Come learn about the native plants of the area and beyond. Saturday, May 16th from 9 am – 3 pm at the Shelter Cove RID building, 9126 Shelter Cove Road, in Shelter Cove. A great selection of native plants from local nurseries will be for sale.
* Dr. James P. Smith, emeritus professor of Botany from Humboldt State University, will speak about grasses and his new book, Field Guide to Grasses of California.
* Cheryl Lisin will show you 10 great natives for the garden. She is a landscape designer and author of native plant articles appearing in the Redwood Times and Redheaded Blackbelt.
* Monica Scholey will discuss the effects of invasive plants and lead us in a Pampas grass pull. Monica runs the Mattole Restoration Council’s native plant nursery and teaches environmental education.
There will also be short presentations, information tables, a plant ID walk along the Shelter Cove Upper Nature Trail, kid’s activities and more.
10:00 BLM’s Phenology Project – Leysika Parrott
10:20 Ten Great Natives for the Garden – Cheryl Lisin
11:15 Invasives awareness campaign launch
11:30 Invasive weed talk and Pampas Grass Pull – Monica Scholey
12:45 All about the California Native Plant society
1:00 Grasses in California – James P Smith
2:00 Plant Identification walk along Shelter Cove’s upper nature trail – Pete Haggard
Plant sales, information tables and kid’s activities will be ongoing throughout the day.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
How amazing that something can grow up to 150 feet in one year! Bull kelp and giant kelp are the fastest growing seaweeds in the world and can grow up to 2 feet per day. Bull kelp is especially amazing because it is an annual; germinating, growing, reproducing and dying all within a one-year cycle. Bull kelp grows in large patches called kelp forests off-shore from San Luis Obispo County to the Aleutian Islands, preferring colder water than the giant kelp. It is the predominant ‘big’ seaweed along the Lost Coast.
Growing from sporophytes in the spring, bull kelp forms holdfasts that act like roots clinging tight to rocks and cobble on the ocean floor. Holdfasts must be strong in order to hold on in the rough and tumble subtidal zone. From the holdfast extends the stipe, a hollow stalk that grows all the way up to the surface. At the surface the stipe enlarges into a gas filled floatwhich keeps the seaweed upright. As many as 60 blades grow from the top of the float, absorbing nutrients and sunshine, and forming the brown ‘rafts’ of seaweed that we see from the shore or a boat. Spores form in patches on the undersides of the blades and in fall, sink to the ocean floor. By winter, bull kelp is spent. Storms wash it to shore where we humans pick it up and twirl it around like a bull whip, hence the common name.
On the surface, kelp forests calm the water and provide resting and feeding areas for sea otters, gulls, herons, shorebirds, and waterfowl. Kelp forests soften the force of waves against the shoreline, helping to reduce beach erosion. Underwater, kelp forests provide shelter and habitat for young fish, snails, crabs, sea stars, anemones, and many other creatures. When washed ashore in winter, the decomposing kelp provides food and shelter for scavengers like crabs and beach hoppers, which in turn are food for shorebirds and other life.
Bull kelp is full of vitamins, minerals and protein. It was used by the Pacific Northwest Coast Indians for food, fishing gear and storage containers. Kelp must be harvested responsibly to protect it from depletion and to preserve its ecosystem. Because it requires clean, clear water to thrive, polluted coastal runoff and warming oceans due to climate change threaten the species.
The California Coastal National Monument encompasses all the rocks and small islands off the 1100 mile California coastline, protecting their scenic beauty and wildlife habitat. The Coastal Monument is part of America’s National Conservation Lands. It is here that bull kelp thrives.
Cheryl Lisin is a landscape designer and native plant enthusiast who lives in Whitethorn.
One of California’s most beautiful shrubs, manzanita, blooms in winter. If you happen to be near a blooming manzanita plant, you are likely to see and hear Anna’s Hummingbirds, who stay for the winter rather than flying south, feeding on the flower nectar. Outliers can bloom here in Southern Humboldt as early as December and as late as May, but most bloom in February and March. Blooming at a time of year when food is scarce, manzanita flowers are an important source of pollen for butterflies, bees and other insects. Once pollinated, the fruit or berries, which resemble little apples form. The name manzanita means little apple in Spanish. Berries are a good source of food for birds and bears. If you come across bear scat it is likely to be full of manzanita berries (unless the bear just raided your apple tree!)
Humans have uses for manzanita as well. The fresh berries can be eaten or made into cider. Dried berries make a nutritious meal or porridge. A tea made from the leaves is said to help reduce poison oak rash. Recipies and information on traditional uses by native people as well as modern uses can be found by searching on line. In the garden, manzanitas make strikingly beautiful specimens, especially if pruned to reveal their sinewy branches .
