Monkey Flowers, Mustard, Desert Agaves, and the Rabbit and Rodent Population
Monkey Flowers of various species are putting on an excellent display this month around San Diego. Look for these low, shrub-like plants with tubular yellow, orange, or red flowers wherever native vegetation clothes the landscape -- from the coastal bluffs to the lower slopes of the mountains. As you drive Interstates 8 or 805 near Mission Valley, look for the rust tint these flowers give to the steep hillsides. On the terraces just above San Onofre State Beach, you can usually see springtime monkey flower blossoms of every intermediate shade from yellow to red.
Mustard, a nonnative plant more like a weed than a wildflower, is blooming profusely on grassy slopes all along the coastline of San Diego County. An old story, probably apocryphal, tells of the padres scattering mustard seed along the El Camino Real so that the bright, yellow mustard blossoms would help them find their way in future spring seasons. More likely, the plant was introduced to western North America in the form of seeds carried in the hay used to feed livestock brought in by the early settlers.
Rabbit and Rodent Population is peaking in the canyons and hillsides of coastal San Diego County. In many neighborhoods, car headlights illuminate the rear ends of scampering cottontail rabbits making raids on succulent garden vegetation. On the fringes of suburbia, sleek coyotes are sometimes spotted slinking about in pursuit of rodents and rabbits, or easier-to-catch fare -- house cats.
Desert Agaves, or century plants, are sending up their asparagus-like flower stalks on rocky hillsides throughout much of the Anza-Borrego Desert. On warm, sunny days the stalks may grow almost one foot per day (fast enough for you to notice the sharp leaf tips at the bud actually separating from one another). After the stalk reaches a height of 10-20 feet, clusters of waxy, yellow flowers appear, ready for pollination by bees and other insects. After blooming, the fleshy, dagger-like leaves at the base of the plant die (after a life of 10 or 20 years, not a century) and the stalk, bearing a crop of seeds, dries up as well.
More like this:
- The hills are alive with the rust tint of monkey-flowers — April 23, 2017
- Wildflowers, Silk Oaks, Chamise, Buckwheat, and Agaves — May 5, 2011
- Monkey Flowers, Star Jasmine, Black Oaks, and Desert Agaves — April 19, 2011
- Cottonwood Trees and Century Plants — April 20, 2010
- Wildflowers, Oleander, Wild Roses, Agaves — May 27, 2008