Nature Therapy at the Granada Native Garden

A Personal Note                                                                                                                            During our work at the Granada Native Garden, we volunteers are often approached by visitors using the adjacent Arroyo Mocho Bike Trail who thank us for our labors in maintaining the Garden.  Many also appreciate the colorful display of wildflowers in the Garden in the springtime.                                                                                                       However, I suspect that many of these passersby have never actually entered the Garden and wandered thru it casually to appreciate the different colors, shapes, smells and subtleties present in this tiny sample of native California, and can be appreciated at any time of the year, not just in the spring.  Not to mention the many plant identification markers which tell about the importance of individual plants to the ecology of the region and to the Native Americans who used to live in this region and depended on the plants for their livelihood and survival. As one elderly visitor once remarked, ”You see all kinds of things here, if you just stop and look! ”                                                                                             The Granada Native Garden was once described by a visitor as “Livermore’s Best Kept Secret”.  It is true that the GNG takes up only 1/3 of an acre of downtown Livermore, and is bounded on one side by the busy traffic of Murrieta Boulevard and on the other by the Granada High School campus.                                                                                                  But, small as it is, the GNG offers its visitors more than a sight for sore eyes and a tiny island of peace and serenity in the middle of a busy city.  Evidence is accumulating that exposure to nature, even in brief doses, is not only healthful but therapeutic.  We shall examine some of that evidence in this article.  (Maybe this helps to explain why golf is so popular, especially among people who might be less likely to otherwise spend time in nature.) (Note:  Most images can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Evidence from Therapy                                                                                                                 It is well acknowledged that modern life can afflict us with symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Especially since the dawn of the Internet, we’ve become more irritable, less sociable, more narcissistic, more distracted and less cognitively nimble.                       Research and actual experience in Japan, Germany and forest-rich Scandinavia has found that “forest therapy” — spending time walking in natural surroundings (as opposed to urban concrete, asphalt and traffic) — is not only good exercise, but can result in a decrease in the body’s stress hormones, blood pressure and heart rate. We would be in good company — reportedly Aristotle, Charles Darwin, Nikola Tesla, and Albert Einstein all found that walking outdoors helped them to think. The American psychologist Benjamin Rush observed that patients who engaged in physical activity often recovered more quickly than those who “languished within the walls of the hospital”.  And Freud blamed cities for “unhealthy repressive tendencies”.                                                                                                   But just within the past several years, numerous doctors, psychiatrists, educators, ecotherapists and pediatricians have witnessed significant changes in their clients’ outlook on life, after prescribing for them a habit of exposure to nature. The Japanese term shinrin yoku, or “forest bathing”, means letting nature into one’s body thru all five senses. Elements of the environment, such as sunlight, the odor of wood and foliage, the sound of running water in streams, and the colors, scenery and atmosphere of the forest can provide relaxation and mental clarity and reduce stress.                                                             This doesn’t mean you have to move to the country.  One psycho- logist recommends just 20 minutes a day outside in nature.  To ward off depression, a study in Finland recommends a minimum of five hours a month in nature.  Others have found that as little as five minutes in a natural setting, whether walking in a park or gardening in the backyard, improves mood, self-esteem, and motivation, even if it’s starting out with five minutes of weeding.  But in a word, any time we have an opportunity to separate ourselves from a manic, urban environment, is time well spent for our mental health.Evidence from Evolution                                                                                                              Our human ancestors, beginning with the genus Homo, emerged about 2-3 million years ago.  Since that time, we humans have spent over 99% of our evolutionary history immersed in natural environ- ments.  Our humanity has been influenced by the ability to recognize both the comforting and the hazard- ous elements of life in the natural world, and respond to them.  The humans who were most sensitive to the influence of nature were likely to have passed it on to their progeny.             However, we live in a society now characterized by urbanization and artificiality. We are becoming increasingly isolated from the natural world, even tho our physiological functions remain adapted it.  Ludwig van Beethoven realized that “the woods, the trees and the rocks give man the resonance he needs.” Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Ph.D., a leader in promoting the salutary effects of our reconnection to nature, emphasizes that “naturalistic environments remain some of the only places where we engage all five senses and thus by definition, are fully, physically alive.”                                                                                                  The eminent biologist and naturalist E. O. Wilson, proponent of the biophilia hypothesis, proposes that “peaceful or nurturing elements of nature help us regain equanimity, cognitive clarity, empathy and hope.  The humans who were most attuned to the cues of nature were the ones who survived to pass on these traits.”  While, in the past, contact with nature was inescapable and routine, our lives now are “dominated by a tech- nology which is wondrously powerful — and yet nonetheless dead.”  “We are animals, and like other animals, we seek places that give us what we need.”

