Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
Floss Silks, Black Oaks, and Autumn Leaves
The Floss Silk Tree, a conspicuous "autumn bloomer" here and there around San Diego, has been showing off its pinkish or purplish, hibiscus-like flowers for at least a month now. The broad, heavy trunks of this South American import, studded with fat, cone-shaped spines makes it easy to identify.
The Tawny Hues of the Black Oak Tree are just beginning to highlight the slopes of San Diego County's higher mountains. Named for the dark coloring of its bark, especially when wet, the black oak is the only deciduous oak native to the county. Associating with pines, firs, cedars, various evergreen oaks, and occasionally chaparral, the black oak lends a true autumn coloring to the Cuyamaca, Laguna, and Palomar mountains.
Leaves are Beginning to Turn in coastal San Diego County's riparian woodland and oak woodland habitats. The summer-green crowns of willows and sycamores are already fading to yellow and brown. Beneath the oaks, the deciduous poison oak is flushing red. Good locations for autumnal walks this month and next include San Clemente Canyon (Marian Bear) Park adjacent to Freeway 52, Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve north of Mira Mesa, and Wilderness Gardens Preserve County Park east of Pala in North County.
Autumn Color in San Diego County's mountain areas reaches its greatest intensity in late October and early November. The forested heights of Palomar Mountain are especially colorful right now. Black oaks on Palomar's rolling uplands will be exhibiting bright yellow and brown hues for the next few weeks. Cuyamaca Reservoir, although hard hit by the 2003 Cedar Fire, remains a worthwhile leaf-peeping destination. The shimmering leaves of the Lombardy poplar, an Italian import that has taken root at the south end of the lake, delight the eye with their golden radiance.