E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

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By John Wiley

If you haven't driven the 101 lately, the recent rains are making for scattered Easter egg colors. Unsettled weather meant we drove North to the Easter '22 family gathering instead of flying, so we could only see the roadside bloom. Fortunately the sprinklings of rain made for clear air and a variety of happy plants. Scotch Broom is abundant along the 154 pass. Mustard Grass is of course scattered in dense patched. Atascadero was especially brilliant in the Spring sunshine. Brown hills had subtle green on North slopes, as you may be able to see in this snap I pumped up the colors in somewhat.

Poppies were blooming in patches of dense bouquets by the roadside, but hard to snap at freeway speeds until we made a full stop in a construction zone. Some vineyards were blooming, while others were just lush from the rain (can you see the poppies too?). The innumerable oaks are fascinating, and new leaves on some trees add a splash of young green next to some kind of white flowering bushes. Though not as colorful, rock formations washed clean by rain were crisp too (do you recognize this one?).

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John Wiley Apr 21, 2022 02:56 PM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

Is that a particular kind of poppy in the pic? We saw a lot of them in places all along 101, mostly growing in tight clumps that look like bouquets. Don't they usually grow in a more dispersed pattern? Seems very unlikely they were planted from pots or spread seeds. Could drought weather patterns account for them being mostly in tight clumps, because when rain finally came they grew rapidly from the few surviving dormant plants?

tagdes Apr 22, 2022 08:38 AM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

Eschscholzia californica or Golden poppy, it's the state flower.

John Wiley Apr 22, 2022 11:58 AM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

Thanks for the ID Tagdes. Don't they usually grow in dispersed small plants? These were in tight randomly dispersed clumps as if planted from pots, but that seemed unlikely to us in terms of the work required. That's why we came up with the alternate theory of a few drought survivors from a more uniform seed dispersal. Any ideas?

tagdes Apr 22, 2022 01:22 PM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

We always got the free packs from the Botanic Garden. At least 5 years and nada. Last year one plant ( clump ) from our raised bed and now at least 6 clumps all over our bird/butterfly garden. They are originally from Mexico.

John Wiley Apr 22, 2022 01:53 PM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

Being the state flower, we thought poppies are native but maybe the missionaries brought them as we've heard they did the "mustard grass." We saw a few poppies bloom in the planter West of the South main library entrance. Once driving I-5 up the Grapevine a whole hillside was so thick with them people had pulled over to gawk. Seems like they want exactly the right conditions to thrive, and even then don't seem to bloom every year.

chico berkeley Apr 22, 2022 10:17 AM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

John-I think Caltrans try to plant natives after roadside work.
Drive by in a couple years from now and I bet there are many more.
When they did work in Gaviota, I think they planted those along the grading scar.
That chunk of rock is in Pismo beach on the northbound 101?
Driven by there a 1000 times going to the lake(Nacimiento).

John Wiley Apr 22, 2022 12:03 PM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

I wondered that too CB. We had plenty of time to contemplate (and snap pix) due to the road work. Good call on the rock too! In recent years the traffic often crawls there, so there's more time to look at it (and snap out the sunroof). Maybe some of my fascination was from getting only a quick glance at freeway speed in earlier years.

John Wiley Apr 22, 2022 12:20 PM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

Any Edhatters ever been on the rock (35.148796, -120.648805 on gMaps)? Looks like you could still walk to it today from the Mattie Rd. underpass (or via a drainage from the preserve), but even if there's no fence that might lead to an unpleasant CHP encounter unless you could get advance permission. Seems likely it was once a common view spot. Wonder if there are any indigenous traces there, since it could be a great spot to hang out.

John Wiley Apr 22, 2022 12:41 PM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

OK, I found some info in a 1998 "Geology Walk" article by Jamie Foster that calls it an ancient sea stack: "...there is a large rock formation that stands between the north and south bound lanes of Highway 101. ... A sea stack is any "hunk" of rock that sticks up out of a beach area, left high and dry as erosion removed all the material that once surrounded it. At one time, the tidal zone and beach of the ocean was about where the highway is today, and the waves would have sometimes lapped up against the foothills that today serve as a backdrop for Pismo Beach. The rock that makes up this ancient sea stack is called a tuff, made from what was originally volcanic ash..." https://www.jf2.com/geowalk/geowalk.html

John Wiley Apr 22, 2022 01:42 PM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