Evidence from Biology                                                                                                                 Plants take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and in turn release oxygen.  Our brains require a steady amount of glucose and oxygen to function properly, so finding ways to increase their oxygen levels could help our brains function better.  This is especially true in an environment in which automobile engines and anything that burns coal, wood, gasoline and other petroleum products replaces the oxygen in the air with carbon dioxide and monoxide.  It seems logical that an environment in which oxygen-producing plants predominate is one in which our bodies function better.  Likewise, it has long been acknowledged that having plants in the home can reduce carbon dioxide levels while increasing oxygen levels.                                                                                                         Vitamin D is an essential nutrient required to maintain the health of our bones and teeth, support the health of our immune system, brain, and nervous system, regulate our insulin levels, and support lung function and cardiovascular health.  While only a few foods naturally contain adequate sources of vitamin D, our bodies are able to manufacture vitamin D thru the intervention of sunlight.  Time spent outdoors in nature, even for short periods of time, enables our bodies to maintain a healthy level of vitamin D.  Furthermore, sunlight also appears to influence the shape of the retina in our eyes, protecting the eyeball from growing too long and causing myopia (near-sightedness).  As a bonus, time spent outdoors gives our eyes the practice of focusing on features that are both near and far, (as long as our eyes are not glued to our smart phone screen).                                                             I delight in the aroma of cloves when I pass the elderberry bush in full bloom in the Granada Native Garden, or of any one of many sages growing there, or the distinctive aroma of coyote brush or a native sycamore growing along an arroyo or an open field. A great many of the phytochemicals that are produced by these and other plants are not detectable by humans, but insects and birds can sense them in the atmosphere even many miles away, and alert them to desirable food or nectar sources.                                             These volatile chemicals are part of the air we breathe when we are surrounded by trees, shrubs, grasses, herbs and the soil.  They include terpenes, pinenes, limonenes and numerous other substances with which we are already familiar in conifers, spices, mints, sages, basil, citrus fruits and even cannabis.  Over the course of human evolution, native peoples have learned that numerous phytochemicals have beneficial effects on our health. The whimsical advice to “Take two hours of pine forest and call me in the morning” is very much to the point — simply walking in the woods and inhaling the atmosphere produced by plants most likely has a certain beneficial effect on our immune system and general health, and the only sense we have of it is that it feels good after a walk in nature!   For more about terpenes, see the Newsletter article “Tarweeds – and Their Evil Cousin”, published on October 15, 2017. Evidence from Fractals                                                                                                                Our brains appear to be especially well-adapted to recognize patterns.  We are wired to appreciate patterns, altho we may do it uncon- sciously.  We probably developed this facility because we evolved outdoors, in a world filled with an infinite number of interesting shapes, colors and configurations.  There are so many variations of these patterns, also called fractals, some obvious and others subtle, that we take them for granted, and are barely aware of them.  Nonetheless, our exposure to these patterns over the millenia has contributed to developing the remarkable complexity of the human brain.                                                                                                                          Some examples of fractals in nature include sea shells, snow flakes, lightning, broccoli, ferns, trees and leaves, pineapples, clouds, crystals, mountain ranges, shore lines, rivers, sea urchins and sea stars, stalagmites, stalactites and icicles.  According to David Pincus, Ph.D., “Fractal structure helps us to grow and connect … and has direct influences on physical health by encouraging integration and flexibility among our circulatory, respiratory, and immune systems”.  Nanoparticle physicist Richard Taylor believes that “We need these natural patterns to look at, and we’re not getting enough of them.”                                                                        

 

 

 

 

 

It is my belief that our subliminal awareness of the patterns surrounding us in nature — in addition to the effect of the phytochemicals in the air — is responsible for the comforting, de-stressing experience that results from time spent in nature.  Being surrounded by nature makes us feel at home again.                                                                                                When we find reasons to withdraw from nature, or when modern life weans us from the outdoors in favor of more time spent in front of a screen or tethered to a smart phone, we deprive ourselves of the therapeutic regimen that is part of our evolutionary heritage as human beings.  We become less insightful, less social, less empathetic, less human.

