Thanks to the contributions of two energetic people who know plants, chavezpark.org is publishing a complete botanical inventory of the park. Jutta Burger PhD is Lead Scientist for the California Invasive Plant Council, and Bob Huttar is a certified arborist and a consulting field biologist specializing in botany generally and rare plants in particular. Together they are photographing and identifying everything that grows in the park, both common and scientific names. They’ve done the scientific heavy lifting. I’m adding some background blog-talk. We’re publishing the results in a series, with a new installment every Friday.
It’s bloom, bloom, bloom all over the park now. From tiny clovers to exotic cherry trees, almost everything that contains chlorophyll is hanging out its colorful advertisements to pollinating bugs to please come and perform the vital work of reproduction. Here’s a small sample.
I’ve posted the basic information about this plant in previous years. The only thing new is a bit of gossip from a Facebook page where someone claims to have scattered the seeds of this plant here a few years ago.
Farmers love seeing this plant in their pastures because it’s a good feed for livestock and it improves the soil. It’s Trifolium campestre, also known as field clover or hop trefoil. The “hop” comes from its superficial resemblance to the hop flower. It’s native to Europe and Asia but has been naturalized here for a long time.
It’s growing here in dense mats at the edge of some of the concrete drainage culverts on the east side of the park. Like this:
Catalina Island Cherry
A riot of white blossoms envelops this normally non-showy plant at this time of year. It’s native to the Channel Islands of California. Its leaves have sawtooth edges that resemble holly. The flowers will ripen into fruit that is edible and sweet, but contains only a thin layer of pulp over a large stone. Be that as it may, it has provided nutrition and sometimes intoxication for Native Americans for thousands of years. It’s also a favorite easy-to-grow plant for native and drought-tolerant gardens.
This showy bloomer has a big following in the garden trade, where it sometimes goes by the name kiss-me-quick or Jupiter’s beard. This exemplar is growing along the pathway leading to the Open Circle viewpoint. Another patch looks vigorous near the circular path in the northwest corner of the park. The plant is an invasive species worldwide, and in South Africa its appearance requires compulsory removal and destruction. It has a “weed alert” status in California. It remains to be seen how it will fare in Cesar Chavez Park, where most of its neighbors are also invasive species and are anything but pushovers. It’s a tough neighborhood.
A stand of this unusual plant can be seen on the east side of the park, in close proximity to the crimson clover and the little hop clover, above. It’s eggleaf spurge, also called oblong spurge (Euphorbia oblongata). Like many other spurges, this species has a unique reproductive architecture. Instead of surrounding each of its sexual organs (male stamen, female pistil) with decorative petals and attractive pools of nectar, like most plants do, the plant isolates each of its organs without any decoration. There are no sepals, petals, or nectar in the flower head. What appear to be petals are just leaves, but there is a cup with nectar below the head. This false flower head is called a cyathium. Here’s a closeup:
This unique sexual approach works well enough to attract pollinators and assure the plant’s reproduction and spread. It rarely meets with a welcome from humans, however, because its milky sap is poisonous and an irritant to eyes and skin.
This low bloomer has spread vigorously on the southern border of the park, covering whole hillsides. It’s Arctotheca calendula and originated in the Cape province of South Africa. It spreads invasively through underground rooting stems, as well as by seeds. In a previous post about this plant, two years ago, before Bob and Jutta, I incorrectly identified it as Indian chrysanthemum, but with a questiion mark. Here is a profusion of Cape Weed (with some white radish in front) on a southern slope next to Spinnaker Way: