Monthly Archives: March 2012
March 24, 2012
The Beautification team had a small turnout of volunteers on Saturday, March 24, but they decided to walk around and see what was happening in the park. First a trip to where the Bunch Grass is growing atop the hill, and the team was also happy to find some Blue Eyed Grass growing there as well.
The Black Sage, Salvia mellifera, a very fragrant native plant is beginning to bloom. Clare noted that the entire hillside where this plant was growing was once covered in Black Sage, but a fire circa 1997 wiped out much of the native stock. The beautification committee may begin to propagate Black Sage in an effort to restore its population in the park. The flowers of the Black Sage are attractive to hummingbirds and many native bees and butterflies.
The Golden Currant bushes are beginning to set fruit and the fruit is beginning to ripen. Clare scolded Daniel for eating a currant since he would be depriving birds from their food source. Moments later a beautiful crested male Phainopepla was spotted picking a ripe currant from a nearby bush. Golden Currants are named for the color of the blossom. The ripening fruit turns from green to yellow, red and black.
The seed pods of the Wild Cucumber, Marah macrocarpus, are becoming large and noticeable. The Wild Cucumber is also known as Manroot because of the large underground tuber that can attain the size of a small human. These native plants are dormant much of the year, but with winter rains, the vines sprout and can achieve a great length. Small white flowers are followed by the prickly pods.
The endangered California Black Walnut Trees are currently in bloom, though the blossoms do not resemble the average person’s notion of a flower. The male flowers are long greenish-yellow catkins that release pollen into the air.
The female flowers are closer to the tips of the branches and they appear red at first. If the female flowers are fortunate enough to be fertilized, they begin to form the nuts, which is evident in the accompanying photograph. The nuts will grow in size, with the green covering hiding the shell of the nut inside much like the flesh of a peach covers the pit. The nuts will begin to drop in mid summer and if conditions are right, the new seedlings will sprout in late winter after passing through a cold period. The California Black Walnut is an endangered native species and Mt Washington is one of the few southern California locations where the trees can still be found in their native ecosystem.
The Bush Sunflowers still have a few straggling blossoms, though they peaked in February. Seed heads from flowers produced earlier in the season are getting close to ripening and there are plans to collect the seeds and germinate plants in the nursery so that plants from our local gene pool can be used to repopulate the park. Bush Sunflowers are popular with pollinating insects like bees and butterflies.
The California Buckwheat, Erigonum fasciculatum, has just begun blooming and new blooms can be seen on plants that still contain dried seedheads from last season. Buckwheat is another plant that is very attractive to pollinating insects. Buckwheat normally blooms later in the season, though our unusually warm and dry winter may be a contributing factor in the early flowering this year.
After the Beautification Committee completed its brief hike to check on the status of plants above the meadow, Clare returned to the nursery and Sean and Daniel commenced weeding milk thistle. The sun began to break through and butterflies became more active, including several Painted Ladies that were nectaring from the introduced wild radish. They did not prove to be especially cooperative once the camera came out and the best photo is one that is partially obscured by grasses. The Painted Ladies were especially wary whenever the camera approached.
March 24, 2012
Location: Elyria Canyon Park, Los Angeles, California
The Mt Washington Beautification Committee were thrilled to find this lovely female Jumping Spider, Phidippus johnsoni, while attempting to remove invasive milk thistle from Elyria Canyon Park. There was a large stand of the thistle on the dirt road leading to the red barn, and while digging the weeds, this bright red spider could not be missed. Thanks to volunteer Sean Gilleran who grabbed the camera while Daniel held the active arachnid, we are able to post these awesome images. According to BugGuide, the Johnson Jumper is “Mostly black with a red abdomen. The male’s abdomen is entirely red, whereas the female’s abdomen has a black mark down the center.” BugGuide also notes: “Not harmful to humans, although like all spiders it will inflict a painful bite if provoked, and this species is reported to be more aggressive than other jumpers”, though Daniel is happy to report he was not bitten. This robust specimen was over a half an inch in length.
More information on the Johnson Jumper can be found on this excellent article by Robert R. Jackson from American Arachnology online.
- Johnson Jumper
- UPDATE: April 21, 2012
While participating in the April 21 Bird Watch walk in Elyria Canyon Park led by Julian Donahue, participants also viewed other wildlife including this Johnson Jumper spotted by Daniel and photographed by Kathy Donahue. The spider was found on a stalk of wild oats where she no doubt was waiting for some unsuspecting insect to wander within her jumping reach.