Nature Therapy at the Granada Native Garden                                                                         How much nature is effective to restore our psyche?  The Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests an ideal woodland of about 12 acres, at least 5 hours a month.  Lisa Tyrväinen of the National Research Institute of Finland might agree that two or three days per month outside the city would work just as well.  But most researchers in this field would probably agree that any amount of time spent surrounded by the effects of nature is restorative.

Murrieta Entrance

South Trail Entrance

The Bay Area has numerous sizeable woodland parks, close to most of our cities, where it would be relatively easy to escape if one were to make it a priority.  The Granada Native Garden is a bit smaller (only 1/3 of an acre! ), but it is located within the city limits, so it is close at hand.  On the other hand, it is bordered by a busy, noisy main thoroughfare on one side, which makes it difficult to isolate oneself from city life.

North Trail Entrance

Yet, there is much nature to experience in this small enclave.  By simply walking into the Garden, you are immediately immersed in an environment radically different from the concrete, traffic and commercial world a few steps away.  Better yet, sit at one of the mosaic-covered tables and try to shut the bustle of the city out of your consciousness.  “You will see all kinds of things here, if you just stop and look.”  If water is flowing in the nearby Arroyo Mocho, the relaxing sound of the water will help remind you that you are in a different place.                                                                                                                              How many different structures and shapes do you see around you?  How many colors?  How many different hues of the same color?  Are any plants in bloom?  Where are they, and how do they differ from each other?  Do any of the plants have fruits, in the form of seeds, pods or cones?                                                                                                                Does it smell different here in the Garden?  Are you curious about any of the things you see?  Do you hear or see any bird life?  What are the birds doing — gathering seeds, calling to each other, searching for food, being aware of you or of others of their type?                                                                                                                                   Get up and walk around.  Are any parts of the Garden more or less shady, flat or sloped, dry or moist?  Do different plants grow in different parts of the Garden?  Do some plants have tough, stiff leaves, while others have soft and tender leaves?  Narrow, needle-like leaves or broad leaves with large surface area?  How do you think the size, shape and texture of the leaves helps the plant survive in our hot, dry summers?                            As you walk around, notice the white markers that tell you the name of the plants, and something about how the plant is important to the environment, or how it was used by the Native Americans.                                                                                                                      How about fractals?  Use your imagination, with the help of the examples displayed above, to recognize patterns in the living things around you. If you see any, I hope you photograph them and forward them to Jim at  JIMatGNG@gmail.com !                           As you walk around, notice the white markers that tell you the name of the plants, and something about how the plant is important to the environment, or how it was used by the Native Americans.                                                                                                                      The volunteers at the Granada Native Garden encourage you visit the Garden often and experience the restorative qualities of this small sample of nature.  And to become a “Follower” of the Granada Native Garden Newsletter to keep in touch with some of the amazing features in the Garden, by clicking the “Follow” button that (usually) appears at the lower right corner of your screen!Quote du jour                                                                                                                             “We need the tonic of wildness.  At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”                                             – Henry David Thoreau

Check out the native plant selection at ALDEN LANE NURSERY, 981 Alden Lane, Livermore, CA 94550

Plants in 4-inch potsPlants in 4-inch pots

1-gal and larger plants1-gal and larger plants

For reliable certified arborist services, contact STUMPY’S TREE SERVICE, (925)518-1442, http://www.stumpystrees.com .

Stumpy'sGuided Tours of the Granada Native Garden Are Available!                                                     Are you interested in seeing some of the plants that are described in this News- letter or in past issues?  One or more staff of the GNG are routinely on duty at the Garden on Mondays and Thursdays, roughly between 10:00 AM and 12:00 noon.  But it isn’t very hard to arrange a guided visit at other times.  If you are interested in scheduling a visit, just email Jim at  JIMatGNG@gmail.com .  Or if you have any questions or inquiries, please email Jim at the same address!