That white sculpture at left in the Atascadero "Sunken Gardens" pic is "Wrestling Bacchantes" by Petrilli, shown at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. The domed building is the 1914 City Hall on Palma between E.&W. Mall streets, and popular with tourists. The city's wiki page has this item: 'The Spanish word atascadero loosely means "bog" or "mire", from the verb atascar, which means "to become stuck or hindered". On the other hand, in the Obispeño language, the site was named tsɨskikiye, which translates into a "place of much water".' Whatever, we were glad to have taken the Hwy41 exit to El Camino for a rest stop there. :)

John Wiley Apr 22, 2022 02:58 PM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

I looked up mustard grass, and found this on wiki: '"Some of the earliest known documentation of mustard's use dates back to Sumerian and Sanskrit texts from 3000 BC".' Bunias orientalis, the Turkish wartycabbage, warty-cabbage, hill mustard, or Turkish rocket, is an edible wild plant. It's classified as invasive in most of Middle Europe and America. Bunias orientalis (aka Turkish warty cabbage and Russian old man) is claimed by some to be our CA variety, possibly originating from the Caucasus region. LA Daily News claims it was introduced by "Russian settlers who, unknowingly, carried it in sacks of wheat they imported." Mustard varieties are apparently used for pest control (including nematodes) in some agricultural settings (though our garden expert friend says tilling is bad for soil), and seeds have up to 43% protein content. KCBX has an article attributing introduction of this invasive species to the mission settlers. Biodiversity Atlas of LA's article says it's Brassica nigra, out-competes and inhibits growth of native plants, seeds survive for over 50 years, and it's well-adapted to fire thus converting our region to annual grasslands. LA Times says it came to CA via "the Franciscan padres, who, legend has it, scattered seeds along El Camino Real to mark the road," (of course it spreads so fast, anyone trying to follow it later surely got lost). Anyway, you can apparently eat the greens and make mustard with the seeds.

John Wiley Apr 22, 2022 03:56 PM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

What was CA like 700 years ago and what will it be like in 2100? It seems most of the flowers we saw on this trip are invasive species! Cal-IPC says Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) aka English broom or common broom is invasive, differs from our also invasive French broom (Genista monspessulana) Spanish broom (Spartium junceum) and Portuguese broom (Cytisus striatus), is native from UK to the Ural Mountains and Sweden to the Mediterranean, and was brought here from Europe and North Africa in the 1800s. One plant spits out 12,000 seeds further dispersed by ants, animals, in mud clinging to machinery, and by rain wash on slopes. It can re-sprout from the root crown after cutting or freezing and sometimes after fire. It displaces native plants, ups soil nitrogen helping other non-native weeds, grows in full sun or up to 90% shade, can reach 50,000 kg/hectare in 4 years, acidifies soil to inhibit other plants, is toxic to most animals including dogs & cats (tho rabbits can eat shoots), burns readily carrying fire into the tree canopy thus increasing both the frequency and intensity of fires, and is a California bear to get rid of! They conclude that "The safest approach is to avoid planting any broom species. Several alternate plant species have similar attributes but are not invasive."

John Wiley Apr 22, 2022 04:46 PM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

O.M.G.!! Even our beloved oaks! https://cisr.ucr.edu/invasive-species/goldspotted-oak-borer

John Wiley Apr 22, 2022 04:59 PM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

Yay! >Some< of our poppies are native to CA. :D ~ USFS: "California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) ... the state flower of California, is native to the Pacific slope of North America from Western Oregon to Baja California. Adelbert von Chamisso, naturalist aboard the Russian exploring ship "Rurick”, discovered and named the species. ...in 1816 ... [it was] introduced into English gardens in the [1800s]. Seed catalogs now offer many different colors. ... planted in most of the United States and have become established along roadsides, in empty lots, and other disturbed places. [BUT] In California, it is hard to tell any more which poppies are native wildflowers and which are garden escapes. ~ Guess change is the only constant.

edney Apr 22, 2022 06:34 PM
E.22 Spring 101 Bloom

The clumping is probably because there is a bit of a depression or puddle there (it actually looks like a little runoff swale), so all the seeds that fall there germinate, the seeds that fall onto harder ground don't.
Look at germination out towards road. Closer to road, more compaction. Look at the middle, there is a low spot that runs paralell to the road and most of the growth is there. Look too the area furthest from road... better than area closest to road, but not as good as the swale.
Normally the seed would do best where gophers, moles, soil movement etc help out and birds, wind and mice are all moving seed around. Poppies have kind of a spring loaded seed spraying mechanism as well, but next to a road it takes a long wet winter to germinate and thrive so in a drought or even just a winter with long pauses between rains, you won't get flowers on those hard edges

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