Scottish Rock Garden Club Forum

General Subjects => Blogs and Diaries => Topic started by: Robert on November 14, 2021, 08:14:30 PM

Title: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on November 14, 2021, 08:14:30 PM
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Late autumn weather has settled into our region of California. There has been dense fog in the Central Valley with little or no clearing during the day. Above the inversion layer, skies have been clear with well above average temperatures.

Precipitation amounts during the first 2 weeks of November have been below average. In a slow process, I am gradually developing a climatic forecasting model that I can run on my laptop computer. It might seem an unrealistic endeavor, however I am enjoying every aspect. Based on statistical-type modeling, the current dry pattern appears that it will persist for the next month or more. Temperatures in November have been above average. This trend looks like it will continue for the next week. Beyond, for the next month temperatures could go in either direction. There are mixed and contrasting indications in both the statistical- and dynamic-type modeling.

Either way, it is obvious that both the daily and long-term climatic trends have a profound impact on plants, in our Sacramento garden, native ecosystems, and all managed and unmanaged ecosystems as a whole.

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I have started seeding out species that need some degree of winter chilling (vernalization) to germinate properly. With climate change, it is questionable if there are adequate chilling hours for some species during the winter in our Sacramento garden. Epigenetic changes can sometimes take place that alter a seed’s response to chilling hours, allowing germination with fewer chilling hours and allowing these characteristics to be passed on to the progeny without altering the gene sequences of the genetic line.

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Sometimes there is enough autumn chilling so we get pretty autumn foliage, as we once regularly did. Amazingly, this year, despite the heat and oppressive smoke, we are experiencing an incredibly gorgeous fall display, an event that we have missed for years. This is Acer Palmatum ‘Ornatum’

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There are a few flowers remaining on the Zinnia elegans. The rain in October and the foggy weather are quickly bringing an end to the remaining plants. We are enjoying the beauty of the late color turning brown; the shift in colors from bright and exuberant to withering, much as Monet is said to have done with his garden in Giverny.

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I allow many plants that might be considered weeds to grow in our garden:

Below center is Potentilla gracilis var. fastigiata. It is a native species that freely seeds around the garden. The species has a good degree of drought tolerance, has attractive foliage and bright yellow flowers. I let them seed around but need to control their numbers and locations.

Above the Potentilla is Verbascum nigrum. I might be getting into trouble with this one! The plant is a seedling volunteer from the Placerville property. I like the dark stems and yellow flowers. I hope I can control them. Various wild passerines enjoy the seeds. It is such a joy to watch the little birds perch and devour the seeds of this Verbascum, Zinnias, Cosmos, Oenothera, Perilla, and others.

Above the Verbascum and slightly to the right is Linaria purpuea. This is the standard purple form. For years only the pink Canon Went seeded around the garden. I am pleased to have the purple form. Linaria purpurea seeds around; however it has never been a problem in our garden.

Also in the photograph are seedlings of Digitalis purpurea. Although I planted these; however, to some extent, the species does seed around in our garden.

Many other species seed around our garden without any help on my part. I really enjoy our California native annual species that seed around in our garden.

Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on November 22, 2021, 09:00:14 PM
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The mild and dry weather continues in our portion of Northern California. November temperatures are running ~ 2.5 F (1.39 C) above average in the foothills and Sierra Nevada Mountains. At our Sacramento home temperatures are running ~ 0.5 F (0.28 C) above average.

Precipitation to date in November is 39% of the monthly average. Currently the prospect for more precipitation during the next 10 days appears unlikely. Because of the torrential rainfall in late October, our entire precipitation totals to date are still well above average. Unfortunately, the October storm was very warm and it left very little snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Now--more or less--all this snow has melted leaving us no snow pack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The El Niño – Southern Oscillation teleconnection has a very strong influence on our California weather. The currently intensifying La Niña event is highly conducive to dry and cold weather in our part of California. With climate change, there has been a general trend toward rising geopotential heights in our region: During last winter’s strong La Niña event, the trend toward rising geopotential heights helped influence a shift where much of the cold weather remained north and east of our region; however the typical La Niña dry weather pattern persisted.

With the mild temperatures, common Borage, Borago officinalis, is still blooming in our garden.

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Moraea polystachya continues to bloom in the mild weather.

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The silvery gray foliage of Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida is appreciated during the late autumn-winter months. The nascent upright inflorescences are very sticky, thus the name viscida. With it so warm, a few inflorescences have already expanded and bloomed with their delightful urns, an important winter nectar source for hummingbirds and butterflies. It is cause for concern, what will these precious creatures have if the weather turns cold? It remains to be seen if indeed it will turn cold, or any significant precipitation will occur. The lack of water is dire; however, that has not halted development and degradation of habitat.

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With cool weather and rainfall, the summer dormant plants of Ranunculus occidentalis var. occidentalis quickly emerge from the ground and begin growth. Unlike Ranunculus occidentalis var. ultramontanus, variety occidentalis must be kept completely dry all summer. Hybrids between variety occidentalis and ultrmontanus are showing promise as useful garden plants in our garden, with tolerance to summer moisture and showy flowers.

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The seed of Ranunculus occidentalis var. occidentalis germinates quickly after the weather cools in the autumn and the rain begins.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on November 22, 2021, 09:03:11 PM
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While working in the garden yesterday, I found a plant container full of volunteer seedlings of Echscholzia lobbii and Eucrypta chrysanthemifolia. Generally, fire is necessary to enhance the germination of Eucrypta chrysanthemifolia. I knew there was the possibility to develop a seed line of this species that would germinate abundantly without fire. These seedlings are the results of seed I missed when gathering seed in the late spring of last year. I will sow the seed I gathered soon; hopefully there will be a high rate of germination without fire/smoke treatment.