The genus name for manzanita is Arctostaphylos, which means bear berry in Greek. There are over 40 Arctostaphylos species native to California. Three species grow here, Arctostaphylos manzanita, common manzanita, Arctostaphylos columbiana, hairy manzanita, and Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, kinnikinnick which is a ground hugging species. Both common manzanita and kinnikinnick have deep green leaves. Hairy manzanita has fuzzy grey-green leaves and fuzzy stems. Manzanita flowers are usually pink, but some plants have white flowers. All have striking smooth red-brown bark that peels in mid-summer to reveal green bark underneath, which quickly darkens to red-brown. Manzanitas are in the heath family, Ericaeae, and are related to madrone, huckleberries, blueberries, salal, rhododendron, azalea, heath and heather.
Usually found in chaparral, grassland or forest margins, manzanitas are sun lovers. Like their close relative, the madrones, they will reach toward the suinlight if they become shaded out by other plants. Older manzanitas can reach 20 feet tall. They sometimes sweep the ground, rooting where the branches make contact with soil. Many forested ridges in the area have old dead manzanita branches lying about, indicating that the ridge was once grassland. Due to lack of fire, the manzanitas were able to move in to the grassland, only to be shaded out by the fir and tan oak forest that moved in later. A great place to see hairy Manzanita is up on the Chemise Mountain trail, just south of the overlook, in the King Range. Here they are growing with knobcone pine and chinquapin, which will some day shade out the manzanitas.
Manzanitas are such abundant bloomers and all around great plants – its no wonder the Anna’s hummingbirds don’t fly south for the winter.
Photos and text by Cheryl Lisin, a landscape designer and native plant enthusiast who lives in Whitethorn, Ca.
It may look like an earthworm but Batrachoseps attenuates is a miniscule salamander with idiosyncrasies. Two-thirds of its total 2 ½” to 5 ½” length is tail. Its tiny head is narrow and its brown skin is deeply grooved between the ribs, thus completing the earthworm disguise. Unlike an earthworm, they have bulging, front-facing eyes, tiny arms and legs, and a tooth-filled mouth. Batrachoseps are lungless and breathe through their thin moist skin. Unlike other salamanders they have four toes instead of five on each foot. The slander salamander ranges from Washington to Baja California, preferring cool, moist woodlands, oak or conifer, with deep leaf litter and decomposing wood and bark. However they are not too picky, as they have also been found in urban gardens and roadside greenery and valley grasslands. What is essential, especially during the dry season, is a cool moist retreat, often underground in rodent burrows or under rocks or logs. They are usually dormant during the dry season. With such tiny legs, they do not travel far, probably less than six feet from home base. This, along with the fact that they are an ancient lineage suggest what DNA studies have also indicated: What is currently classified as one species, B. attenuatus, has, over time, evolved into 5 or more distinct species by gradually being separated by the building of mountain ranges and the movement of the San Andreas Fault. As scientists learn more, the new species will likely be classified. Batrachoseps can sometimes be found on wet days above ground, but they mostly confine themselves to foraging in the leaf litter, or underground in termite tunnels, earthworm holes and rodent holes. Their forward-looking eyes focus on the prey, which is then snagged with their sticky projective tongue. Prey includes spiders, mites, snails and insects, in addition to earthworms and termites. Little can be said of the sex life of the slender salamander, other than that breeding takes place from December (in the hotter reaches of its range) through January. The females deposit 5 to 20 eggs in subterranean tunnels which may be shared by several females. The eggs are surrounded by capsules connected by strands of jelly; this is presumably to keep them moist for the two months of incubation. There is no aquatic larval phase. The hatched young are miniature adults, although long-legged, short-tailed and big-headed compared to their parents. So what’s the exciting idiosyncrasy? Fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds have large, oval nucleated red blood cells (RBCs). Mammals have small RBCs without a nucleus. Batrachoseps’ red RBCs also lack a nucleus? Why? During its maturation in the bone marrow, a mammalian RBC does have a nucleus (which contains the DNA), but this nucleus is ejected before the RBC is sent into circulation. The nucleated cell is 10x larger than the non-nucleated one, even through the amount of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin is the same. Slender salamanders are extremely small, and it is thought that nucleated RBCs would cause too much friction in the capillaries and possible circulatory problems.
My brother and I filled our terrarium with blue-bellies. These lizards are alert and fast but we had a secret weapon: a fishing pole. We tied one end of fishing line to the final loop on the pole, made a noose and ran the line to the base of the pole. We sneaked up on the lizard from behind, lowered the noose over his head and gently tightened the line. Capture! This method also worked for snakes.
Sceloporus occidentalis, as the Western Fence Lizard is officially known, is a small lizard, less than 8 ½ “ long, with very rough scales on its upper surface. Their background color is light brown with blotches, bands, or ragged brown stripes. Turn the lizard over to see the amazing blue stripes on its belly and throat. Males have the deeper blue, females lighter and juveniles often none at all. During courtship and territorial disputes, the males do pushups to show off their colors. Presumably, deeper blues indicate a stronger, healthier and more virile male. Males fight to defend their territory but we never saw this behavior in our terrarium even though it was crowded with blue-bellies. Maybe this was because none of the males thought it was territory worth fighting for. Also, the terrarium lacked any suitable elevation where a male could do pushups to show off.
