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Natural Perspective

A Farewell To Spring (July 1996)

(Last modified: 4 May 2015)
[oak clarkia]
Spring has drawn to a close here in the San Francisco Bay Area. The rainy season is definitely over; the delicate herbs of Spring are all but gone. Pink Clarkias -- aptly named Farewell-to-Spring -- now provide a final burst of color among the dried grasses (above).

This was truly a wonderful year for Spring: the rain and climate cooperated perfectly to encourage plants to grow. Spring had slipped in by late-January and built up to a crescendo of blossoms (accompanied by Cicada song) that lasted through May.

A lovely bouquet of flowers in the Pea and Carrot, Aster and Geranium families framed both the season and its flowers. Acacia trees of the Pea family were among the earliest to flower but other family members including the brooms, clover, lupine, and vetch followed in a steady procession. The Carrot family conducted its own procession, beginning with the beautiful Footsteps-of-Spring, followed by Sanicles, Cow Parsnip and other fragrant relatives. As Summer approaches, the Carrot family still reigns, with tall Poison Hemlock and Angelica plants still in bloom.

[photo: tidytips] Wild members of the Geranium family, with tiny purple-to-pink flowers, seemed to dot the landscape everywhere -- even between chinks in the pavement. The Asters, later to start, painted entire hillsides and meadows with gold. The palette included tiny Goldfields; substantial Mule's Ear; dainty Tidy-tips (left); and bevies of confoundingly similar dandelion species.

Within the lattice formed by these plants, a myriad of other beautiful flowers flourished this Spring: Suncups, Cat's-ears, Checkerblooms, Blue-eyed Grass, tiny California Plantain, owlish Purple Owl's Clover, Bluedicks, Shooting Star, Baby Blue-eyes, Douglas Iris and the glorious California Poppy to name but a few. Meanwhile the shady woodlands nurtured their own bouquet with Trillium, Forget-Me-Not, Hound's-tongue, Starflower, Violets, and a wonderful variety of fungi.

[photo: chimney rock] Nowhere was the feeling of Spring better represented than at Chimney Rock, Pt. Reyes. The place deserves its reputation for breathtaking profusion of wildflowers. We took the short walk from the parking lot to Chimney Rock (perhaps a mile each way & less than a quarter mile wide) and found it carpeted with showy wildflowers, most of them less than a foot high. (Right: a tiny sampling of the plants Chimney Rock -- 6 species with a Checkerbloom in the center)

One trail guide claims that over 60 species of wildflowers grow along this path. We counted around 35 that day -- half of them new to me -- but the number of species doesn't do justice to the beauty of the place. It doesn't indicate the sheer density of colorful blooms and how they intermingle with each other. Nor does it portray the beautiful backdrop. Here gentle hills converge to terminate in a seaside cliff -- a protected bay on one side, the ocean on the other -- with flocks of birds flying overhead. One bold Song Sparrow perched on a trailside rock and repeated its beautiful melodies over and over much to the delight of all passers-by.

After maturing in the lowlands, Spring slowly crept up the mountain sides following the receding blanket of melting snow-pack. By the end of April, Springtime had extended up a mile in elevation (1.5 km) and with it came the delights of Morel hunting.

[photo: black morels] During one trip to the Sierra, we had pretty much given up on finding Morels and just settled back to enjoy the hike through a Sequoia grove. Around halfway into the trail, a lumpy "rock" caught my attention. We almost passed it without further note, but something called me back. Much to our delight the rock had turned into Black Morel! From there we kept our eyes peeled and found enough mushrooms to fill two sandwich bags. Not a huge take but enough, and even more welcome as we had already abandoned the hope of finding any edible mushrooms.

Snowplants, Manzanita and Giant Trillium were in full bloom along the trail that day. What beautiful plants, each in its own way. Once again, we were thankful to the fungi, without which the former two plants would die of starvation.

[photo: red columbine] A month later we journeyed to Colorado for Memorial Day Weekend. We found Spring once again, now barely reaching 8-9,000 feet (2.5-3 km) in altitude. Although we spent one day hiking in snowfall, we found beautiful Calypso Orchids, Bearberry Shrubs, Columbines (right), Pasqueflowers and many of the other ephemeral flowers for which the Rockies are famous.

Having enjoyed so many beginnings of Spring this year, Summer came upon us all too quickly. Summer has it own joys, however: hardy shrubs and vines that just now are turning to fruit. Rose-family berries such as Blackberry and Thimbleberry are ripening. Our favorite Heath berry, the Huckleberry, will follow in due time. And the Soap-plant has started its beautiful afternoon display of flowers. Spring is still just a day trip away to the higher elevations.

One more Spring has come to a close in the lowlands of San Francisco; one more Summer has taken its place. We have again reveled in Nature's rebirth, drunk in her beauty, and marveled at her complexity. Along the way we discovered new delights, delighted in the familiar, and enjoyed a cornucopia of smell, sight, taste, touch, and sound.

-Ari & Susan

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This site produced and maintained by Ari Kornfeld
Copyright © 1996-2015 All rights reserved.

Collaboration and inspiration thanks to Susan Kornfeld
Early PhotoCD scans by Alpha CD Imaging, Menlo Park, CA
Special thanks to Claire Doyle Ragin for scanning some early photos
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