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I have a lot of fun breeding many very common plant species. The two tubs each contain a different seed line of common Sweet Peas. I will cross the two lines with the goal of developing seed lines that germinate well in our relatively warm weather, have a wide flower color range, large flower trusses with many flowers, strong scent, and heat tolerance. Needless to say, all the goals will not be reached with one cross.

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I do much breeding work in tubs, especially with small plants. This maximizes use of our small space, pollination and genetic control. Otherwise, containers are a delightful splash of color that can be rotated throughout the garden.

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I make my own soil blocks. The first two tubs contain a line of common Viola that I am wishing to improve. Experimenting with common species works very well for me. Techniques I develop with common species frequently can be applied to other less common but desirable species: I like our local California native Viola species, such as Viola purpurea. The new techniques are useful in developing easier-to-cultivate forms of our local native Viola species.

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Soil blocks are great for starting seed and transplanting seedlings. Many difficult- to-transplant species, transplant easily when seeded out in soils blocks.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Hoy on November 28, 2021, 09:16:46 AM
You certainly do an impressive work with plants, Robert! Hope your climate doesn't get too dry for growing plants. Here we had a dry but not too dry summer but the fall (October-November) has been rather wet, well above normal. The temperature has been above average until yesterday when it suddenly dropped (as expected from the forecast) and we got an inch of snow. Cold weather is expected next week also.

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Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on November 28, 2021, 08:10:41 PM
Hello Trond,

Our current weather/climatic trends look grim. In the short term, the next 7 to 10 days look dry with above average temperatures. To date, temperatures in November at the Placerville property are running 2.47 F (1.37 C) above average. There is basically no snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

For the winter season the climatic pattern looks equally grim. A La Niña has developed in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. It appears that this will be a fairly strong event and persist through the winter months. This pattern is likely to produce dry winter/spring weather in our region. The current weak and inactive MJO pattern is not conducive to countering this dry trend; however this pattern shows hope of changing in the near future.

As to the future, the paleo-climatic data from our region strongly suggests California may return to a consistently dry climatic pattern where drought is the new normal. I have been experimenting with simple mathematical radiation/energy balance models for our region, comparing our current conditions with how they might have existed during the Medieval Warm Period. The first results suggest California could be rapidly progressing toward a climatic pattern where high temperatures and drought conditions exceed those that were experienced during the Medieval Warm Period. I do not consider my preliminary results conclusive; however they are not encouraging either.

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Despite the uncertainties of the future weather I continue to move forward with my gardening projects. In this photograph, the flats are filled with freshly seeded California native annuals and other very common winter/spring annuals (breeding projects). Shortly, I will have all the desired seed lots planted – this is a first in many, many years.

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I have a number of seed lots planted of our local California native Viola species. So far, there have been very positive results and incremental progress. This is a nice heat-tolerant form of Viola adunca ssp. adunca that resulted from last year’s sowing of seed gathered from a local low elevation population.

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Food security and sustainable farming practices form the core of our current gardening methodology. Here a nice stand of cereal rye, Secale cereal, is coming on nicely.

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In another part of the garden is a planting of Ethiopian Two-rowed Barley, Hordeum vulgare. Both cereal crops will likely produce well despite any dry conditions we might encounter this winter/spring. I am very pleased to be growing cereal grains again. Fresh homegrown cereals grains are incredibly delicious!

Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Hoy on November 29, 2021, 12:56:00 PM
The weather here has turned rather cold. After a summer and early fall with well above normal temperatures we are now in a cold spell. I can't remember the last time we had that cold weather for so many weeks at this time of the year. It is expected to last a couple weeks more. In the north they have gotten loads of snow, much more than normal. Seems a La Niña pattern leads to cold weather here, I have seen it before.

Interesting that you grow cereals. Can you grow all you need for a full year? I have tried corn (Zea mays) but it isn't very productive. Too few plants I suppose. I have also tried one plant of the following crops: sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas). They did grow well but only small tubers. The best so far is oca (Oxalis tuberosa), one plant gave a lot of small corms. I also have tried yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) but haven't harvested it yet.

Will be interesting to follow your work with garden worthy plants. I let the nature select the plants for me! I make no deliberate crosses though.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on November 29, 2021, 08:51:31 PM
Hello Trond,

Thank you for the interesting climatic report. I am always interested in this type of information. Jasmin finds these things fascinating too. We both enjoy great curiosity and desire to learn.

Here in our part of California climatic conditions are grim, or flat out scary! Jasmin thinks crazy scary. Yesterday’s (28 November) high temperature at 6,700 ft. (2,042 meters) was 60 F (15.6 C). This was a new record high temperature for this site. The old record was 55 F (12.8 C) set in 2017. For the month, average temperatures are running 3.87 F (2.15 C) above average. Year to date, the average temperature is 1.470 C above the baseline starting point. There is no snow, well a trace that amounts to 0.28% of average to date.

At the Placerville property 1,500 feet (457 meters), the situation is not much better. To date, the average temperature for this November is 2.67 F (1.48 C) above average. Year to date, the average temperature is running 1.434 C above average. There has been only one month with below average temperatures since the beginning of 2021. Over the last few years, the rate at which the average annual temperature has been increasing is accelerating dramatically. Considering my temperature data sets have over 40 years of daily-recorded temperature readings, the temperate rate change represents a very significant acceleration.

To day, 29 November – looks like it will be much warmer than yesterday. Many record daily high temperatures will likely be broken today.

In summary:

> Over the past 150 plus years, our average annual precipitation totals have been dropping dramatically. Drought seems to be the new normal.

> Our average annual temperature has increased ~ 1.50 C in the last 45 years. The rate of temperature increase is accelerating.