Tarweeds — and Their Evil Cousin!

Madia elegans — One of the Tarweeds


What Are Tarweeds?                                                                                                                    Whoever came up with the name “tarweed” didn’t do the plant any favors. True, the plants called tarweeds do have a sticky, sometimes black exudate secreted by glands on their leaves, stems and flower buds, and often have a turpentine-like smell.  But to liken them to tar seems unfair and uncomplimentary, considering their beauty, captivating aroma and usefulness to the Native Americans and to wildlife.  However, there are exceptions, as we shall learn later in this essay.  Besides, they didn’t evolve to please us humans, but to fill an important environmental niche, and to guarantee their own survival.

Exudate glands on tarweed

However, tarweed seeds were an important food source for Native Americans.  The tarweeds were one of the crops that were burned regularly to increase seed production in the following year.  The hills were burned when the seeds were mature but the plants were still green.  The toasted tarweed seeds, along with seeds from dozens of other plants, were used to make pinoles, or ground into flour for baking.  (Most photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Tarweeds and Terpenes                                                                                                               Plants produce a great number of chemicals which are useful to them for numerous physiological and ecological purposes.  Some taste bad and discourage herbivores from eating them.  Others provide immunity from pathogens such as bacteria and fungi, or resistance to plants competing for the same space.  They might also protect the plant from drying out in the summer, and even offer some shielding from ultraviolet radiation from the sun.  Others are volatile enough to escape into the air and either attract pollinators, or signal an invitation to insects and birds that feed on organisms which are otherwise intent on devouring the plant.                                                                                                                    Terpenes are a large and diverse class of chemical compounds that serve these purposes.  We are already aware of them in conifers, rosemary, mints, sages, basil, citrus fruits and even marijuana.  And in the numerous plants we call the tarweeds.                                  Many of these chemicals have aromas that humans either find attractive (as in the scent of flowers, spices and essential oils) or repulsive (as in the stench of cannabis and stinkwort, a plant which we will encounter later). Some are even thought to have medicinal properties, and help in fighting bacteria, fungus and environmental stress.  Vitamin A is a terpene.

Blossoms on Yellowflower Tarweed

Yellowflower Tarweed or Narrow Tarplant                                                                  This tarweed, also called virgate tarweed or pitgland tarweed (Holocarpha virgata) is the featured tarweed at the Granada Native Garden.  (A related species, gumplant (Grindelia camporum), also grows at the GNG.)  It flowers from May into fall with pretty little yellow aster-like blossoms. The aroma that radiates copiously from its foliage reminded one recent visitor of turpentine, but it makes me think of a barber shop.  I’m not sure why.  I like to embrace a clump of yellowflower tarweed and come away with its slightly sticky but refreshing scent on my clothing and arms, which usually follows me home.  In the Sacramento Valley, yellowflower tarweed thrives in the hard packed soil along roadsides and vacant lots. Whether it is considered a weed or not (a “weed” is something that grows where you want something else to grow), depends on your point of view. Birds and mammals relish the seeds. The pollen is an important food source for bees. On the other hand, it flourishes in fields where livestock graze, and while livestock use the young plants as forage in winter and early spring, it becomes unpalatable as it increases in size and terpene content later in the season.

Grindelia at the GNG

Livermore Tarplant                                                                                                                       Move over, Livermorium (atomic element number 116, of which only a few atoms have ever been made and which only exists for a few milliseconds at a time anyway). Livermore now has its own tarweed, Deinandra bacigalupii or the Livermore tarplant.
First described as new to science in 1999, the Livermore tarplant only occurs within a half-mile of the City of Livermore in Alameda County.  The plant grows in poorly-drained, seasonally-dry alkaline meadows.  It is found in three places within 90 acres of the Livermore Valley, places that are subject to frequent disturbance, including road construction, off-road vehicle use, and application of herbicides.  These challenges, in addition to encroachment and competition by non-native species, threaten the survival of the plant.  The largest area of Livermore tarplant habitat is on property owned by the City of Livermore, and all other Livermore tarplant habitat is on private property.  One of the Livermore tarplant populations was almost completely destroyed by the operations of a landscape business in 2014.

