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.
This week Flora has two California natives now in bloom. One that’s new to the Chavez Park Botanical Census and another that’s already on the list, but now has more photogenic blooms. Flora also has photos of the fruits of the Lollipop Tree (Myoporum laetum), already registered but not previously shown in fruit, and new photos of the Santa Cruz Island Buckwheat showing the plant with its pretty flowers.
Pacific Aster (Symphyotrichum chilense)
The Pacific Aster (Symphyotrichum chilense) is also known as the common California aster. As the name implies, it’s a native of California and West Coast regions up to Canada, but found mainly in California. The scientific name, with its reference to Chile, is a mistake; the plant does not grow there.
The flowers are modest in size, barely the diameter of a nickel coin. Its root system, by contrast, can spread many yards via rhizomes. This quality makes the plant attractive as a soil stabilizer. Though small, the flowers attract bees and butterflies. Often mistaken for a weed, the plant is growing on the west side of the park on the edge of the forested grove.
There do not seem to be any medicinal or nutritional uses for this plant, and it is not considered invasive.
California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum)
We have this plant on the list of Chavez Park plants already; it appeared in Flora Friday on May 24 this year. But that appearance showed this plant from a distance, and didn’t do justice to the beauty of its blooms. Here are a couple of close-ups, taken from another stand that’s growing on the western edge of the forested grove, near the picnic area.
The difference between the May 24 photo and this one underscores a point the Wikipedia writer makes, that this plant is highly variable in appearance. Not only the blooms but the stems and leaves vary. The foliage here is a lush green, possibly because the soil down here gets much more moisture and at times even becomes marshy.
The plant in our May 24 post showed foliage that was nearly white. That plant grows up on the ridge in the forested grove, where conditions tend toward the arid. That plant is also now in bloom. Most of its flowers lack energy and seem wilted, but a few show their glory. The pale foliage is plainly visible in the background; see the next two photos:
Wherever it grows and whatever its foliage, the plant is a magnet for hummingbirds and other long-tongued nectar-lovers.
This plant, as we mentioned earlier, is not actually a fuchsia but belongs to the evening primrose family. It is, however, a California native, found also in other Western states. It’s widely available commercially and a big favorite with gardeners.
Several Native American peoples, including the Costanoan and Miwok, used a boiled and reduced syrup of the plant to treat a variety of ailments. Others sucked the flower for its nectar. Source.
Fruit of the Poison Tree
In criminal law, evidence obtained through an illegal search is termed “fruit of the poisoned tree.” On the ridge in the forested grove on the west side of the park grows the Myoporum laetum, sometimes known as the Lollipop tree, the Mousehole tree, or Ngaio. Flora Friday covered it on March 15 2019, pointing out that the name “lollipop tree” could be fatally misleading. At that time, the tree was not yet in bloom, much less in fruit. On our recent visit, its cherry-like fruit clustered abundantly on its branches, luring the unwary.
Warning! It’s poisonous. It contains the compound Ngaione, which destroys liver cells.
Santa Cruz Island Buckwheat (Eriogonum arborescens)
Bob Huttar photographed this plant in March when it still carried its dead flowers from the previous year. It was part of the March 15 Flora Friday. Now Flora has photos of the plant, or one of its daughters, in bloom. It grows on a steep slope surrounded by tall grasses and defended by thorny blackberry tentacles. Out of safety considerations, close-up images had to be taken from a plucked sprig with a jacket for background.