Fall in Santa Barbara is not the conventional fall that I grew up with on the east coast. Very few trees lose their leaves and even fewer change color.

Around our creeks and canyons we seem to have a semblance of fall. The big-leaved maples do change color (but not for very long! Less than a week). The sycamores lose their leaves, but to my eye, are not very colorful.

The real change is not in the trees. Fall brings the start of the rains. In early October we had our first real rain, and in late October a downpour. A few days after the downpour I was out on the trails and the chaparral currant had started to bloom. The currant is a spindly shrub with very few leaves (at least in early November), and its bloom is a joy to me. It’s the first new thing to bloom in months. All through the summer fewer and fewer things would bloom until there was very little color left on the trails. But now… there are blooms again!

A week later and California Manroot had started to bloom. A busy vine in the gourd family with little white flowers and (later in the year) a strange spiny fruit.

Not so welcome was the next week’s bloom. The cape ivy is an invasive plant that came over from South Africa and has a nasty habit of growing over and smoothering trees.

A few days after that I was on the trails again and saw honeysuckle blooming. Now honeysuckle blooms in the late spring. I know. I saw it blooming in June and July (ok, and early summer). I’m assuming it is Lonicera subspicata, Santa Barbara honeysuckle; it looks like it. It’s got berries on it, so, presumably, it did bloom this summer too. Perhaps this vine is just confused about the time of year? But a little further down Jesusita I find a whole hillside of honeysuckle blooms. Perhaps it blooms twice? I can’t find much about its blooming habits in my reference books…

The week before, when I’d been on Jesusita, the canyon sunflower were still blooming after the summer. But the blooms were sad things. Few and far between, contorted and shriveled. Today there’s a new supply of canyons. Happy round blooms again.

The white nightshade has also flowered all summer long, and it, too, has now started to bloom in greater profusion. The black berries from the summer blooms hang right beside the new flowers.

The purple nightshade almost stopped blooming in the late summer, but if I looked hard enough I could always find one plant, somewhere with a bloom on it. But now in the middle of November I’m seeing lots of buds, and the occasional bloom.

The trails are alive again!


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