Sunday, January 25, 2015

Odd dew on Poppies -- My first iPhone post

OK, a new era has truly begun as I sit here and post from my new iPhone.  After only a few weeks of ownership, this thing is changing my life. Catey just pointed this out, with a chuckle, as I sent her a web address I wanted to share with her via text message, no words spoken. (Would one consider this "over the Internet and through the room"?)

What does this mean for americanature? 

1. More frequent posts, most likely
2, Possibly some strange formatting and careless grammar. 
3. More reliance on digital photos. But I will continue to shoot film and post selected photos here, as previously. 

The above image shows a strange occurrence that has taken place on the poppies in our planter box lately. Each of the leaflets has tiny droplets on them. It may be hard to see this in the photo, but I did my best. 

I assume this is a method the plant has of regulating moisture, but I can't imagine why. We are in a record warm spell, and despite December rains heavy enough to cause widespread flooding, the winter has been very dry. These plants. Like the rest of our backyard natives, receive occasional dish rinse water, but have not lately; their soil is very dry. 

Any ideas out there as to what this phenomenon might be?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A New Decade, tiny mushrooms, time and knowledge.

Thank you, family and friends, near and far, for ringing in my 40s with me over the past weekend. It feels different than I thought it would. I don't feel old. I just feel here. I enjoy each new day more than the last, just as I did in my teens, twenties, thirties. So why would I not want to get older? (We have no choice anyway!)

As days continue, I hope to appreciate small things; accept all outcomes; validate all those with whom I interact; be confident in myself; continue to strengthen my partnership with Catey; and I look forward to more shared experiences with family, hers and mine. 

Here's a picture of a tiny mushroom from my last roll of film. (See the tiny one? Look up and left, into the shadows, and find an even tinier one). These guys showed up on the pear tree in our backyard after the first rains. We hope this doesn't mean bad things for the tree...but it may. But it means good things for the mushroom (which, by the way, I am unable to identify). Because the mushroom is a fruiting body, it is merely a small expression of the entire living organism. It's like an acorn on an invisible tree of mycelia, in a way. The mycelia are alive throughout the tree.

Tiny mushroom on pear, December 2014.
Life comes in so many forms, and we, as humans, have the ability, more than any other form, to appreciate and understand so many of the others. It takes a lifetime to even begin to learn about all the stuff out there, and we spend so much time focused on the Human World. It wasn't so long ago that humans were much closer connected to nature. I think it's important to maintain that connection, at the very least to respect that it's complicated out there. And, know or like it or not, we need lots of things to work out there for our own survival to continue.

With the heavy rain we had in the Bay Area last month, mushrooms have been appearing. I grabbed All that the Rain Promises, and More off my shelf and have been using it to identify a few mushrooms out there, just for fun. My new coworkers at San Francisco Recreation and Parks have taken on the challenge collectively, on our lunch breaks. We've made a few spore prints in our break room.  

This is a hilarious book: the photographs would be enough, but the narrative adds to it. And, if you read closely enough, you'll find some philosophy in this book. I read one of the passages about collecting boletes, or Porcini, mushrooms. There is an essay about Italian-American mushroom hunters. They are old, know the land, and are very slow and methodical at their craft. They are secretive about their locations. The essay calls attention to a way of life that is quite un-American. The definition of success, in the eyes of the Old World mushroom collector, is, by the end of your life, to have lots of time, and lots of knowledge. 

It was a fitting idea to ponder on my 40th.

Many tiny mushrooms on pear, December 2014.
Many tiny mushrooms on pear, December 2014.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bay Area Fall Color: Madia and Anaphalis

The faded stalks and flower parts of this year's non-native wild oats (Avena sp.) serve as a blurry context to the green and yellow coast tarweed (Madea sativa) in this photograph. It was a windy day, and I used a tripod to stabilize the camera to create the blurry effect of the loose grasses. Since that was the effect I desired, I stopped down the aperture to allow a longer exposure.

The tarweed was growing vibrantly, its stiff stems resisting the same breeze that tossed around the grass stalks. This was on the Alta Trail, GGNRA, just uphill from Marin City, where a Best Buy just went out of business, and a now Halloween superstore seasonally squats. 

Tarweed and oats, Alta Trail (Marin), Fall 2014.
Here's a closeup of the tarweed itself.  This particular individual had a special symmetry to it. In general on this plant, I think the toothed petal tips are interesting.The black flower centers are loaded with seed to collect starting in October, if one can tolerate getting the sticky tar on one's fingers while extracting them. That tar gives the unopened flower on this plant its glistening appearance. 

Madia sativa closeup, Alta Trail (Marin), August 2014.
A few days prior, I had mountain biked home down the Julian Fire Road, the section of the Coastal Trail connecting Conzelman and Bunker Roads. This is a treat, rolling down toward the ocean, really only hearing wrentits, wind, and crunching gravel; sometimes seeing a bobcat on the lowest portion near the historic fire range. It is a treat that must be paid for in sweat and hard breathing. San Francisco and Marin Cyclists know the name Conzelman to be synonymous with exertion.

On that ride, I stopped to capture a picture of pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), shown below. This is another fall favorite, found across most of North America. It's named after its pearly white flower clusters, which remain into the winter and spring than one might expect. 

Pearly everlasting, Coastal Trail, August 2014.
This roll of film is proof that it may be better not to use old film that has been sitting in a garage for nearly a decade. It was free, yes, but seems to have literally lost its luster. In some ways, it's a cool effect (one may even call it "old-school"), but given the choice, I would opt for rich color. 

I hope you enjoy these two California native plants.