A Woodland Changing from Winter to Spring

This woodland of Valley oak and Ash has a healthy population of North Coast Semaphore Grass coming up.
This Pioneer violet, Viola glabella, is an early wildflower commonly found in moist shaded places in woods.
The maroon stems and soft apple-green leaves identify this grass as North Coast Semaphore grass, Pleuropogon hooverianus.
Another very early spring wildflower, Milkmaid, Cardamine californica.
Winter is still present here in this woodland with the leafless trees and green vibrant moss covering many surfaces.
White balls of hail on the leaves of Cow parsnip, Heracleum maximus.
Wonderful to find so many of the  Leopard lily, Lilium pardilinum, coming up.
The curled leaves of Giant wakerobin, Trillium albidum, with the buds not open yet.

March 15, 2021

March is a time of year the weather can change rapidly from a warm clear day to a windy and cold, cloudy day. Last week as I was out on an upland site on the project in one of the oak forests of Plasma, I was caught in a rain and hailstorm that caused the trees to dance over my head. They bent and creaked as the branches moved with the wind. The sound of hail pounding my umbrella was loud in my ears. Even though the trees and mosses were still in winter mode, I noticed that signs of spring were all around me. On the ground under the trees, I could see the green shoots of many new plants pushing through the leaf litter.

The first plant I recognized, that seemed everywhere much to my delight, was a verdant carpet of North Coast Semaphore grass, Pleuropogon hooverianus. This is a California endemic and endangered grass that is found on the mitigation lands. We are managing this area to help increase the population of this beautiful species. The apple green color, soft texture of its leaves, and the maroon to reddish bases of its stems are diagnostic when trying to identify this plant before it flowers.

As I continue to observe, I see the flowers of two early spring bloomers, the bright yellow Pioneer Violet, Viola glabella, and the pink-white Milk Maids, Cardamine californica. These are harbingers of springtime for sure. It looks like there will be dozens of Milkmaids blooming before too long.

As the hail continues, I see the leaves of more spectacular spring wildflowers. One is the elegant Giant White Wakerobin, Trillium albidum. Its leaves are curled around the buds of this large white to pink flower. The hail has collected in the cup it has formed. Giant Cow Parsnip, Heracleum maximum, leaves are also full of the large hail crystals. The Leopard Lilies, Lilium pardalinum, are popping up in their usual spot under a massive old Valley oak, Quercus lobata, with its base covered in mosses. The lily’s pointed leaves surrounding the stem in a circular pattern are easy to recognize.

It is always enjoyable to notice and get ready for, the spring show that is approaching, whether that is in the unfurling flowers or in the singing of the birds.