Last Saturday a California Native Plant Society group returned to the Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve to see and document how plants are recovering six months after a wildfire last July. We visited the area last November, and we planned to return in January, after the rains started, to see the regrowth. However, we’ve had very little rain since then, very unusual for our Mediterranean climate, with its mild, wet winters.
The fire and this hike were in a preserve where going off-trail is normally prohibited. Please help protect the preserve by staying on the trails unless you are part of a docent-led hike like this one.
Saturday was a beautiful day for a hike, with a high temperature in the low 70s. The path of our hike is shown by the black line on the map below. Hiking in a clockwise loop, we started at the road where the fire started (in the middle of the map), walked uphill to the half-burnt oak tree, to the west to climb the ridge outside the fire zone, and then returning on the Mayfair Ranch Trail.
We hiked across the burn area to the half-burnt oak tree. This coast live oak looked the same as in November.
Near the oak tree we found a young sisyrinchium bellum (California blue-eyed grass). Despite the name, this California native is a member of the iris family. It has tiny, beautiful blue flowers in the spring. I now have new respect for its drought-tolerant qualities! The bunchgrass is doing well without water.
The epilobium canum (California fuschia) continues to grow in the draw near the oak tree.
The burnt oak on the ridgeline near the gate has sprouts around a stump, and the sprouts near the cut are about the same.
Last but not least, we saw some Dudleya abramsii ssp. setchellii, Santa Clara Valley dudleya. This stonecrop lives only in this part of the valley, and it is endangered per the US Fish and Wildlife Service. As you can see, the Santa Clara Valley dudleya lives in the cracks of serpentine rocks, requiring excellent drainage.
With scant winter rains, we saw few new plants in January that we didn’t see in November. The sisyrinchium bellum is new, and it does grow in the winter. The good news is that the plants we saw in November are still alive.