There is no sign that these trends are going to reverse themselves. These are the conditions under which we garden. 

Jasmin’s attitude is what she calls worried-practical: If we just worry, the weather is not going to change. So, we may as well feel thankful for each day, and do the best we can. We plan breeding projects, and garden knowing some things will live and some will die. It is not about preserving beloved plants at all costs, to see them slowly demise and die anyway. We give things a chance, but when the inevitable death throes appear, we no longer are tormented by grief and what-did-we-do-wrongs. Yes, we investigate and learn, but we move on much faster than in the past. There will always be factors we cannot discover, and we are more accepting of the unknowable.
 
Food security interests Jasmin a great deal. When she was young, the family experienced great poverty and hardship, to the extent she experienced hunger not just a great deal, but regularly. As a child, she would will herself to not be hungry, to not be a burden. She sees this formative thinking as a blessing and asset now, because there is the deep appreciation for food and food security that is on a level most people around do not perceive or feel gratitude for. So much is taken for granted when one has, has abundantly, with easy access. 

This way of seeing is not associated with America. Sadly, many do not think this reality is even in America, then or now. Some have outright said my wife never experienced hunger, and was a liar. When her mother lived, her mother would correct them and verify their truth. Yes, it wasn’t the extreme poverty and hunger of war-time and post-war Europe, especially if one was a prisoner-slave in the Nazi camps, nevermind if one was a Jew in the work camps [“Extermination through work” is how it was called]. Still, hunger was something she experienced that I never did.

I grew up with abundance, and waste of food because there was so much. My childhood reality is so far from my wife’s. Nonetheless, we share a garden vision.  We see the climate change, and the impact of COVID, and have decided to blend our garden experiments into a fusion of ornamental and vegetable breeding for resiliency. It pushes my knowledge in a way just experimenting with ornamentals does not. I find areas of crossover, where skills I develop in ornamentals or foods serve the other. Facing climate challenges, and the plant diseases that thrive in such variable conditions, is deeply rewarding.

Once upon a time, I could not imagine thriving on such a small plot; however, I am grateful I do not have the space now. It challenges me to focus, to prioritize, and to let go of projects: With limited space, one cannot keep everything, and it cannot sit around turning into a dump pile from inattention. I probably have more messes than desirable, and Jasmin is kind enough not to gnaw at me about these things.   
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Hoy on December 03, 2021, 04:27:08 PM
Robert,

Thank you for your report. It is interesting to read albeit somewhat depressing. But I am optimistic though and hope the worst scenarios don't come true.

I can't understand why some people should think Jasmin is lying about what she experienced as young. It is a sad truth that many families experienced poverty and hunger even in "rich" countries like US and Norway. Some do even today. I hope though for a better future for everybody although I am less optimistic regarding this issue than the climate. But the two are clearly connected.

We have had snow lying on the ground and snowy weather for several days now. Can't remember we have had anything similar in at least 20 years!
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on December 03, 2021, 08:21:32 PM
I have started my analysis of the November data from my remote weather monitoring sites located at various elevations from the foothills to the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in El Dorado County.

First, I wish to correct an oversight in a previous posting. We have actually experienced two months with below average temperatures at the Placerville property in 2021: March 2021 was 2.16 F (1.20 C) below average and October 2021 was 2.02 F (1.12 C) below average. Except for slightly above average temperatures in February 2021, all the other months experienced much above average temperature or record high average temperatures. To date, 2021 has been extremely warm.

I routinely log data at one 6,700 feet (2,042 meters) site in the Crystal Range of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. During the month of November 2021 this site experienced a new record average high temperature of 42.00 F (5.56 C). Six new daily high temperature records were broken, with one additional date that tied the record. Two new daily high low temperature records were broken, with one additional tie. No daily low temperature records were broken. Although there was some snow on the ground at the beginning of November, for much of the month there was no snow on the ground. Currently, there is no snow on the ground in the Crystal Range except traces on north facing slopes at the highest elevations.

I like to quantify my climatic reports from our region: Plants and plant communities respond to both the internal variability of climate, and the long-term climatic changes taking place. This is true for both managed (our gardens, agriculture) and unmanaged (wild places) locations. Now more than ever, there is a need to adjust our gardening practices and the plants we select to grow in our gardens to the volatile climatic circumstances. Altering gardening practices can help plants adjust to erratic weather patterns and extremes. Growing new species can help us better understand the range of tolerance a species might have to many environmental variables. Through observation, new selections of species can be made that are better adapted to our changing garden circumstances. This also applies to new hybrids, for those interested in this method of plant selection. There are many challenges, but also opportunities for those who enjoy gardening.

Today it is quite foggy, however the record-breaking heat continues above the inversion layer.

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Germination is taking place with many of the recently sown California native annual species.

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The tiny seeds of Erythranthe guttata and E. bicolor germinate well in the small soil blocks.

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Layia platyglossa is also quite to germinate.

Other species take more time to germinate. Some species may need more vernalization than they can currently receive during our Sacramento winters. 40 years ago cold frosty winters were normal. Not now. It is a difficult decision to make – do I refrigerate the seeds so they receive adequate stratification or do I keep them in place and select for plants that produce seed that requires less vernalization to germinate. With plenty of seed I could do both. With limited seed additional stratification is likely the best choice until I have a large inventory of seed to draw from. With our changing climate all sorts of new choices need to be made.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Hoy on December 04, 2021, 05:22:42 PM
This is the temperature deviasjon in Norway from the 1961-1990 average:

https://www.met.no/vaer-og-klima/klima-siste-150-ar/_/image/82d60ee8-e86f-4c90-b491-b72861602c95:9e4a7abec3d45a9957f89ca78dd9bb1786ab9d50/width-768/TAMA_G0_0.svg


And this is the precipitation deviation for the same period.

https://www.met.no/vaer-og-klima/klima-siste-150-ar/_/image/519c98ef-0220-408a-a39d-a9721b4fc5c9:f0b81e0bf3af8ba6bc7a18cdef4a114190652eb5/width-768/RRA_G0_0.svg

It is getting warmer and wetter.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on December 04, 2021, 07:30:26 PM
Hello Trond,

I found the graphics fascinating, so much so that I photographed the screen (i.e. saved them). Thank you for posting them.

