Don Bauder 4:30 p.m., Dec. 9
African Daisies, India Hawthorn, and Sage
The Annual Green-to-Golden Transition of San Diego's wild grasslands typically starts during early April &mdash though this year, early rains in winter followed by abundant sunshine may accelerate the process. North-facing hillsides and canyon slopes retain the green color longer, as they are less exposed to drying sunshine. Locally, most of the wild grasses are naturalized (non-native) annuals, the seeds of which were introduced along with hay and other grains brought in by the Spaniards during the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of the mountain meadows have remnants of native grasses, which remain more or less green almost the year round. These rare native grasslands can be found in certain parts of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and more widely distributed at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in the Santa Ana Mountains west of Temecula.
The Pleasantly Pungent Fragrance of sage is filling the air wherever native vegetation grows on the county's coastal and lower-foothill slopes. Most common are the black sage, with tight clusters of small, white flowers; the grayish-leaved white sage; purple-blossomed, sweet-smelling Cleveland sage; and California sagebrush, characterized by soft, needle-like leaves.
African Daisies are bursting into bloom around San Diego, especially along the freeway embankments. The name refers to a wide variety of species belonging to the genuses Arctotis, Dimorphotheca, and Osteospermum, with flowers ranging in color from yellow, orange and white to purple. These hardy ground covers require little water except when in active growth, and help to hold soil in place during heavy rains.
India Hawthorn, one of the most common flowering shrubs used in landscaping as hedges and dividers in San Diego, is blooming best right about now. The plant, which has several varieties, covers itself with blossoms ranging in hue from pinkish white to vivid pink.