Monday, July 6, 2009

The Last Hurrah...A Fading Botanical Memory

Within the last few weeks, summer has reduced most of the herbaceous plant life in my part of the world to crispy critters, fried-brown leaves, and shriveled stems. Basically, it gets really boring, really fast in the arid west. The shiny green leaves of the live oak trees and other oak woodland inhabitants belies the fact that the earth is popcorn fart dry.

But a few late blooming plants are present and I captured them electronically, properly documenting their moment of brilliance, so their bloom was not in vain. So, I get a little melancholy about the end of blooming season around here. I am a botanist after all. If I did not, they would take away my lifetime membership to plant-a-holics anonymous.

Without further adieu here are some beauties...

This yellow flower is the late blooming yellow Mariposa lily (Calochortus luteus). There was a meadow filled with a few dozen of these not so common bulbs but by the time I finally remembered to bring our camera only this one was remained. The rest were shriveled into brown papery wisps.


Luckily, the fairwell to spring (Clarkia rubicunda) were still in peak condition so their pictures were perfect! As their name implies they signify the end of the blooming season for most species since they flower when the ground is getting really dry.


This outcropping of common deerweed (Lotus scoparius), the yellow pea shaped flowers, and California everlasting (Gnaphalium californica), the white heads, hide the fading season. Both are hearty drought tolerant species which make it look much greener than it really is.


Wyatt sits for a little break about ten minutes up the trail. He normally does not do this. His mutiny makes little impression upon the captain who just screams, "Move it kid! You wanna get eaten by a mountain lion?"

With that statement Wyatt leaps up like a gazelle and runs down the trail then circles round and grabs my hand.

"Are the mountain lions gonna get us?" he asks wearily.

"No, only coyotes are out this time of day. And they're not going to come near us. We're too noisy for them." I respond assuringly. "And you have to let go of my hand. Your little mitts are too sweaty." His grubby, hot hands are sticky and gross. Your typical little boy hands... I let him grapple on my pinky finger instead.

"Mom, but I'm us-skared of the coyotes!" Wyatt looks ahead on the trail with a nervous expression.

"I'm just teasing you, Wyatt. Get going."

While wandering down the trail scaring all the wildlife in a half mile radius from our vicinity, we do manage to see quite a few butterflies including this one. I think it is Wyatt and Ella's mission that I see nothing in the way of small birds. While yelling back and forth to each other, my two kids swath the woodland trail and all forms of wildlife clear out. The birds know the drill by now.

Instead, we practice listening to the scrub jays and I quiz the kids on the raptors flying overhead. "What's that black bird with the point at the front edge of the wings?"

"Turkey vulture, Mom." Wyatt responds with ease. We have so many vultures in our valley they were one of the first big birds the kids learned by sight.

Wyatt can take pictures too. If not, I'd never have any photos of me and Ella together.


Ahhh, the view from the top.
The kids like to take a moment to see as far as their eye can hold.


At which point I usually put Ella down and make her walk. Some times she does not want to hike and I oblige her, thus carrying her heavy weight around the whole trip. But I can use the extra work out. Other times she's a little trooper walking the downhill section of the trail with gusto. Between Ella wanting to run down the hills, walking too close to the edge of cliffs, and meandering too near the poison oak, I do worry just a little bit.

It will be another few months before she can walk the circuit both ways. Wyatt on the other hand could walk the trail with his eyes closed.


This white froth of tiny flowers is born upon the whippy stems of chamise (Adenostomata fasciculaum). A chaparral species which is resinous and highly flammable, it blooms at the middle of June and the sprays of white flowers fade fast with the climbing temperatures. Large patches of the nearly verticle hillsides are washed with the chamise in bloom, but I missed the best sections. Oops.


And finally this is yellow yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum var. confertiflorum). The botany on our favorite loop trail is done. The fireworks are over and we are pretty much flowered out for the season. No more native bloomers until next year. And I bet there may be a collective sigh from those of you tolerating my botanical foibles.

And if you want to see more outdoorsie blog posts go to A Southern Day Dreamer! I know I will be looking too.

28 Comments for OSL:

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

Well dearie, what is all this melancholy?! The landscape looks very pretty to these olde West Texas eyes, very green and fresh!

Please get a hiking stick fer Wyatt, I am scairt also that a mountain lion may lurk and I'd like to think he'd at least have a stick to strike it with (mountain lions are all very well but they must be conked on the head rather than claw children!)!!!

Grand Pooba said...

Ok, that first picture of the yellow flower (Mariposa lily, see? I'm paying attention!)
is breathtaking!

And that's an amazing view! How fun for the kids to go hikings all the time. My hubster is not a hiker, grumbles...

