Walter Mencken 11:31 a.m., Feb. 1
Wild Lilacs, Acacias, and Winter Constellations
Ceanothus, or wild lilac, a late winter or early spring blooming native plant, could blossom profusely this month or next. Heavy rains and protracted periods of abundant sunshine produce the most extravagant displays. Blue- and white-flowering varities of ceanothus are common wherever native sage-scrub and chaparral vegetation grows, from the bluffs of Torrey Pines to the edge of the Anza-Borrego Desert.
Acacias, festooned with myriads of fluffy yellow blossoms, are brightening streetsides, freeway embankments, and backyard gardens throughout the San Diego area this month. Although many acacias are native to subtropical regions, nearly all we see today in San Diego were introduced from Australia. Anza-Borrego's native acacia (
The Glittery, Bright "Winter Constellations" of Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, Canis Major, and Canis Minor are best seen during the early evening hours of late January and early February. This year, however, the waxing crescent moon's increasingly bright glare will begin to diminish the impact of the starry scene by Friday, January 30, and that interference will worsen until full moon on Monday, February 9. The bright winter constellations happen to include about one-third of the most luminous stars appearing in the night sky. The brightest star of all, Sirius, lies in the constellation of Canis Major. Sirius appears as a scintillating, bluish point of light high over the southeast or south horizon during winter early-evening hours. The second-brightest star of the night sky, Canopus, can be seen hovering very low over the south horizon whenever Sirius is nearing its highest altitude (about 40 degrees) in the southern sky. For late January, this happens around 10 p.m.