Sunday March 11, 2012
Butterflies are elusive creatures. Just try creeping up on one with a camera and you will know what we are talking about. Today while watering plants for the butterfly garden and weeding out invasive species, Daniel saw a Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui alight a few feet from him, and he lamented not having a camera.
He returned later in the afternoon and was lucky enough to photograph a Painted Lady nectaring from some of the last blooms on a Bush Sunflower, one of the plants the Mt Washington Beautification Committee has begun planting in the butterfly garden. Interestingly, the Painted Lady, a species that migrates north out of Mexico each year, was profiled in the March issue of the MWHA newsletter.
Numerous other smaller butterflies were also seen landing on the Bush Sunflower, including this little Common Checkered Skipper, Pyrgus communis, a species that BugGuide reports from California between June and December on its data page. Perhaps the weather this year has stimulated an early eclosion as numerous individuals were spotted in various places in the park.
Perhaps the most common butterfly spotted in the park today were the Fiery Skippers, Hylephila phyleus. Since the caterpillars of the Fiery Skipper feed on grasses, the non-native grasses the flourish in our hills during the wet winter and spring conditions provide a rich food supply and populations of Fiery Skippers are far from endangered. These rapid flying butterflies were feeding from the blossoms of the non-native wild radish that are also a common in fields and parks in southern California. Read more about the Fiery Skipper on BugGuide.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
This morning, Mt Washington Beautification Committee Co-Chairs Clare Marter Kenyon and Daniel Marlos made an impromptu trip to Elyria Canyon Park to water plants that were put in several weeks ago at the inaugural planting for the Butterfly Garden. While watering deerweed, California sunflowers and California black walnut seedlings, Daniel noticed some lovely blue flowers he suspected were Blue Eyed Grass.
Daniel told Clare he had a surprise for her and he led her to the spot in the area below the road and above Winmar Street. This heretofore unknown patch of Blue Eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium bellum, a member of the iris family, became the focus of the rest of the morning. Clumps of Blue Eyed Grass were tagged with pink tape and invasive grasses were weeded from around them.
Clare explained that this native has been lost in many parts of the park where it once grew wild, and there was a discussion about staking off the area to prevent habitat loss during annual brush clearance. There was also a discussion about trying to relocate some clumps of Blue Eyed Grass to areas where it once grew. A future work party should be devoted to this activity. Since neither Clare nor Daniel thought to bring a camera, a special trip needed to take place later in the day solely to take some photos to document the momentous discovery. More information on Blue Eyed Grass can be found on the Cal Flora website.
March 11, 2012
Your very busy Beautification Committee apologizes for the late posting. These photos were all taken on January 29, 2012, but there was no time to format and prepare for posting. Many of these same flowers are currently blooming in Elyria Canyon Park as of today.
Bush Sunflower, Encilia californica, is, according to Las Pilitas Nursery, a short lived plant. If this is the case, it is necessary to try to propagate our local population to preserve the gene pool in Elyria Canyon Park. As of today, there are still some Bush Sunflowers blooming, and they are attracting butterflies.
The Golden Currents, Ribes aureum, bloom in the late winter and produce fruit in the form of small berries that are eaten by birds and other wildlife. As of this posting, the plants have finished blooming, except perhaps in more shaded areas, and the fruit has begun developing. The USDA website has some nice information.
The lovely Fiesta Flower, Pholistoma auritum, is found in a few shaded areas of Elyria Canyon Park. The flower gets its common name because the hairy stems allow one to adhere a plucked flower to clothing, though we remind you that you should not gather flowers from the park. Get additional information on the Cal Flora website.
The vining California Morning Glory, Calystegia macrostegia, should continue to bloom most of the summer. You can find it along the upper trail that leads down to the meadow from Elyria Drive. Native bees and beneficial flower flies are often found taking nectar from California Morning Glories. See Las Pilitas Nursery for more information.
Mulefat, Baccharis saliciflolia, can be found growing in Elyria Canyon Park in the area below the Red Barn in the meadow where spring runoff drains through the park. According the the Cal Flora website: ”Mulefat is mostly found below 3500′ along stream banks and in dry stream beds in coastal sage scrub and chaparral.”
Blue Elderberry, Sambucus mexicana, is a large woody shrub that is covered with flat clusters of pale yellow flowers in the spring. According to the Las Pilitas Nursery website: ”Its bluish-black berries are excellent in jelly, fair in pie” though the berries in Elyria Canyon Park should be left for the birds and other wildlife.