Friday, April 24, 2015

Spring Rain

We got some very welcome rain last night and this morning. One authority said Encinitas received 0.28 inches. The rain is accompanied by normal Springtime conditions - cool, cloudy, breezy. Prior to this we had several weeks of very warm, dry Summer-like conditions. Plants were getting dried out too soon. So the return of Spring weather and rain should be helpful to all the plants. Plus, it put more water into my rain barrel.

More late bloomers are starting to show their stuff. Above is my Santa Cruz Island Ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. asplenifolius) against the cloudy sky, and below is a flower cluster almost ready to open.

Yesterday I was re-reading a book about the Channel Islands, The California Islands: Proceedings of a Multidisciplinary Symposium, published by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History in 1980. The chapter on botany is of greatest interest to me. A paper by Ralph Philbrick states that fossils of L. floribundus have been found throughout California and even Nevada. So this was a tree that was previously much more widespread and only in the last several thousand years has retreated to a very small remnant population. The same is true of a number of other island species, as well as the more well known Torrey Pine.

In the understory of the Ironwood I have several examples of Santa Barbara Island Live-forever (Dudleya traskiae). Only one of these has decided to put up a flower stalk (below). According to Calflora the flower should be yellow-gold when it opens. One thing that puzzles me about my plants is the leaf color. Half of them are white like the one below, resulting from the typical powdery coating that many Dudleyas have. However, the other half of my D. traskiae are green with no coating. I got them from two different nurseries and I'm wondering if this is a natural color variation that is reflected in the original source plants of the two nurseries. Perhaps there is a white form and a green form as there is with D. brittonii. On the other hand, it may be just an aberration or misidentification.

In a container near the Dudleya are a couple of mainland species that are flowering now. First is Stream Orchid (Epepactis gigantea). Despite the gigantea name, it has dainty little nodding flowers (below).

In the same container there is also Yellow Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus).

Both the Epipactis and the Mimulus seem to do very well in a container where I can keep them extra wet, since they are bog plants. They also both go dormant and totally disappear in the winter, so it looks like I have an empty pot for about 6 months. Then it's a great relief when they start to appear again, and a sort of miracle when they bloom.

Another bog plant that is blooming now is Hedge Nettle (Stachys bullata). One should ignore the common name of Nettle - it doens't sting or irritate the skin at all, in my experience. A more appropriate name is the less commonly used Wood Mint, and it is in fact in the mint family. It's really quite a nice little plant for wet areas, more common in central California but also found in San Diego County is a few spots. I have this one planted in the larger bog area rather than in a container because it does not go dormant and can fend for itself among the other bog plants.

Moving away from the bog, a rare plant that is one of my all-time favorites is the Thread-leaf Brodiaea (Brodiaea filifolia). The first of its flowers is out now (below). I think I have written about this plant before, but at the risk of repeating myself I'm going to do it again. It grows from a small corm that resembles those of Dichelostemma, but it is much more rare. Calflora says the habitat of B. filifolia is vernal pools, but I have only seen it in grasslands in Carlsbad where it typically grows among non-natives such as European oats, bromes, mustard and fennel. Luckily for the gardener, it is available for sale from Telos Rare Bulbs. They say theirs are grown from specimens at the Berkeley Botanical Garden

A late blooming chaparral plant that is in flower right now is Summer Holly (Comarostaphylis diversifolia ssp. diversifolia). As is evident from the flowers, it is a member of the Ericaceae family, along with the manzanitas, and it grows in similar areas. Mine is around 20 years old and 10 ft. tall. It's always been a bit sparsely leafed which may be due to its full sun exposure. My understanding is that they prefer north facing slopes and a little shade in the wild. Such exposure would also result in slightly higher soil moisture, so mine may be suffering from chronic dryness. Still, it's surviving and flowering, and it made it through last Summer's awful heat.

There are a few more plants that are not quite in flower yet but should be very soon. One of these is the Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri) which looks just about ready to pop. This is one of the most popular native California plants because of its extraordinarily large flower. It is also one of the most frequently mispronounced names. The British, who really like this plant, and probably many Americans pronounce it with a normal J sound, which is totally wrong. The name has a Spanish derivation, so the J should be pronounced like ha. actually has a good pronunciation guide and word origin for Matilija Poppy. It refers to Matilija Canyon in Ventura County, California. No matter how you say it, the flowers are spectacular.

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