Livermore tarplant (photo by Jeb Bjerke)

Two years after Heath Bartosh, Rare Plant Committee Chairman of the East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, petitioned the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to list this rare endemic species as endangered, the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to grant the Livermore tarplant endangered status.  Livermore tarplant was the first plant in nearly a decade to be added to the California Endangered Species list.  This means that killing or possessing the plant is prohibited by the California Endangered Species Act.

Stinkwort – The Tarweeds’ Evil Cousin!                     In 1984, a new tarweed was discovered in Milpitas, California.  But unlike the Livermore tarplant, stinkwort (Dittrichia graveolens) is not a native tarweed.  It is a Mediterranean native that has found its way here and decided to stay.  By 2017, it had spread to 41 of the 58 counties in California.  Now it is a common and prolific resident of our state, owing to the high viability rate of its seeds (90%), capable of germinating at any time of the year in neglected landscapes, and its ability to spread by wind, on the fur and feathers of animals, and by motor vehicles and equipment along transportation corridors (because of its sticky seeds).  I suspect that, very shortly, it will become the dominant vegetation in places where it has got its start, unless aggressive and continuous measures are taken to eradicate it.

Stinkwort along a roadside

The best means of eradicating stinkwort (if that is ultimately possible) is to pull it up by its roots, preferably by mid-September.  This is fairly easy if the plant is only 1-2 feet tall. Larger specimens need to be cut at the base, preferably below ground level.  Any plants that have begun to flower should be bagged and discarded, but what happens to them after that is anyone’s guess.                                                    Stinkwort’s terpenes are aromatic, similar to those of H. virgata which it resembles in appearance and, to some extent, its not objectionable odor.  But if you are tasked with the job of pulling it out in places where it has infested heavily, the name “stinkwort” is appropriate.  My introduction to the tarweeds took place a few years ago while spending a morning doing exactly that.  Afterward, I had to take a shower and launder my clothing.  Its terpenes can, reportedly, cause contact dermatitis, itchy skin or blistering in humans. Besides being generally unpalatable to animals, if it is eaten by livestock, barbed bristles on the seeds can puncture the small intestine wall and cause enteritis. It will make their milk taste bad, too.

Typical stinkwort habitat along the Arroyo Mocho

But stinkwort is a California native tarweed mimic.  After 1865, the perennial native grasslands were largely grazed to dust by cattle.  This allowed the native tarweeds to flourish.  But then the native tarweeds were largely wiped out by herbicides in the 1950s in order to create rangeland for cattle.  So when stinkwort arrived in California, it quickly filled in the ecological niche left by the mostly extinct natives, making it a prime example of a highly aggressive non-native species.                                                                                              Stinkwort also contains two phytotoxins, tetrahydroaromaticin and ilicic acid, that inhibit the growth of other plants around it, giving it a competitive advantage over other plants, including natives.  It is now being found growing abundantly along the Arroyo Mocho that borders the Granada Native Garden.  Eternal vigilance is the price of a stinkwort-free garden!

Quote du jour 1                                                                                                                             “Those who know tarweed seem divided into those who love it and those who do not. The Tarweed Appreciation Society is a small tongue-in-cheek group of native plant lovers who have a fondness for tarweed.”                                                                              – Judith Larner Lowry, in “California Foraging”, p. 123

Quote du jour 2                                                                                                                             “In the world of photosynthetic organisms, stinkwort comes about as close to zero as possible for habitat value.”                                                                                                – Barbara M. Leitner, Plant Ecologist

Check out the native plant selection at ALDEN LANE NURSERY, 981 Alden Lane, Livermore, CA 94550

Plants in 4-inch pots

Plants in 4-inch pots

1-gal and larger plants

1-gal and larger plants

For reliable certified arborist services, contact STUMPY’S TREE SERVICE, (925)518-1442, http://www.stumpystrees.com .

