Monday, November 17, 2014

Spring Comes in November

Due to California's Mediterranean climate, our plants emerge from their summer dormancy with the first rains of Fall. This is really our Spring when annual seeds sprout, new shoots emerge on trees and shrubs, mushrooms (the fruiting bodies of underground fungi) pop up, and the growth centers of plants go into overdrive. This happens as a result of the combination of rain, cooler temperatures and shortened daylight period. An example is shown below, the new sprouts of Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum) in my front yard. It looks a lot like a grass because it is a monocot, meaning that it has a single cotyledon and it has parallel veins rather than a network.

Dichelostemma is a geophyte which grows from a corm and is one of the first to sprout after a Fall rain. The photo below shows some of the corms in April with the leaves and flowers. The corms are usually covered with a papery brown skin but I peeled that off to reveal the white flesh of the corm. Native people of California harvested and ate these corms, and they are reportedly delicious.

Below is this same area of Dichelostemma in full flower a few years ago.

Another geophyte that I like a lot is Golden Star (Bloomeria crocea). It hasn't sprouted yet but I mention it because I bought more of the corms from Telos Rare Bulbs. They have a great selection of native California bulbs and corms as well as others from around the world. I previously had only one solitary Golden Star so I bought 10 more. Now I will have a nice little cluster of them.

Although the plants perk up with Fall rains, most of the insect activity dies down. Before the rain came on Halloween, we had this big, beautiful spider in the back yard.

I sent this photo to Jim Berrian at the SD Museum of Natural History. He identified it as a member of the orb-weaver family Araneidae, probably a dark phase female Crossed Orb-weaver, Neoscona crucifera. He said they can inflict a painful bite if mishandled but they are not medically dangerous. I left her alone. She was the perfect Halloween decoration.

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