Coming Up in the Elfin Forest
by Jean Wheeler
The Elfin Forest is richly green and wildly blooming in many colors after a far better rainy season than our herbs and shrubs have enjoyed in many years. With the excellent supply of water in the soil, the floral explosion should keep going at least through the months of June and July.
Dune buckwheat has white flowers at this time of year. White to pale lavender blossoms occur in pompoms on sturdy stems of black sage. Spikes of white flowers characterize Chamise. Deerweed shrubs show yellow blooms while Sticky Monkey Flowers (the leaves are sticky, not the flowers) are conspicuously orange and both species should bloom on into August. California Poppies, Fiddleneck, Golden Yarrow, and Suffrutescent Wallflowers also have yellow to orange flowers.
Silver Dune Lupines near Bush Lupine Point have lovely blue flower spikes, but were hit much harder than other species by the long years of drought, so the display may not be as spectacular as in previous years. Wooly Star is a low-growing bush with herbaceous shoots and bright blue flowers above a woody root crown. It is best seen along the 15th Street sand trail and a sandy area across from the Fairbanks Monument. Blue Dicks have a cluster of purplish-blue flowers at the top of a slender stem as much as two feet tall. Purple Nightshade is also in bloom during these months.
Cobbwebby Thistles and California Hedge Nettles have pink flowers. Red Fuchsia-flowered Gooseberries are nearing the end of their blooming season but Cardinal Catchflies (red flowers in the undergrowth appearing to have been cut by pinking shears) should continue to bloom all summer.
Butterflies have been called “flying flowers” and these colorful insects abound in June and July. Bush lupines attract Moro Blue butterflies to lay eggs on their leaves while Acmon Blues are attracted to Deerweed to host 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. Especially likely to be seen and heard are the bright blue California Scrub Jays, orange and black Spotted Towhees, chattering flocks of tiny fuzzy gray Bushtits and Bluegray Gnatcatchers, and similarly talkative little brown birds including several species of sparrows and wrens. Among avian migrants passing through in June or July from winter homes farther south are Warbling Vireos, Hooded Orioles, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Yellow, Townsend’s, and Wilson’s Warblers.
Among non-avian residents active as summer approaches are Western Fence Lizards, Brush Rabbits, Ground Squirrels, and Coyotes.
What a colorful and exciting time to visit the sand trails and boardwalk of our small wilderness area!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion in future issues under “Elfin Forest Sightings.” You can also leave a message on SWAP’s answering machine, (805) 528-0392.