Mating occurs March through June, depending on the altitude. Two to four weeks later the female digs a small pit in soft moist soil and lays a clutch of 3 – 17 eggs. She may lay several more clutches. The eggs will hatch in about 60 days, from July to September.
Fence lizards are common and frequently seen, as they are found in many habitats, from forests to grasslands to scrub. They love to bask in the sun in an elevated open place, such as a fence or a rocky outcrop or your woodpile. This makes them an easy target for hawks and snakes, sometimes shrews and kids with fishing poles. Speed and vigilance are their usual defenses, but they can sacrifice their tail if necessary. The tail will twitch after separation, distracting the predator. It takes energy to regrow a tail, so detaching one is not done lightly by the lizard.
They eat bugs and spiders, ticks and scorpions. And they are very valuable in lowering the incidence of Lyme disease in areas where they are found. The bacterium which carries Lyme disease is carried by the western black-legged tick. Very young ticks frequently attach to fence lizards, especially around the mouth. A protein in the lizard’s blood (which the tick ingests) kills the bacterium, so the tick will be disease-free when it infects its next host. Treasure your blue-bellies!
Article by Eve Broughton. Eve lives in Whitethorn and was educated at UC Berkeley
The other morning, there were 2 alligator lizards basking in the sunlight on a window sill, and another hoping to get out the nearby door. The cat had brought them in. I decided to evict them. Two were sluggish or cooperative, but the other raced around and then hissed at me and bit me as I tried to pick him up. He held on like a pit bull. He had recently lost his tail and was probably not in a good mood. Should you wish to pick one up, grasp it behind the head.
Outside, I saw 5 or 6 within a 40’ stretch of garden. Obviously, previous years were great for alligator lizard survival and reproduction. Unlike many reptiles, alligator lizards are ovoviviparous: after mating, the eggs are retained in the female’s body. Usually there are 2 or 3 eggs. The fetuses get nourishment from the egg yolk. When they are developed, about 2 months after mating, the young “hatch” and are soon born. It will take about 3 years for females to reach sexual maturity.
The young are, about 3” long, thin and have smooth shiny unpatterned light brown skin; they look like small skinks. As adults, alligator lizards can be 10” long, with 6 of that being tail. Their heads are flat and triangular with pointed noses. Behind the eyes, their body slowly and slightly widen, without noticeable neck, until the middle of the abdomen, and then taper gently to the end of the tail. Legs are small and thin. There are 5 fine toes on each foot.
In California, there are two species of alligator lizard. Both can be found in our area. The Northern species (Elgaria coerulea) can be distinguished from the Southern species (Elgaria multicarinata) by eye color and belly striping. Northern has dark eyes and a dark stripes running between the scales. Southern has light eyes and dark stripes on the middle of the scales.
Both are brownish, buff, or olive-brown on top, with darker crossbands. The scales are large, keeled, and slightly shingled. Separating the back from the belly, and running the length of the body from behind the corner of the mouth to the tail is a lateral fold of skin. The belly is usually light gray, and the scales are flat and shiny.
Alligator lizards occupy a variety of habitats, but they prefer moist areas and avoid deserts. Nor do they bask in sunlight in the open, as other lizards do. When they sun, there will be cover very close by. These pugnacious lizards are nice to have in the garden. They eat insects and grubs, snails, ticks, mites and spiders, and millipedes, and sometimes infant rodents.
Eve Broughton was educated at UC. Berkeley and lives in Whitethorn.
A series of free summer guided hikes, with topics ranging from geology to seaweed, will be held this summer at various locations in the King Range National Conservation Area.
The hikes begin Saturday, June 8, with “Plants and Geology of the Coastal Cliffs.” The hike, ranging from 2 to 4 miles in length, begins at 10 a.m. at the Bureau of Land Management trailhead at Black Sands Beach in Shelter Cove. Hikers should wear sturdy hiking boots, bring food and water and be prepared for walking in sand.
Sam Flanagan, a geologist with the BLM Arcata Field Office, and Cheryl Lisin, a landscape designer with detailed knowledge about native plants, will lead the hike.
Other hikes in the series are: “Rising Moon, Setting Sun,” offered June 22; “Tidepool and Seaweed Exploration,” July 13; “Rare and Native Plants of Red Mountain,” July 27; “Compass Courses,” Aug. 10; and “Coast’s Cultural History,” Aug. 24.
Details about each hike will be provided closer to the dates for each outing.
The annual hike series is a partnership of the BLM’s King Range National Conservation Area and the Lost Coast Interpretive Association.
The King Range National Conservation Area is part of the BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System.