Hillside walk, 28 March 2016
This year's grand flowering performance continues, despite the enormous crop of mustard and grasses. In Canyon 8, some of the mustard is six feet high! Walking almost anywhere on the hillsides is currently a slow business, requiring care because the regular tracks that I take are smothered by plants.
This week the most spectacular flowers of the north hillside are those of Canterbury bells (Phacelia minor). Numerous other species are also doing excellently although not so noticeable. For example, Canyon 5 has a large array of bitter cress (Cardamine oligosperma) in places where I've not seen it before. On the mid north hillside, common muila (Muila maritima) has now had flowers for four weeks in a row, which is something I've not seen before. Furthermore, this week three of them are blooming on the mid north hillside, a record.
Some species are favorites as food for animals, presumably the mule deer. Most obvious in this regard is the California primrose (Eulobus californicus). There are lots of these plants, probably many hundreds, on the lower north hillside, and virtually all of them have been eaten, in most cases down to an inch or so from the ground. As a result I saw only a single flower today, when I should have seen dozens, or hundreds. The stinging lupine is another tasty item for the deer. While some flowers persist on the north hillside, most of the plants there and in Canyon 8 are substantially eaten. On the other hand, death camas (Toxicoscordion sp.) on the upper west hillside is flowering prolifically — there is just a single plant, which I've observed for the past three years — and no animal dares eat it.
Newly blooming this week are some of the richest-looking species of the hillsides, notably whispering bells (Emmenanthe peduliflora var. peduliflora) and caterpillar phacelia (Phacelia cicutaria var. hispida). The south hillside has a single sunflower plant (probably Heterotheca annuus), which I first noticed last week, complete with a large bud on top; but it's still a bud.
A completely new species this week, which I've not previously seen on these hillsides, is California chicory (Rafinesquia californica).
It's inspiring to see such an array of wildflowers although some of them will now quickly fade away. If we receive some further rain in the next few weeks, there could a fresh, late blooming. That really would be nice.