Sunday, May 04, 2014

All That's Green

Weather: Strong winds shredded leaves, parked Russian thistles, and uncovered buried broken glass in the yard; last rain, 4/19/14.

What’s blooming in the area: Tulips, purple iris; grape vines leafing. Lilacs taking a pass.

Beyond the walls and fences: Alfilerillo, western stickseed, bractless and tawny cryptanthas, hoary cress, purple mat flower, woolly plantain, fern leaf globemallow, oxalis, goat’s beard, native and common dandelions, cheat grass.

Trees of heaven sprouting, Virginia creeper leafing, rice, needle and June grasses ready to bloom. Tansy mustard flowers nearly gone, tumble mustard starting.

In my yard: Choke cherry, grape hyacinths, moss phlox,vinca; buds on spirea, privet, and Bath pinks; reseeded California poppies and larkspur up.

Animal sightings: Cottontail rabbit in my yard, jack on the prairie, robin in the village, hummingbird, other small birds, harvester and small black ants, my first bumblebee.

Weekly update: My northern yard is green, the first time since I’ve lived here.

Western stickseeds are everywhere, though there are more on the eastern side of the slope than the west. Water spreads through osmosis from hoses that water the trees and shrubs along the driveway.

Scattered through the stickseeds are some tufted white evening primroses, purple mat flowers and bractless cryptanthas. There are more primroses than I’ve ever seen in this area.

We had a dry winter, followed by a warm spring with a little rain. These are annuals that germinate sometime between late summer and early winter to bloom in early spring.

They won’t last. Stickseeds are members of the borage family that begin as small rosettes, then send up blooming stems. Tiny five-petaled flowers appear at the ends of stems which continually elongate. Lower on the stems, hard shelled nutlets form. When Lappula redowskii plants die, they leave short dead stalks and barbed seeds that attach themselves to socks and pant legs. They usually can be rolled off without the skin getting pierced.

Yesterday, I walked north where housing is mixed with empty fields. The land rises in the east, so water flows downhill to a level plain that slopes gradually to the road. Gypsum phacelias were growing in the catch basin with primroses and stickseeds. Cryptanthas, mat flowers, and woolly plantains were growing in the drier area toward the road.

Between that area and my yard, the land to the east turns into a barren crest with a cone of sand and clay. In that area, the stickseeds were sparser. The other plants only grew in the area near the road where water must get captured by the short slope.

I also walked south into the prairie. The area directly behind my vertical board fence was barren, with just a little winterfat, but a number of primroses. They probably get water from my watering and the septic field.

Uphill, bunch grasses began at my neighbor’s yard. He and another neighbor built a berm above their lands a few year ago that channels water to the area where the grass was growing. Across a rutted road made by some utility trucks a decade ago, the land is undisturbed. Grasses were growing. The only primroses were down toward the ranch road.

Across the ranch road, little water creeps: it’s stopped by the road. My neighbor to the west doesn’t water. The only thing that grows is winterfat. Cryptantha’s more common there, but widely spaced.

After the stickseeds pass, nothing will take their place until the monsoons. Last year, the prairie hill sprouted annual seven-week grama. All the fields to the north were bright green with Russian thistles.

In years when water is scarce, the most minute differences of moisture migration through differing soils are registered by the landscape.

1. Western stickseed, 2 May 2014, my northern yard.

2. Winterfat, western stickseeds, turfed white evening primroses (the white spots), 30 April 2014, my northern yard.

3. Tufted white evening primrose with western stickseeds, 25 April 2014, my northern yard.

4. Western stickseed, 25 December 2007, my western yard.

5. Gypsum phacelia (tall), tufted white evening primroses, bractless cryptantha (short gray), 3 May 2014, to the north.

6. Clumps of dead grass (tall), tufted white evening primrose, bractless cryptantha, 3 May 2014, midway between my yard and #5.

7. Lower half is down hill behind my fence, winterfat, western stickseeds, and tufted white evening primroses. Upper half is bunch grass with few winter annuals. 3 May 2014.

8. Across the ranch road, winterfat, tufted white evening primroses, and bractless cryptantha, 3 May 2014.

9. Bright green Russian thistle growing between clumps of dead grass in the area of #6, last 2 August 2013.

10. Grasses congregating near runoff from water for the peach tree. A bit away are tufted white evening primroses. In the dryer area, western stickseeds. My western yard, 3 May 2014.

11. Woolly plantain growing near the road in the area of #4, 3 May 2014.

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