The relationship between rising temperatures and increasing amounts of precipitation are not surprising considering the nearly exponential relationship between saturation vapor pressure and temperature (Clausius – Claperyron equation). I measure daily levels of absolute humidity throughout my study area. In general, absolute humidity rises with temperature; however in our region this does not necessarily translate into increased precipitation [Jasmin adds:  or precipitation at all!  I explain this momentarily.]. The general Rossby Wave pattern around the Northern Hemisphere largely governs the transport of latent heat (at lower levels of the atmosphere ~ 850 mb) and sensible heat (at mid and high levels of the atmosphere ~ 500 mb and 250 mb) northward (a planetary energy balance). Given the generalized trough pattern in the eastern U.S.A., with the cresting wave in the vicinity of northwestern Europe, with another trough in Eastern Europe, I am not surprised by the temperature and precipitation data you posted. Of course, this is a very generalized description of the Rossby Wave pattern (there is also the generalized trough in eastern Asia – in lee of the mountainous interior – a similar relationship to that of the Rocky Mountains and the Eastern U.S.A. trough). There are seasonal pattern variances caused by winter-summer and land-ocean temperature differences; and additionally, in our part of the globe the frequently strong influences of the ENSO, MJO, AO, etc. This is all very simplified; however it explains our current warm, dry weather despite consistently high absolute humidity levels. Water vapor is a strong greenhouse gas, but not a forcing agent as are CO2, CH4, and N2O. However, water vapor can create a positive feedback loop allowing temperatures to rise more than if absolute humidity levels remained constant.

Thank you again for posting the graphics.

Today we are having our second day of persistent fog. Above the inversion layer temperatures are still above average; however they are somewhat less than their record-breaking levels. Some important changes have taken place in the atmosphere. Hopefully these will lead to some much-needed precipitation in our region.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Hoy on December 05, 2021, 02:19:30 PM
Hello Trond,

I found the graphics fascinating, so much so that I photographed the screen (i.e. saved them). Thank you for posting them.


Robert,

Here is the main page:

https://www.met.no/vaer-og-klima/klima-siste-150-ar/

with graphics for each season.

We are warned about the coupling of increased temperature and precipitation -  and also about the increasing frequency og disastrous weather. We had an incident in November when extremely strong gusts of winds  flattened vast forests in the eastern parts of the country. They are usually spared such things.

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 https://g.acdn.no/obscura/API/dynamic/r1/ece5/tr_2000_2000_s_f/0000/oppl/2021/11/22/15/IMG-83191.jpg?chk=666A97

Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on December 11, 2021, 08:22:40 PM
We finally have a major shift in our local weather. Average daily temperatures dropped dramatically. The first significant precipitation fell after many weeks of dry weather. Snow fell in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, with snow levels dropping to 3,500 feet (1,067 meters) for the first time this season. At our Sacramento home there has been patchy frost the past two mornings. We are actually getting some winter chilling. The seed I planted recently may actually get sufficient vernalization and germinate well without refrigeration.  [Jasmin says:  Wow! Does that mean I can fit food in the refrigerator—absolutely no juggling with plants for space?!?]

This is just some of the good weather news: Presently, a major winter storm is bearing down on our region. This storm is expected to have major impacts on our region: significant precipitation, extremely low snow levels, and major snow accumulations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This is expected to be a multi-day event. The first precipitation is expected to arrive this evening with lingering showers predicted 7 days out in the current forecast. We desperately need precipitation and a lingering snow pack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to avoid a catastrophic water crisis this coming summer. The 20-plus-years drought may not end; however there is hope that a catastrophic water crisis may be avoided this coming summer.  [Jasmin says:  This we pray from our mouths to God’s ear!]

With colder temperatures our garden is getting a bit of a winter rest.

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There are not many flowers in the garden at this time; however the foliage of Cyclamen species is very attractive and is a great plus for the garden during the winter.

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A few Cyclamen species such as Cyclamen coum will be blooming soon.

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Cyclamen foliage seems to come in an infinite variety of patterns.

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Cyclamen graecum does very well in our garden and has nice foliage during the winter. This pot has many seedlings that can be transplanted into our garden.

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The first Hoop-Petticoat Narcissus to bloom in our garden is Narcissus romieuxii and its various forms. Flower buds generally start to open around the end of December. We grow our plants out in the open without protection from the weather. With a greenhouse and early autumn watering they would likely bloom earlier in the season.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on December 11, 2021, 08:25:44 PM
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I have two clones of Arctostaphylos myrtifolia that I grow in our garden. This clone consistently blooms about 3 to 4 week before the other clone.

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The seeds of California native annual species that I planted about two weeks ago have germinated well.

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Our California native annuals make rapid growth in the cool moist weather.

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Even with the cool weather, there is still plenty to keep me busy in our mild California garden:  After 15 years of caregiving, many neglected yet beloved plants such as this lovely silver-leafed Cyclamen hederifolium can receive the tender loving care we have longed to bestow.  Additionally, now that winter dormancy has come to the garden, winter pruning can commence.

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A parting view of our garden as high clouds rapidly stream in in advance of the first cold front imbedded in the long wave trough. Geo potential heights are likely to fall to their lowest levels of the season to date. A series of very cold, very wet storms is just what we need. It is very exciting!
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Hoy on December 12, 2021, 10:04:42 AM
Robert,

You have some very nice Cyclamens!

