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Coming Up in the Elfin Forest

Text and Photos By Jean Wheeler

      We have incredibly beautiful floral displays in our winters and springs here in the Elfin Forest. But our summer flowers are also amazingly varied and beautiful. I think they favorably rival summer wildflower displays in easterly and northern parts of our nation. Making a walk in our small wilderness area even more exciting in summer are the antics of our birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, and arthropods, almost all of whom are extremely busy breeding and raising their young.

      Blue flower spikes of tall silver dune lupines, for which Bush Lupine Point is named, start blooming in late spring but can continue into June and July. Wooly stars are shown in my photo taken near the boardwalk intersection at the Fairbanks Monument. They have herbaceous stems and bright blue flowers above a woody root crown in summer. The same photo also shows tall red stems of the succulent dudleya topped with bright yellow flowers.

dudleya (left) ~ wooly star (right)

      Dune buckwheat has white flowers, darkening to pink by late summer. White to pale lavender blossoms are in pompoms on sturdy stems of black sage. Spikes of white flowers characterize chamise. California wild rose, cobwebby thistles, and California hedge nettles have pink flowers. Golden yarrow (pictured) is golden yellow. Sticky monkey-flowers (the leaves, not the flowers are sticky) are orange and abundantly distributed most of the summer. Cardinal catchflies (red flowers in the undergrowth appearing to have been cut by pinking shears) should bloom all summer.

golden yarrow

      Butterflies, often called “flying flowers,” continue to abound in early summer. Bush lupines attract moro blue butterflies to lay eggs on their leaves while acmon blues are attracted to deerweed for their caterpillars. Dune buckwheat attracts gray hairstreaks. Variable checkerspots lay eggs beneath sticky monkey-flower leaves. Gabb’s checkerspot is attracted to California poppies for nectar. The California oak moth lays its eggs on our pygmy live oaks.

      While admiring butterflies and flowers from the boardwalk and sand trails, your eyes will no doubt also be attracted by the flight of avian residents tending or seeking food for their young. Especially likely to be seen and heard are the bright blue California scrub jays, loudly proclaiming their last name. Orange and black spotted towhees make a loud buzz. The large California quail sports a silly bobbing head plume and sounds to me like it is calling “quer-CAH-go.” Then there are busily chattering flocks of tiny fuzzy gray birds, dominated by bushtits and blue-gray gnatcatchers. Talkative little brown birds include several species of sparrows and wrens.

      Among other residents busy in summer are bees, damselflies, spittlebugs, western fence lizards (doing their amusing pushups), garter snakes, gopher snakes, brush rabbits, ground squirrels, coyotes, and sometimes even deer.
So enjoy a walk on our wild side this summer!


Please Report Elfin Forest Sightings

Have you observed any unusual birds in the Elfin Forest? Mammals? Reptiles? Amphibians? Insects? Interesting activities or footprints of wildlife in our Elfin Forest? Unusual plants? Taken a good photo?

Please report any interesting sightings to your Oakleaves editors at: oakleaf@elfin-forest.org for inclusion in this website and/or a future issue of Oakleaves. You can also leave a message on FEMEF’s answering machine, 805-528-0392.
If you took a picture of your unusual sighting attach it to your e-mail. Be sure and include your name so we can give you proper credit.