First trail run of September

In addition to trying to identify the wildflowers I have seen this year, I’ve also been trying to keep track of their blooming times. This means that on the first few runs of every month I’m paying even closer attention to the flowers than I usually do. Of course months are kind of arbitrary and month boundaries have very little to do with when a particular flower will start or stop blooming, but it provides a rough idea of what is out there.

I expect that 2010 has not been a representative year because we had a fair amount of rain in the winter/spring and lots of cool cloudy days in the summer. We have had very little of the really hot weather which might kill the plants (or at least stop them blooming). Although I don’t have hard data from years past, there are certain flowers I look for every year. Last year I saw no Humboldt lily blooms at all, ever (while this year they bloomed for a month) and last year I only saw Weed’s Mariposa lilies blooming for about 2 weeks, and only 3 blooms all in one place, while this year they were out for six weeks, and were in great profusion all over the place.

So this year is probably unusual. But it happened. Next year will doubtless be different, and maybe I’ll collect flowering times for it too, and compare them. And perhaps the year after that…

But today was the first trail run of September, so I was out there this morning looking and trying to remember what I saw. I’ve stopped carrying a camera because the flowers that are left now aren’t nearly as impressive as what we had in April, and it hardly seems worth it to photograph them… And there aren’t many new ones to document.

First thing I saw on Jesusita was bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis). In April this blanketed mountainsides that had been burned last year; now it is simply more prevalent than anything else. It’s an invader from Europe and the California Department of Food and Agriculture calls it a NOXIOUS WEED. So, it’s not something I’m that happy to see.

Next flower is mustard (Brassica rapa). Much reduced from its display in May. Another European import. The California Invasive Plant Council says this plant causes serious problems in native ecosystems (limited). Sigh.

I run through a patch of periwinkle (Vinca major). It was blooming in August, but seems to have stopped now. Yet another European import. The California Invasive Plant Council says this plant causes serious problems in native ecosystems (moderate).

There’s a lot of fennel here (Foeniculum vulgare). As I run past, I’m not sure if it is blooming or not. To my color-blind eyes the flowers and the young seeds look very similar in color. I’m pretty sure I’m just seeing seeds now, so it’s probably also over. The California Invasive Plant Council says this plant causes serious problems in native ecosystems (high).

Then I see some tree tobacco (Nicotinana glauca), still blooming. These scrubby trees are invaders from South America. The California Invasive Plant Council says this plant causes serious problems in native ecosystems (moderate).

It’s kind of sad how many invaders there are. And how prevalent they are. Of course this is the start of the trail where there are more likely to be invaders. But the bindweed and the mustard go right up to the top.

The first native bloom I see is mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana), it’s not a beautiful flower by any means, but at least it is real. It belongs here.

When I come out into the first meadow the clustered tarweed (Hemizonia fasciculata) is still going. I’m rather fond of this plant, it’s such a cheerfully bright yellow.

A little bit later I see a single canyon sunflower (Venegasia carpesioides). Hmm. I had thought these were over now. I’m not sure that seeing just one counts. But when I turn a corner there are a whole bunch of them, so I guess they aren’t over.

I’ve sort of given up on many of the aster family, there are just so many of them and the differences between species are often so slight and my books are so unhelpful that I just can’t identify them (Yes, the previous three plants were all asters, but they were identifiable). There are some dandelion-like blooms which I can’t place. Ah, and a California chickory (Rafinesquia californica), which I think I do know how to identify).

Ah:-) The late blooming wild clematis — virgin’s bower (Clematis ligusticifolia) seems to be in full bloom still. Indeed some of the vines seem to be just reaching their peak. I rather like clematis, we used it as an ornamental when I was growing up. This species has tiny little flowers and quite surprised me when I first saw it blooming, I wasn’t expecting a clematis to bloom this late in the year.

And here’s some pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea). I thought this was finished by in April, but then in July I saw more blooms, and it has been blooming ever since. So now I am wondering: Was I blind in May and June? Or does it bloom twice? Or are there two species which look very much alike but bloom at different times? I’ll have to pay more attention to it next year.

The white nightshade (Solanum douglasii, or perhaps Solanum niger var. douglasii). It has been blooming since March and now every plant is covered with little tomatoes as well as little white blooms. I haven’t seen any purple nightshades blooming since July.

Except I turn a corner and there is one plant, a purple nightshade, blooming. But it is only one plant, and I don’t see any others so I decide to ignore it.

The trail has become steeper now and I’ve climbed out of the canyon and away from the creek. There are a few rock phacelias blooming (Phacelia imbricata). I worry for a bit about the identification, this late in the season the phacelia flowers can fade and some of the distinguishing marks aren’t quite as apparent. But as I see more of them, I convince myself that it is the rock phacelia and not the tansy.

I see some golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum); another plant I had thought was finished. So I decide to ignore it. But I turn the corner and there are a few more. So… I guess it’s still going. At least here.

And a bush monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus)? Come on. These are done everywhere else. I see no more of them and conclude this is a rogue bloom.

Some fleabane (Erigeron foliosus). Not too surprising.

I come out onto the fireroad, and here is something which looks like goldenrod. Except it’s a lot heavier than the California goldenrod I’ve seen before. Perhaps a different species? (I regret not having brought a camera today. I just didn’t think I’d see anything new). I’m not sure what to make of this.

And here is some deerweed (Lotus scoparius), looking quite bedraggled and long past its prime, but still blooming. I realize I’ve seen several earlier, but as I zipped past, I just thought they were mustard.

And up here on the fireroad is another species of tarweed, the coast tarweed (Madia sativa), tall plants with large branching flower heads.

And good heavens! here are some large-flowered phacelias (Phacelia grandiflora) still blooming. I thought they were long gone, but, no, here’s another. Back in March they covered the hillside here and were stunning. Now they are somewhat blackened with very few blooms. Not nearly as impressive.

Down at the edge of the road are lots of peak rock roses (Helianthemum scoparium). These aren’t a surprise.

When I reach the top I find one chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) still blooming. I don’t see any Toyon up here. There are some laurel sumac but they are finished. No more blooms.

As I run back down I wonder about elderberries. They’ve been blooming well into August, but all the elderberry bushes I see on the way down are covered with berries and not with blooms.

I notice a California goldenrod (Solidago velutina), and it really is different from what I saw near the top. Much more gracile, and the leaves are green and not silvery grey.

I bike home, and on the side of Los Positas I see some elderberry blooms (Sambucus mexicana). Not done yet, after all, I think. I get off the bike for a closer look (just in case I’ve got it wrong), and I as walk toward them I see a wild radish in bloom too.


2 Responses to “First trail run of September”

  1. Sandra Says:

    A journey in nature makes life magical! I admire your ability to name all the flowers, I wish I could do this….

    • georgeruns Says:

      I wish I could name them all, but I’m getting better. I did point out some I couldn’t identify (the dandelion like flowers), and, I must confess, there were a couple of flowers which I didn’t mention because I don’t even know where to start with them…

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