Wildflowers of Carrizo Plain

After the heavy rains that ended California’s five-year drought, our state’s wildflowers have made a comeback. Enjoying last year’s superbloom at Death Valley, we visited the Carrizo Plain National Monument, a premier place for California wildflowers. Shown above, coreopsis and fiddleheads bloom above Soda Lake, an alkaline lake ringed by salt. Reflected in Soda Lake, the Temblor Range is painted with swaths of wildflowers. I can see an impressionist painter splashing bold strokes of color on the canvas.

When rain falls, the water dissolves salts from the soil and usually flows to the ocean, already salty from past rain. Like Death Valley, Carrizo Plain has no outlet for rainwater, so water collects in the lowest spots and evaporates, leaving behind salts. Invasive plants struggle with this salty environment, while native plants that evolved here flourish without invasive competition. Consequently, Carrizo Plain has vast fields of California native plants and their spring blooms.

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Los Altos Weather – Spring is in the Air

After the storms of January and February, the San Francisco Bay Area is drying out and getting ready for spring. Our first iris bloomed in late March. It’s a Douglas iris, iris douglasiana, a California native plant. Hardy, drought-tolerant, and disease-free, these irises are stars for a California garden, with beautiful flowers in the spring and green leaves year-round. They’re easy to divide and move to new places in our yard.

California’s reservoirs are full, and the mountain snowpack is very large, so there’s lots of water to distribute to farms and urban users. Future challenges will be whether the water conservation forced by the drought will persist and dealing with groundwater overdrafts.

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Water is for Fighting Over

The American Southwest has always been parched, so water supplies become overextended as farms and cities grow. John Fleck’s Water is for Fighting Over examines legal and political fights and settlements for water from the Colorado River.

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From this experience we can find lessons learned and paths to share water.

 

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Los Altos Weather – Soggy February

Northern California and my home town of Los Altos received more rain than normal in January and February 2017, as the atmospheric river continued to flow here. After five years of drought, California’s surface water and snow pack are above normal.

In early March, bee’s bliss sage (salvia ‘Bee’s Bliss’) begins to bloom, attracting bees. Bee’s bliss sage is a California native plant that is drought tolerant and likes full sun.

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Los Altos Weather – Low Rainfall But More on the Way

In my home town of Los Altos, California, we’ve had below-average rainfall so far in this rainy season. In January the storm door is open, and we’ll hope for the best.

Above, two gray squirrels catch rays on a December morning. One stretches while the other bites an itch.

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Los Altos Weather — Average Rainfall Through November

My home town of Los Altos, California, received normal rainfall the past two months, after four months of no rain. California cities have reduce water use by 20% from three years ago, and California is making some water conservation measures permanent.

Shown above, the toyon (heteromeles arbutifolia) is a California-native shrub that bears clusters of small, red, berry-like fruits around Christmas. Growing in the hills above Los Angeles, the toyon “gave rise to the name Hollywood”.

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Water is for Fightin’

Faced with last month’s call to leave more water for fish and wildlife, San Francisco started a fight for water, authoring a guest editorial stating “The consequences of these cutbacks potentially could cripple our Bay Area economy.” In a separate action that spreads the water fight to a vast watershed that supplies southern California and the Bay Area, the California State Water Board said “scientific information indicates that restoration of more natural flow functions is needed now to halt and reverse the species declines”.

Our rainy season is off to a good start. In October, we received 1.72″ of rain, more than twice the normal .76″.

With cooling temperatures and rain, native plants are reviving after the hot and dry summer. Shown above, a California polypody (polypodium californicum) shakes off summer dormancy in late October, sending up fiddleheads in a thicket of snowberry (symphoricarpos albus). Both grow in the deep shade of a California live oak (quercus agrifolia), and all are California native plants.

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