Far Afield: Plants of Mediterranean Baja

There has been much talk lately in the news about California’s stagnant population. For the first time in our state’s history, new immigrants and births have been balanced by folks leaving. Among the emigrants’ complaints are housing prices and cost of living. Few – if any – would list our climate as a motivating factor … Read more

Toyon Berries and Hope for the New Year

As we enter the winter season, our eyes are naturally drawn in appreciation to native evergreens. Their vibrant green reflects the winter sunshine as they are invigorated by the first rains of the year.  Among the evergreens we catch the bright red glow of clusters of toyon berries.  Robins and cedar waxwings will enjoy the … Read more

California’s Bushmallows

Talk to me about plants, and you’ll find me referring to many types as “one of my favorites.”  After a while it may seem that I have so many favorites that the designation doesn’t mean much.  They’re all my favorites, those native plants of ours. That said, some do stand out.  California’s bushmallows of the … Read more

A Few Very Local Native Plants

Have you ever discovered a native plant growing naturally in your neighborhood? There are many that have managed to maintain a foothold during wave after wave of human-driven land transformation. In Santa Clara County, one immediately thinks of toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia, coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia, and Telegraph weed, Heterotheca grandiflora, as conspicuous survivors. These … Read more

California’s Diverse Rose Family

  The rose family, Rosaceae, is one of California’s most diverse group of plants. Found throughout the world with thousands of members, the rose family also fills California with over three hundred respresentatives. Although we are all used to to the multi-colored hybrid roses that fill our neighborhoods, most members of the rose family bear … Read more

Santa Clara County’s Ceanothus

Santa Clara County is home to about 11 species from the genus Ceanothus, commonly referred to as California lilac.  As with many ceanothus, our local species are found in dry, mountainous settings usually in ample sun.  Their glossy evergreen foliage is covered with white or blue flowers in spring.  While many ceanothus are available in … Read more

Ventana Wilderness: Part 3

In the morning of June 5 we continued down Higgins Creek toward Lost Valley Creek.  After several creek crossings we arrived at the open meadows of Lost Valley and lost the trail entirely.   Since we knew the direction we needed to go we decided to bushwhack our way.  This involved pushing through dense chaparral … Read more

Ventana Wilderness: Part 2

We spent the evening admiring the aerial acrobatics of a healthy bat population and then enjoying the starfield in this remote area.  In the morning we noted that our camp at the head of the Tan Oak Creek drainage was at the eastern edge of a recent fire.  The burned trees were still standing, usually … Read more

Ventana Wilderness: Part 1

This last week I and my son struck out on a four day backpack trip to Ventana Wilderness in Monterey County.  Here are a few notes on the plants we encountered in this rich area. We started at Arroyo Seco, just west of Greenfield in the Salinas Valley.  The Arroyo Seco river is the largest … Read more

Linda Vista – The View From Here

     I was fortunate to grow up in the Saratoga foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains while Santa Clara County was just completing its transition from the Valley of Heart’s Delights to Silicon Valley.  My family home was surrounded by old orchards, rolling oak woodlands and spring creeks.  In such a setting I grew quite … Read more