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.
Yet another geranium! Wikipedia has almost nothing on this plant, but the Cal Invasive Plant Council says
Geranium purpureum (little robin) is a herb (family Geraniaceae) with pink flowers and lobed leaves found in the San Francisco Bay area and central coast ranges of California. It is native to Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. It favors grasslands and woodlands. It spreads via seeds which land within a short distance of the parent plant. Animal and human activities help disperse this plant.https://www.cal-ipc.org/plants/profile/geranium-purpureum-profile/
This earns it a Limited rating on the IPC scale. In the park, this individual was growing up in the forested grove in a mostly shady area and appeared to be part of a very small group of fewer than a dozen plants.
California Bee Plant
The California Bee Plant (Scrophularia californica) is native to California and other western states, as well as British Columbia, Canada. The flowers are compact and not extremely showy, yet they exercise a strong attraction over bees; hence the common name. The one in the upper photo grows up in the forested grove very near the Little Robin, above, and there is a patch of it lower down, with a bee nest just a buzz away.
Italia Rye-grass (Festuca perennis) has commercial uses for silage, erosion control, and as a cover crop. It also has ornamental value. But its ability to leap from captivity and spread where it’s not wanted have earned it a Moderate invasive rating from the Cal Invasive Plant Council. Here it ornaments the west side of the hills on the south end of the park.
Big clumps of this plant grow on the edge of the rip-rap on the southeast side of the park, just south of Park’s rip-rap rehab project. These didn’t get there by bird droppings or in dog fur; someone must have planted them, probably years ago. It’s a native of the Canary Islands that likes the edge of sandy beaches. It’s become a favored garden plant, earning the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. At the moment it’s hidden from casual view by a screen of thistles.
Update May 29: Change “grow” to past tense. The Parks Department’s Rip-rap Rehab project ripped these plants out by the roots. See details here.
The California Blackberry (Rubus ursinus) is a poster child of the native plant bullied to the margins by the exotic import. California bears, other mammals, and numerous bird species for thousands of years thrived from the fruit of the sprawling native berry. Cooks and bakers say that the California blackberry is sweeter, has smaller seeds, and is rich in pectin. Some cooks consider the Himalayan as almost tasteless, lacking in pectin, and with seeds that clog your teeth. Those virtues have not helped the native plant. It tends to run along the ground and to form small mounds. The Himalayan variety can rise 15 feet into the air and form impenetrable walls. The Himalayan has taken over most of the best spots. The native variety, while not in danger of extinction, can be hard to find.
Luckily, both grow in the park, although the California berry, as shown in the picture, hasn’t found a big spot in the sun. You can tell them apart by their leaves, flowers, and thorns. The California variety usually has three leaflets; the Himalayan, usually five. The native has fewer and shorter thorns than the import. The California berry flower has narrower petals, usually with space between them; the Himalayan petals are broader and usually overlap.
This is Purple Woodsorrel (Oxalis purpurea). It is a member of the huge Oxalis genus, with more than 500 species. All by itself, this species shows considerable variety in leaf shape and flower color, confounding taxonomists. It originated in South Africa but can now be found in all temperate zones. Like a number of other plants, it finds people of two minds about it. It’s popular as a garden plant, widely available in nurseries. It’s also considered a noxious invasive weed in many places where it thrives, notably in parts of Australia. Here in the park it has a modest presence, almost invisible compared to its cousin, the bright yellow Oxalis pes-caprae or sourgrass.