I grow a few in my garden but they have been covered by snow for 14 days now. But yesterday we got warmer weather so the snow disappear rapidly.


It seems you will get quite a lot of precipitation the next days. Hope it doesn't just run off but percolate through the soil.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on December 12, 2021, 08:16:25 PM
Trond,

The first band of rain showers arrived in our area early this morning, 12/12. The bulk of the heavy precipitation and cold air is still offshore. When I checked the 12 Z, 500 mb map of the Northern Pacific Ocean this morning there was a large low at 56 N – 139 W with very cold air advection directed toward California. It looks like the US – NWS forecast for our region is going to be spot on: a great deal of precipitation, very low elevation snow levels, and large or huge snow accumulations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A large snow pack--with high liquid equivalent values that linger late into the spring season--are essential to our regional water security. Climatic change is altering this pattern.

Here are the current snow totals for selected locations within my study area as of 0 Z yesterday. I will keep the forum posted as to the changes that the current storm system brings to our area.

Site 1 > 8,275 ft.  - 2,522 meters
Snow Depth 9.61 inches – 24.41 cm
Current Liquid Equivalents 12/11 = 1.58 inches (4.01 cm) - 3 year average 13.30 inches (33.78 cm) 11.9% of 3-year average.

Site 2 > 6,750 ft. - 2,057 meters
Snow Depth 5.20 inches – 13.21 cm
Current Liquid Equivalents 12/11 = 1.14 inches (2.90 cm)  - 17 year average 5.34 inches (13.56 cm) 21.3% of 17-year average.


Site 3 > 5,275 ft. - 1,608 meters – 9.32 cm
Snow Depth 3.67 inches - 9.32 cm
Current Liquid Equivalents 12/11 = 0.51 inches (1.30 cm) - 13 year average = 0.91 inches (2.31 cm) 11.9% of 13 year average.

Site 4 > 3,450 ft. – 1,052 meters
Snow Depth 0.00 inches – 0.00 cm
Current Liquid Equivalents 12/11 = 0.00 inches - 3 year average 0.00 inches.

We grow many species of Cyclamen in containers where they are allowed to seed out in the container. The best-of-the-best [Robert’s thinking] are planted out in the garden for further evaluation. Cyclamen hederifolium and Cyclamen coum are the easiest species in the open; however other species are doing well too. Both Cyclamen hederifolium and Cyclamen coum seed freely in our garden. Here too I am selecting, often isolating distinct lines for further development of specific traits. It is great fun and the Cyclamen add a great deal of interest to our garden for much of the season. Our gardening goal is a beautiful garden, an earthy paradise to enjoy.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on December 18, 2021, 07:20:58 PM
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The recent series of storms have exited our region. Current snow depths have improved dramatically. Above is a snow depth chart from a site at 6,700 feet (2,042 meters) in the Crystal Range of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The blue line is last season’s snow depth, a very dry precipitation year. The red line is the snow depth as of today, 18 December 2021.

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Snow liquid equivalents provide another perspective on our current precipitation season. The blue dashed line is the 17 year average. The dotted red line is last year’s totals. The solid red line is this season’s total to date. We are currently above average; however we still need more to build a large snow pack to provide water for both managed and unmanaged ecosystems during the dry summer and autumn seasons.

Snow cover or its absence impacts many plant biological processes. In some instances and circumstances, photoinhibition can severely affect plant biological possesses or cause death. Conifers in alpine or subarctic habitats are well adapted to deal with the combination of extremely low temperatures with periods of high light intensity.  This is also true of evergreen alpine and arctic/subarctic plant species. However, in other instances, evergreen and newly emerging herbaceous perennial species need to adjust to cold temperatures and high light intensities to cope with the stresses of photoinhibition. A sudden abrupt end to snow-cover during winter or early spring, when temperatures can still be extremely cold, can create conditions where the excess flow of electrons from photosystem II light-harvesting complexes can overwhelm a plant’s ability to quench or redirect the flow of energy, causing destruction of exposed tissues, or in severe instances, death to the plant. I wonder if photoinhibition is an overlooked source of cultural difficulties when attempting to grow alpine species well beyond their normal range of growing conditions.

In my next posting I will give some examples.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Hoy on December 19, 2021, 08:58:16 AM
Robert,

I hope you'll get a lot more snow!

After a very cold period we have had a mild period with up to 8-10C here at the coast. Even the mountains have had above freezing for some days. But now we will get a new inflow of cold Siberian air and the temperature will drop below freezing again.

As we have no permanent snow cover (the snow disappeared quickly when the mild weather arrived) the plants have to withstand cycles of freezing and thawing. Not all plants tolerate that! Next week we will get temperatures down to -5C probably without snow. I don't like it!
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on December 19, 2021, 06:55:30 PM
Photoinhibition continued…

I am writing about photoinhibition in a broad sense. To the best of my knowledge, both prokaryotes (e.g. cyanobacteria) and eukaryotes (e.g. any plant species) species that carry out the photoactive portion of photosynthesis using photosystem II light-harvesting complexes continually need to repair and replace damaged photosystem II complexes, due to photoinhibition during periods when they are exposed to light.  Liken it to our bodies replacing damaged cells and tissues, such as when our skin becomes sunburned.

Plants have evolved multiple methods to diminish the impacts of photoinhibition, and partially protect sensitive biological systems.  Under certain circumstances, these protective processes become overwhelmed, and tissue damage and death of the plant can ensue.  My definition of photoinhibition in a broader sense is the many processes to reduce the impacts of photoinhibition.

In my previous posting, I wrote about how conifers and perennial alpine species have evolved protective processes to channel excessive potentially damaging energy away from sensitive biological structures.  In addition, plants have evolved morphological adaptations, such as leaves that are held perpendicular (rosette structure, etc.) to the most intense mid-day sun, and glaucus, gray foliage that increases albedo.  Biological adaptations, such as the ability to adjust the ratio of photosystem I and photosystem II light-harvesting complexes based on light intensity, and the adjustment of the position and arrangement of chloroplasts/thylakoids within the plant’s cells, help plants ameliorate the potential excessive overload of energy to other biological structures within the plant.

This returns us to the question if photoinhibition contributes to some cultural challenges faced when growing alpine species well beyond the parameters of their native habitats.  Observations, based on my studies in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, suggest that under specific conditions certain alpine species can be impacted by photoinhibition (overload of excessive energy that cannot be processed quickly by other downstream biological processes).  During conditions where protective snow cover is abruptly missing during the mid-winter months, in conjunction with extremely low temperatures, appears to impact vulnerable species.

While my ultimate goal is to have a beautiful garden, I enjoy this type of research and development.  I like to find ways to bring a broader selection of plants into permanent cultivation in our garden.  Too many fine species have been transient in our garden.  They have been extremely difficult to maintain, and are now gone.  We know we are not the only gardeners to have this experience.  Our propensity for seeds and plants from other regions is perhaps our shared longing to bring the wider world into our gardens, especially when travel is prohibitive.  In my case, it is being able to bring some of the mountains I have loved my whole life to our home.  Creating an easy-to-grow version of Viola purpurea will only occur through creative innovation.  There are so many additional possibilities.


Trond,

More precipitation is forecasted for us during the coming week.  There are also hints that this wet pattern will persist into the new year. This is great news for us. Currently, our precipitation totals have already exceeded last season’s totals for the whole year.  I will be posting more on this topic as events unfold.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Hoy on December 21, 2021, 10:58:58 AM
Photoinhibition is an interesting topic. Much has been written since I was a student! My wife worked with photorespiration in her degree. (I worked with genetics.) However I think plants in your part of the world are more affected by high light levels in winter than plants up here.

YR tells you will get rain almost every day this week!

https://www.yr.no/nb/værvarsel/daglig-tabell/2-5389489/USA/California/Sacramento/Sacramento (https://www.yr.no/nb/værvarsel/daglig-tabell/2-5389489/USA/California/Sacramento/Sacramento)
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on December 21, 2021, 07:20:23 PM
Trond,

Yes, I agree. Plant genetics, photorespiration, photoinhibition, etc. are all interesting topics. Clearly, I am attempting to simplify my discussion of these topics, explain how I apply these concepts into my gardening activities, and share my results (both the failures and successes). Growing exotic species from habitats that are incongruent to our growing conditions has never worked well for me. Many of our local California native species have never been fully studied or their horticultural potentials fully explored. This is enough to keep be busy for many lifetimes. Each day in the garden brings something new. Molding our garden into a tapestry of beauty is such a pleasure.

When caregiving ended last year I thought that I would end up “retired”. This has not turned out to be the case at all. Avenues of plant/habitat/ecological research and other closely related projects have opened up for me. Who wants to retire when life can be so fascinating? In this diary I am attempting to blend aspects of my work with gardening/horticulture. Maybe this is of no interest to the reader of the forum (no rare, exotic plants here). I enjoy exploring deeper into the workings of the most common plant species and discovering the yet hidden potentials they contain. This is my approach to garden. Others have their approach. It is all good. We can benefit and learn from other perspectives - to create fascinating gardens for us and bring something good to this planet.

I will have updated weather information as I can. We need the rain and snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Hoy on December 22, 2021, 11:04:14 AM
Robert,

It is interesting to read about your efforts. Although you say you have noe exotics, you have! Your more or less common native plants are exotic to most of us. I for example, like to try our native plants in my "gardens" but but we have very few native plants here in Norway compared to S. Europe, N. America etc. Therefore I like to try exotics in my garden!

Here is photograph of a native plant I grow at the shed roof in my garden at home, Thalictrum alpinum. It is not uncommon in the mountains though.

[attachimg=1]
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Leena on December 25, 2021, 10:58:06 AM
Your more or less common native plants are exotic to most of us. I for example, like to try our native plants in my "gardens" but but we have very few native plants here in Norway compared to S. Europe, N. America etc. Therefore I like to try exotics in my garden!

I feel just the same. There are so few garden worthy native plants, and also the variation within a species is very little. I am always amazed how much variation there is in plants in North America and also in other countries, like Corydalis is Russia. Here Corydalis solida comes only in one colour and form. It is probably because there was only a "little" time for them to develop here after the last ice age.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on December 28, 2021, 08:02:35 PM
December 2021 is turning out to be the snowiest in 50 years. We started the month of December with, more or less, no snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Temperatures were well above average for the first 7 days of December, and then the weather pattern began to make a dramatic shift. For most of November and the first week of December, the Walker Circulation pattern was in a typical La Niña pattern with convection along 120 to 125 E longitude. This pattern brought abundant precipitation to the Pacific Northwestern portion of North America. Here in California the weather was sunny and extremely dry, with above average temperatures. By 9 November a very strong region of convection developed along 140 E longitude. Our temperatures began to cool and the storm track shifted, bringing cold low-pressure weather systems out of the Gulf of Alaska into California. By 18 December an Omega blocking high-pressure system started to develop in the Northern Pacific Ocean. We were on the eastern (wet) side of this Omega blocking high pressure. One after another, cold Gulf of Alaska weather systems tracked through our portion of California bringing abundant snowfall to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and, at times, very low snow levels. [So far nothing at our Sacramento home.  We had to make sure the pipes were covered in Sacramento, and covered and drained at the property in Placerville.  Currently, it is at the border between rain and snow.  Not much further up the road, it was a complete traffic standstill in heavy wet snow.  Returning home yesterday was hazardous with several heavy downpours.  If the air had been just a few degrees colder, it would have halted us completely in heavy wet snow.]

