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.
The first Flora Friday appeared on February 22 this year. Today’s is the sixteenth weekly installment. Today we’re also officially unveiling one product of all this labor: The Cesar Chavez Park Plant List. Currently, the list shows 124 species, with more coming. For each species there is a link to a post containing that plant, usually with some explanations, and there is one selected photo of that plant. Some plants are featured in multiple posts; if so, the other posts will be listed at the bottom of the selected post. Additional photos will probably be contained in the other posts.
This list is a work in progress. If you have botanical expertise and would like to join Jutta and Bob in completing this inventory, to the extent that is possible, please use the comment form below to get in touch.
The Field Bindweed (Convulvulus arvensis) flower looks like a morning glory and that’s no accident, because it’s part of the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae). A few members of that family are edible, notably the sweet potato; but this plant is definitely not. All parts including seeds contain alkaloids that are poisonous taken in quantity. Apart from its flower, Field Bindweed has little to recommend it. It coils along the ground until it finds something vertical, such as another plant, and then climbs up on it, encircling it like a slender boa constrictor. It steals sunlight and nutrients from its host plant. If left unchecked, its weight can pull the plant down and kill it. It spreads via rhizomes and grows rapidly, causing crop damage in agriculture estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It is very difficult to remove. Its rhizomes run deep. Any little fragment of root can start a new plant. Its seeds can survive in the soil for 50 years. Pretty flower, though.
Hedgeparsley (Torilis arvensis) is also known as the sock destroyer. Its tiny flowers ripen into hairy little fruits that bristle with double-pointed hooks. Once they get into your socks — or into a dog’s hair — they become very difficult to remove. One gardener reported:
If you brush against it, even slightly, the seeds will stick to your clothing. If it’s socks, forget trying to get them out ~ just throw them away or you’ll risk insanity trying to pick all the nasty little buggers off! I once had to shave a dog bare when he went gallavanting through a large patch of them.https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/32053/#b
By this means the plant hitchhikes on humans and other mammals to the far corners of the earth. The California Invasive Plant Council rates it as “Moderate” on the scale of invasiveness. It has no confirmed edible parts or medicinal uses.
If the sock destroyer plant wasn’t enough for you, there’s also Bedstraw (Galium aparine) growing in the park. Among a long list of common names is sticky willy, stickyjack, grip grass, and velcro plant. Like Torilis arvensis, the seed pods of this plant, as you can see in the photograph just above, are covered with spiny hooks that will cling to hair or clothing, thereby distributing the seeds. However, unlike hedgeparsley, bedstraw is edible, but less so once the spiny seed pods form. It would take a lot of cooking and some mashing to make them palatable. Geese, on the other hand, have no trouble eating the pods. The plant got its “bedstraw” name because it was used in Europe to stuff mattresses. The clinging pods formed a firm thick mesh that resisted sagging and bagging.
The Coyote Bush (Bacharis pilularis) is common up and down the California coast, and the park is no exception. The relatively young one shown here grows in the seasonal Burrowing Owl preserve in the northeast corner of the park. Dozens of others grow scattered in other sites of the park. It’s native to California and neighboring coastal states.
Coyote Bush plants are either male or female, and both are needed within range of pollinator insects for reproduction to occur. Numerous wasps, bees, butterflies and flies feed on the plant’s nectar during its blooming season.