indian food.  When Portola and his group were coming north in 1769 from San Diego (searching for Monetery Bay harbor) the Indians along the way presented them with baskets of Chia seed.  And then, there's chia pets. The seeds get very sticky when wet. The flowers are small, but very intense blue, borne in prickly whorls on straight stems.  They are charmers.  Here's a picture of them along Grizzly Peak Blvd a month ago:

The other is a member of the Lettuce tribe of the Aster family (Asteraceae).  This one, Stephanomeria virgata or Wire Lettuce, is another dry scree dweller from the southlands.  At first, you might think they are weeds, because they look like miniature Prickly Lettuce (Lactuca) and the leaves, when broken off, secrete the while milky sap of the lettuces.  These grow first in the form a rosette, and gradually, gradually, they send up a wiry flower spike that takes about two months to actually bloom.  They are not yet in bloom yet on Grizzly; probably another four weeks still needed.  


Here's the plant, with rosette and rising flower stalk (two weeks ago):

Here's a picture of the flower (from Calphoto) - very lovely:

And here's what the flowering plant looks like (Calphoto) with some seeds (inset):

To find this spot, go about 150 yards south of the Siesta Gate on Grizzly Peak. Directly south of UC's # 21 road marker, there is a long, straight section of road. Park on the East side of the road in the area near the telephone pole.  Walk along the road about 100 feet south until you find a large stone culvert.  Look upslope to the scree.


This week, we will just be working as a group on Wednesday afternoon, 4:30pm.  We're skipping Sunday for Father's day.


I'd love to have a big group out on Wednesday.  Please let me know if you can make it.


Happy Trails,



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