Hillside walk, 22 February 2016
High spring has arrived, no doubt assisted by the 21 mm of rain that arrived overnight, several days ago. The number of blooming native species has just about doubled in the past couple of weeks. Also, the hillsides are everywhere covered with greenery; in many of the steep places it's necessary to walk carefully because the track is hidden by grass or weeds.
On the north hillside, strigose lotus (Acmispon strigosus) is out in its hundreds, possibly thousands. At the bottom of the north hillside, the suncup (Camissoniopsis bistorta) proclaims that spring has indeed arrived. In more than one place on the west hillside, birch leaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides var. betuloides) is suddenly in full bloom — there wasn't a sign of flowers last week. It's a species that hasn't bloomed since the spring of 2013.
Despite this excitement of the season, the overall amount of bloom is not prolific. It suggests adequate rains to prepare the ground, but not enough for a truly great year. Maybe we will yet see some heavy rainfall from the waning El Niño; that would certainly prolong and enhance the amount of spring bloom.
The black cottonwood trees (Populus trichocarpa) in Canyon 6 this week have just a few flowers, suggesting a short flowering season. That is, flowers disappear as soon as leaves appear.
Today I looked closely at western sycamore (Plantanus racemosa) in Canyon 8. Last week I wasn't sufficiently close to be able to verify that it truly had flowers; but this week, close-up observation reveals a significant covering of flowers. Most of the flowers are female, a few male. The female flowers are a purplish color.
A significant discovery this week was a clump of coastal wood fern (Dryopteris arguta) under the oak trees in Canyon 1, not far from Lida Street. I'm wondering why I haven't seen this specimen previously.
Another discovery this week was brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) on the upper north hillside, in full bloom. It seems hard to believe that it wasn't looking similar twelve months ago, so why wasn't it seen last year? Or the year before?