April showers and local flowers
A few stray showers earlier this month added incrementally to our rainy season total: under 5 inches so far (as posted on a NOAA data page). The paid professionals who talk about “rainfall averages” like to proclaim that my home area in Orange County “averages” 13 inches of rain each year . . . which drives me mildly bonkers.
Am I the only one who thinks there is no such thing as “average” rainfall in this Mediterranean climate of a long dry season (~April through November: no rain) in between cool-but-never-cold rainy seasons (November or December through March or April)?!
What is “normal” or “average” for this climate is . . . a lot of rain one year, not much another, some the next . . . in other words: it’s supposed to be variable! The native plants are OK with this, and have all sorts of strategies to thrive in these conditions (and so what if their thriving includes shriveled or lost leaves in the summer . . . it’s NORMAL for them to do this . . . another kind of spare beauty, if you only know and appreciate what is going on).
Enough ranting for one afternoon.
The bit of rain received this season has produced some exquisite wildflowers blooms in the last few weeks; my runs have been happily interrupted by my trying (and rarely succeeding . . . drat you camera-with-a-lackadaisical-focus) to “capture” (think about that word: totally inappropriate when it comes to landscape photography . . . I am not trying to capture as much as create an image that will speak beauty to me during those times I cannot find the flowers) . . . where was I . . . oh yes . . . trying to capture (or not) some of our local fast-fleeting flowers in bloom.
Let the non-capturing commence:
The Catalina Mariposa lilies shown above have received the California Rare Plant Rank (CRPR) of 4.2 . . . this means they are “moderately threatened in California (20-80% occurrences threatened / moderate degree and immediacy of threat).”
Splendid Mariposa lilies! A perfect name for these stunning pink lovelies that hover like butterflies over the few remaining scraps of native grassland. (Mariposa = Spanish for butterfly). This is Orange County’s most common Mariposa . . .
Another “cup-like” flower not to be confused with the lilies (which have separated petals), our local native morning glory twines along the ground and has a cup-like blossom that is all one piece (if you think of a morning cup of coffee cup . . . it’s one way to remember which is which).
When goldenstars are in full bloom, their inflorescence (fancy word for flower cluster) reminds me of an exploding firework. April! Goldenstar time in the foothills of Orange County!
(And who doesn’t like to create “shadow tattoos” whilst out and about . . .)
Prickly pear have just begun to burst with blooms! If I were friends with this plant on FB, I would “like” everything it posted . . . with lots of smiley faces 🙂
Here’s a slick transition . . . from prickly pear to pincushion plant. This white Chaenactis artemisiifolia was all alone along the trail . . . a special find, as these plants are more abundant after fire, according to the beyond-amazing Wildflowers of Orange County by Allen/Roberts; the most recent fire swept through here in March of 2007.
Another fire-follower: chaparral bush mallow. I love the delicate pink flower sprays of this plant so much I bought one at our local native plant nursery; it did really well in my little back yard garden.
Really really really well.
I had to remove it eventually, as its roots had a clever way of creating new plants . . . everywhere. Sigh.
Now I just enjoy it along the trail. (By the way . . . all of these images are from the Barham Ridge trail network between Irvine Park and Santiago Oaks Regional Park.)
Here’s a “common” plant of the coastal sage scrub community: black sage (Salvia mellifera). It adapts to the dry times by shriveling and dropping its leaves, as mentioned above, making some folks think it’s dead and ugly . . .
. . . as dead and ugly as all the trees in New England that drop their leaves for the winter? We don’t expect hardwood forests to look lush and green all year . . . so let’s give black sage a break as well . . . (around these-here parts, we call it “drought-deciduous”).
Fringed spineflower . . . another April-blooming beauty.
One more definite signal it’s April: blooming spires from our impressive local yucca: Hesperoyucca whipplei. Throughout the Southwest, yuccas are important ethnobotanical plants . . . native people have long used pretty much all its parts for soap, food, and fiber (think twine for nets and rope as well as fiber for sandals and skirts).
As an added bonus, I got a serenade from this unusually bold gnatcatcher . . . a bird that more often than not hides as soon as I come around a bend in the trail. It was so focused on making its (scratchy, mewing) voice heard by nearby friends/foes/potential mates that my camera-fumbling presence did not even faze it.
. . . just another April morning floating along through my fantabulously bio-diverse local wildlands, feeling grateful for good health and strong feet to help me enjoy it all.
Happy April trails!