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Visit Chula Vista's Rice Canyon for an instructive look at South Bay's native vegetation.

On the scrub-covered slopes overlooking eastern Chula Vista's Rice Canyon, hardy coast chollas raise their asymmetric arms in what seems a gesture of defiance against the surrounding phalanxes of cookie-cutter, pseudo-Spanish-style homes. The yellow-centered, magenta blossoms at their tips are opening now -- though much of the remainder of the vegetation in the canyon is beginning its summer-dormant phase.

Throughout the San Diego region, from Oceanside to Otay Mesa, thin strips of canyon open space like this break the symmetry of the urban and suburban continuum. Sometimes, as in the case of Chula Vista's newer planned communities, shreds of natural landscape survive by design. In many older neighborhoods, the canyons separating the mesas were, and still are, too steep and narrow to have been developed.

What remains of the formerly obscure Rice Canyon (now called Rice Canyon Open Space Preserve) stretches some two miles west from Discovery Park, off East H Street, west of Southwestern College. From a small parking/staging area across from the park, a wide, sandy, mostly flat trail runs for a total of two miles down the canyon to a point on East H Street about one mile east of Interstate 805. At the trailhead itself, and at a mailbox about midway down the canyon, you may find a free, color-photo-illustrated leaflet (produced by Southwestern College) describing the canyon's native vegetation. The largest bushes in sight on the canyon slopes are lemonade berry shrubs, with sticky fruit that Native Americans once used to prepare a beverage similar to lemonade.

As you make your way down the canyon on a typical early summer morning, the marine-layer clouds begin to part and salt-tinged air pushes inland from south San Diego Bay. The shriveling California sagebrush plants coating the canyons exude a spicy fragrance. Bird, cricket, and cicada songs waft on the breeze. White and yellow butterflies flit amid the late blooming weeds and wildflowers.

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On the scrub-covered slopes overlooking eastern Chula Vista's Rice Canyon, hardy coast chollas raise their asymmetric arms in what seems a gesture of defiance against the surrounding phalanxes of cookie-cutter, pseudo-Spanish-style homes. The yellow-centered, magenta blossoms at their tips are opening now -- though much of the remainder of the vegetation in the canyon is beginning its summer-dormant phase.

Throughout the San Diego region, from Oceanside to Otay Mesa, thin strips of canyon open space like this break the symmetry of the urban and suburban continuum. Sometimes, as in the case of Chula Vista's newer planned communities, shreds of natural landscape survive by design. In many older neighborhoods, the canyons separating the mesas were, and still are, too steep and narrow to have been developed.

What remains of the formerly obscure Rice Canyon (now called Rice Canyon Open Space Preserve) stretches some two miles west from Discovery Park, off East H Street, west of Southwestern College. From a small parking/staging area across from the park, a wide, sandy, mostly flat trail runs for a total of two miles down the canyon to a point on East H Street about one mile east of Interstate 805. At the trailhead itself, and at a mailbox about midway down the canyon, you may find a free, color-photo-illustrated leaflet (produced by Southwestern College) describing the canyon's native vegetation. The largest bushes in sight on the canyon slopes are lemonade berry shrubs, with sticky fruit that Native Americans once used to prepare a beverage similar to lemonade.

As you make your way down the canyon on a typical early summer morning, the marine-layer clouds begin to part and salt-tinged air pushes inland from south San Diego Bay. The shriveling California sagebrush plants coating the canyons exude a spicy fragrance. Bird, cricket, and cicada songs waft on the breeze. White and yellow butterflies flit amid the late blooming weeds and wildflowers.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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