[attachimg=1]

As one can see from this chart, the snow depth at 8,600 feet (2,621 meters) in the Crystal Range is well above any level achieved during the 2020-2021 season. Red line 2021 to date, blue line 2020-2021 season.

[attachimg=2]

Examining the snow liquid equivalents for the same site one can see that we are well above average to date, but still need a great deal of snow to have an average snow pack for the current season (in other words, our drought conditions have not ended yet).

[attachimg=3]

At times a great deal of snow fell at lower elevations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This local site at an elevation of 3,625 feet (1,105 meters) currently has over 65 cm of snow on the ground. This is well above any snow depth seen in many years.

Although the current Pacific Ocean equatorial SSTs are indicative of a strong La Niña event, the current weather and atmospheric pattern is not what I usually associate with La Niña. For example, currently the Trade Winds in the Central Pacific are weak. In addition, a strong convection center at 140 E longitude is more suggestive of an El Niño type pattern. Where will the weather turn from here? Very cold temperatures are forecasted in our region into the New Year: nothing extreme, but much colder than anything we have experienced in many years; although it is very much like what we once regularly lived with. The big question is, will the weather continue in the current atypical cold, wet pattern or will the typical dry La Niña pattern return to our portion of California.

Stay tuned…
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on January 05, 2022, 07:51:33 PM
[attachimg=1]

With an average temperature of 61.03 F (16.13 C), the year 2021 tied 1986 and 1987 as the third warmest year on record since 1983 when consistent weather records started at our Placerville, California property.

[attachimg=2]

The summer of 2021, June through September, with an average temperature of 76.30 F (24.61 C) was the second warmest on record since the brutal summer of 1984 (76.53 F, 24.74 C).

Atmospheric variables such as temperature, precipitation, solar radiation (cloud cover, etc.) and more have such an impact on both managed (farms and gardens) and unmanaged ecosystems (wild habitats). I carefully observe and compile data on how changing weather and longer-term climatic changes impact individual plant species as well as ecosystems as a whole.

[attachimg=3]

Atmospheric teleconnections have a major impact on our weather, and thus our gardens. The current La Niña has been unusual in that there have been periods of time when the Trade Winds in the Central Pacific Ocean have been very weak (very un-La Niña like). During both instances we experienced well above average precipitation in our portion of California. The late October atmospheric river that impacted California occurred during the annual shift in the difference between continental and surface sea temperatures (relatively warm continental temperatures vs. relatively cooler surface sea temperatures shift to the opposite pattern).

The above chart shows the weekly changes in the Northern Pacific Trade Winds during the month of December 2021. The x-axis shows degrees longitude, starting on the left at 120 E to 120 W on the far right. The y-axis is Trade Wind magnitude. From slightly before mid-month to the end of the month the Trade Winds relaxed in the Central Pacific and we experienced well above average precipitation in our portion of California. The shift in the Trade Wind pattern also reflected an eastward shift in the connective pattern in the Western Pacific Ocean.

Obviously the ENSO teleconnection is complex. Rather than a simplistic flux between La Niña, Neutral, and El Niño patterns there are nuances that strongly alter the climatic outcomes.

Now that the Holiday season is over, I will soon be resuming my fieldwork in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Foothill regions. The strong interaction between weather, climate, plant species, and their ecosystems will be continuing topics of discussion. My goal is to provide information that will help gardeners succeed with specific plant species and create resilient garden ecosystems.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on January 15, 2022, 07:56:24 PM
[attachimg=1]

I am currently preparing for my first outing of the 2022 season, scheduled for this coming week. Although much of the snow below 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) has melted, I will be surveying lower elevation sites in the Upper Sonoran Life Zone region of Northern California. It has been a number of years since I have been able to work in these areas.

[Jasmin adds]: Much has changed: The pace of development has been astounding. We question the viability of the developments in these areas that were never meant to sustain human population density. The areas in question never had water access, and with the sustained drought water tables have plummeted further. The loss of habitat, of beautiful wildflowers, native oaks, and other native plants, plus the loss of habitat for wildlife is a travesty.

Our Placerville property is located in a Blue Oak Savannah, well within the Lower Sonoran Life Zone. Ranunculus occidentalis var. occidentalis, pictured above, is a very common perennial species in this Life Zone region.

[attachimg=2]

Sanicula crassicaulis prefers shaded habitats. This perennial species has very interesting textured foliage.

[attachimg=3]

Claytonia perfoliata is an annual species. It prefers semi-shaded moist locations. Over the years this edible species has infiltrated into commercial agriculture and is now frequently sold at markets, generally as one component of a salad mix.

[Jasmin adds]: It has a delightful, lightly sweet, refreshing flavor. It is very tender, like butterhead lettuce when young, but still quite tender when mature, unlike regular lettuce which can become tough. It also never develops the bitter flavors lettuce can.

[attachimg=4]

Primula (Dodecatheon) hendersonii has emerged from the ground. There are a number of interesting forms and a few ecotypes of this species.

[attachimg=5]

Non-native, invasive species are now a large component of the lower Life Zones throughout California. In this photograph, Trifolium hirtum can be seen on the right, and the partly dissected leaves of Geranium molle on the left. Non-native species, especially non-native grasses, have seriously impacted our lower elevation ecosystems.

