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July is San Diego's driest month, according to precipitation data compiled since the year 1850. Only four hundredths of an inch of rain falls on average this month, compared to almost two inches in January -- the wettest month. July also marks the beginning of a new rainfall year, as defined by local meteorological convention.

Native lilies, such as the Humboldt lily, are blooming this month in widely scattered locations throughout San Diego County's higher mountains. To find them take a walk on the Noble Canyon Trail in the Laguna Mountains, or explore the pine woodlands of Palomar Mountain and Cuyamaca Rancho state parks. The large, nodding flowers of the lilies -- orange or yellow with brown spots -- grow in clusters on stems two to eight feet tall.

Cicadas, the insects that sound like tinny buzzsaws in the brush, have been putting up a racket around San Diego lately. Occasionally mistaken for the tail buzz of a rattlesnake, the sound is merely that of a male calling to potential mates. Some 30 species of cicadas inhabit San Diego County, but none are of the famous periodical type that emerge en masse every 13 or 17 years to serenade parts of the eastern United States.

Mars and Saturn are in conjunction in the western sky on Thursday evening, July 10. Scan near the horizon to the west at around 9 p.m. (with binoculars if the city lights are too bright, and you will spot the two planets only about 2/3 degree apart from one another. You can easily distinguish between the two: Mars appears slightly reddish and Saturn is creamy white.

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