So Not Mom-a-licious said...

she looks so big now! So that fancy backpack...I thought it was supposed to eliminate how much th kid really weighed? What do I know though?
I wish that I could hike those trails with you. Althoug, i was surprised to hear you say that the mountain lions didn't come out during the day? You're joking right? I mean you have heard an seen all the horror stories here in CA about the mountain lion attacks...during the day!!!

Also, I was able to buy the ScarGuard at CVS today. It stinks. And it's a weird type of substance. It reminds me of very bad bad nail polish. I can only pray it works!

Yaya said...

Wow, he's quite the photographer!

I just love that you and your kids go hiking all the time!

That butterfly was awesome.

Leigh said...

Beautiful!

oicned said...

mountain lions... lol...

when my youngest does tantrums, we tell him that a big frog would eat him... he stops.

Five O'Clock Somewhere said...

What a beautiful place to enjoy nature! What a great workout you must get carrying Ella.

Julia said...

ODP-I will consider the stick for Wyatt and hope he does not bonk himself on the head with it during our hike.

Pooba-You are paying attention!! I see! Mike hates hiking too. It is "too slow" for him.

Janah-Come for a hike any time with us. You are always welcome! And from a purely statistical analysis, the chance of getting eaten by a mountain lion is less likely than being struck by lightening or crashing in a plane. I'm feeling pretty good about the odds. Although little boy would probably be a tasty morsel.

Yaya-thanks from Wyatt!

Leigh-Thanks!!

Oinked-I share your lol!

Tara-I would love to hike every day but as it is we only go about 2 or 3 days a week. :(

Pricilla said...

I love the education I receive from your posts. Don't stop them!

Things are starting to dry out here too. I just hope we have a quiet fire season. Ugh! I hate fire season...

xashee's corner said...

i have sooooooooo enjoyed the hike with you and your children! i LOVE that you share you knowledge of nature with them! i ADORE your stories too, your humor shines through!! thank you soooooooo much for sharing ALLL that you do AND for your visit to me own blog!! :) Have an AWESOME evening!! you KNOW i will be back! ;)

The Old Gray Egg said...

Mountain lions, coyotes, vultures, the death of blossoms, bone dry chaparral... you're making it too easy for those kids to want to follow in mom's footsteps as a wetland botanist/biologist.

Jennifer said...

Heck yeah you need the extra workout. What with those horses that keep breaking out and making you corral them again!
Where are you, anyway? If you've already told me, I'm so sorry, but I've forgotten. I know you're close, but I don't know where exactly!

Jennifer said...

Oh, and I meant to tell you you have such beautiful photos of the flowers. Sorry, I'm really tired, so a little unfocused right now!

Re said...

That yellow lily is stunning.

SueLovesCherries said...

Hi Julia! I don't care if you don't have red to share - I love the flowers! I am so into gardening, big time, but try to refrain from putting too many flower pics in my blog - I'm afraid I'll bore the readers!

I've never seen yellow yarrow before - obviously it doesn't grow here in Mass. - will have to look on Google for seeds.

Your walk provides such a beautiful view!

SueLovesCherries said...

P.S. - what are the chances of you snagging me some seeds? They're hard to find on Google.

Amy said...

Just gorgeous pics. You really know a lot about plants....much more than I do! Thank you so much for stopping by today. Please stop by again anytime! Amy :)

Terry said...

Very nice pictures...and the kids are darling. You must be very fit to treck around with the ....I am not sure what it is called...Maybe the kid back pack. I would not be able to do that for long.

the ungourmet said...

Your views are so beautiful! I was thinking that I need a baby to haul around to get me into shape again!

I was out of breath walking up a flight of stairs yesterday! Scary!

I love that dainty butterfly!

The Mind of a Mom said...

the pictures are wonderful. Is that close to where you live?

Debbie said...

You are such a talented photographer.

Mary said...

The scenery on your hike beats that in the gym :-). Your children are darling and your little guy is quite the hiker. Thanks for sharing what will become your memories with us.

MsSnarkyPants said...

Those are beautiful! My pasture is looking more like a scraggly near-desert these days than the lush lovely meadow it was in the spring.

Frogs in my formula said...

What gorgeous pictures! Thank you for sharing. We have Turkey vultures--lots of them. Sadly, that's about all we have...well, unless you count clover.

Ratty said...

It's a shame you're seeing the last of your flowers this year. All of the wildflowers near me began to disappear, but then new and different kinds sprouted up in their place.

Sharkbytes said...

Julia- botanize me all you want! I don't know a single one of those plants. Things are SO different in the west. I'd have to practically start over except for recognizing families (I hope). Thanks for the walk down a new trail.

blueviolet said...

Wait, a stinkin' minute. There really are mountain lions in the area? I don't care what time of day they come out. They're there?

Every one of those spring blossoms are exceptionally lovely but no foliage is worth a mountain lion bite. Go home!

Life Ramblings said...

wow, it's a great place to explore the beauty of nature. thanks for sharing.

happy weekend.