[Jasmin adds]: Their vigor has outcompeted native plants, aided by the variety of human activities: Livestock favored the native plants, consuming them nearly to oblivion, and excreting and otherwise spreading invasives; agricultural activity stripped the land, and the invasives thrive in disturbed areas; development adds to this burden, and no space is left for native plants or animals. The invasive plants life cycles are enhanced in these environments: Rapid growth is followed by early seeding and spreading, concluding with dying back to a very tinder-dry grass that ignites at the least opportunity. These are the very hot fires that are so devastating in California for all life forms.  Although many native plants do survive and thrive, often coexisting with fire—many do need fire to germinate and survive—they are unable to propagate themselves in this environment. It really is a miracle we have any native plants at all.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on January 15, 2022, 07:59:04 PM
[attachimg=1]

Micranthes californica is not native to our Placerville property; however it is native to other local sites within the Lower Sonoran Life Zone. For better or worse, I introduced these plants over 10 years ago. They continue to persist, blooming each season. Despite their persistence, they have not found an available niche where they can propagate and spread on our property.

[attachimg=2]

For many years, I have been attempting to reintroduce native species that likely grew on this site in the past. Heteromeles arbutifolia has been successfully reintroduced to the property and new plants appear here and there each season.

[attachimg=3]

By the means of animal scat, birds, or the wind, other species have started to recolonize our property. Pictured is White-leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida. This species is fire dependent for seed germination. After a fire this species will germinate prolifically; however this species is clearly not 100% dependent on fire for seed germination. I have seen plants germinating from scat and bird droppings.

[attachimg=4]

The Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii, pictured center, has retained many of its leaves from the previous growing season. This is unusual for this species and is an indication of extreme drought stress. The extreme drought our region has been experiencing over the past 20 years is seriously impacting the ecology of our region. Many trees have died (see background, right side). In addition, regeneration through seed has slowed or shifted with many species.

[attachimg=5]

A closer view of the drought-stressed Blue Oak, Quecus douglasii.

Until the next time…
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: fermi de Sousa on January 19, 2022, 11:44:22 AM
Claytonia perfoliata is an annual species. It prefers semi-shaded moist locations. Over the years this edible species has infiltrated into commercial agriculture and is now frequently sold at markets, generally as one component of a salad mix.

[Jasmin adds]: It has a delightful, lightly sweet, refreshing flavor. It is very tender, like butterhead lettuce when young, but still quite tender when mature, unlike regular lettuce which can become tough. It also never develops the bitter flavors lettuce can.
Hi Robert and Jasmin,
it's called "Miner's Lettuce" here and has become a minor pest in my pots! I think a single seedling appeared in a potted plant of something else a number of years ago and has spread around since. I have to admit though I know that it's edible I haven't actually tried it! Maybe next spring,
cheers
fermi
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on January 19, 2022, 07:21:37 PM
Hi Fermi,

Here in California, Claytonia perfoliata is also called Miner’s Lettuce. It is quite good. We eat it all the time! Up at the Placerville property it is a naturally occurring native plant. It also grows at our Sacramento home, however the seeds traveled from Placerville to Sacramento in pots. It most likely grew here at our Sacramento home in the very distant past. However, the native flora was removed from the area around our Sacramento home so long ago it is impossible to determine with certainty if this species grew near our Sacramento home.

[attachimg=1]

I had a very productive outing yesterday in an Upper Sonoran ecological habitat. I will report on this outing over the next week to 10 days.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on January 22, 2022, 08:13:15 PM
[attachimg=1]

I started this outing at a very familiar site in the Upper Sonoran life zone of Northern California. Although much of the area I surveyed on this outing was at an elevation of  ~ 500 feet (152.4 meters)--an elevation generally associated with the Lower Sonoran Life Zone--a ridge of tall hills separated this area from the Central Valley and its Lower Sonoran Life Zone to the west.

A pair of old and very familiar Western Redbuds, Cercis occidentalis (pictured), greeted me as I arrived at this site. I first visited this site during the early 1970’s when I was in High School. It was a great place to spend summer evenings swimming and fishing. Later in the 1970’s our college Native Plant Identification class held a field trip to this site. It was during this field trip that I came to appreciate the botanical significance of this area.

[attachimg=2]

This site consists of areas of dense chaparral (pictured) and areas of Blue Oak (Quercus dougasii) woodland and savannah. Our Northern Californian Upper Sonoran chaparral habitat has a very distinct scent due to the mixture of the many aromatic plant species that occupy this ecological life zone.

[attachimg=3]

California Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana, is a very common species in this area. This species has very large pinecones, something that you want to avoid having fall on your head!

[attachimg=4]

Salvia sonomensis is a chaparral species. This mat-forming species is frequently seen growing under and around the taller-growing chaparral shrubbery.

[attachimg=5]

The foliage of Salvia sonomensis has a very strong and delightful scent. On a warm summer day the scent of this species fills the air, mixing with the scents of the other chaparral plants.
Title: Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
Post by: Robert on January 22, 2022, 08:16:01 PM
[attachimg=1]

White-leaf Mazanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida, is one of the primary chaparral shrubbery species. This species is extremely drought tolerant; however in extreme cases of drought even this species can show signs of stress.

[attachimg=2]

Some of the younger specimens of Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida are often better able to cope with extreme drought. This specimen is well clothed with foliage and has many nascent influences.

[attachimg=3]

Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida is an early blooming species. This nascent flower bud had not opened yet; however I observed some plants with open flowers. The flowers of this species are an important source of nectar for our native hummingbirds, and a host of native insects.

[attachimg=4]

The evergreen species, Penstemon heterophyllus var. purdyi, will open with lavender-blue flowers much later during the spring blooming season.

[attachimg=5]

Quercus durata var. durata is a small evergreen oak, generally found growing in the chaparral plant community. Forms with small densely set foliage are particularly attractive.
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