Stumpy'sGuided Tours of the Granada Native Garden Are Available!                                                     Are you interested in seeing some of the plants that are described in this News- letter or in past issues?  One or more staff of the GNG are routinely on duty at the Garden on Mondays and Thursdays, roughly between 10:00 AM and 12:00 noon.  But it isn’t very hard to arrange a guided visit at other times.  If you are interested in scheduling a visit, just email Jim at  JIMatGNG@gmail.com .  Or if you have any questions or inquiries, please email Jim at the same address!

Index

3 Tables           This Index is to help both new and current Followers of the Granada Native Garden Newsletter become acquainted with the Garden and its Newsletter … and to help current Followers locate informational articles from earlier posts and individual topics.                                 To use this Index, scroll down to the topic that interests you.  Take note of the month and year when the topic was archived.  Then back up to the current Newsletter post and click on the desired month and year in the Archive list.                                                      To become a Follower, just find the “Follow” button at the lower right corner of the screen and follow the easy instructions.  You will be notified automatically by email whenever a new post is published (usually every one or two months).  Welcome to the Granada Native Garden Newsletter!                                                                                                 If you have questions or comments, please email Jim at  JIMatGNG@gmail.com .

A:  Individual Plant Topics:  COMMON NAMES
B.  Individual Plant Topics:  SCIENTIFIC NAMES
C.  Plants by Themes
D.  General Topics

A.  INDIVIDUAL PLANT TOPICS:  COMMON NAMES                                    BuckeyeArchived in April, 2016.  Posted on April 17.                                          Buckwheat:  Archived in June, 2013.  Posted on June 26.
Bush Poppy:  Archived in February, 2015.  Posted on February 3.
California Poppies:  Archived in March, 2013.  Posted on March 15.
California White Oak:  Archived in August, 2014.  Posted on August 29.
Clarkia:  Archived in May, 2014.  Posted on May 4, 2014.
Coyote Brush:  Archived in February, 2014.  Posted on February 7.
Elderberry:  Archived in August, 2013.  Posted on August 23.                        Fiddleneck:  Archived in February, 2016.  Posted on February 7.                                Grape:  Archived in December, 2015.  Posted on December 1, 2015.                       Holly-Leafed Cherry:  Archived in October, 2015.  Posted on October 11, 2015.
Lupine:  Archived in April, 2013.  Posted on April 29, 2013.                                                 Malva Rose:  Archived in August, 2017.  Posted on August 8,  2017.                       Matilia Poppy:  Archived in May, 2016.  Posted on May 30, 2016.                          Miner’s Lettuce:  Archived in January, 2016.  Posted on January 17, 2016.
Mugwort:  Archived in July, 2015.  Posted on July 2.
Our Lord’s Candle:  Archived in May, 2015.  Posted on May 29.
Purple Needlegrass:  Archived in April, 2015.  Posted on April 30.
Sagebrush:  Archived in July, 2015.  Posted on July 2.
Toyon:  Archived in December, 2013.  Posted on December 5.
Valley oak:  Archived in August, 2014.  Posted on August 29.                             Yampah:  Archived in July, 2016.  Posted on July 14.                                            Yarrow:  Archived in March, 2017.  Posted on March 5.

B.  INDIVIDUAL PLANT TOPICS:  SCIENTIFIC NAMES                                                  Achillea millefolium Archived in March, 2017Posted on March 5.                    Aesculus californica Archived in April, 2016.  Posted on April 17.                   Amsinckia menziesii:  Archived in February, 2016.  Posted on February 7.
Artemesia spp.:  Archived in July, 2015.  Posted on July 2.
Baccharis pilularis:  Archived in February, 2014.  Posted on February 7.
Clarkia spp.:  Archived in May, 2014.  Posted on May 4.                                    Claytonia perfoliata:  Archived in January, 2016Posted on January 17, 2016.
Dendromecon:  Archived in February, 2015.  Posted on February 3.
Eriogonum spp.:  Archived in June, 2013.  Posted on June 26.
Eschscholzia californica:  Archived in March, 2013.  Posted on March 15.   Hesperoyucca whipplei:  Archived in May, 2015.  Posted on May 29.
Heteromeles arbutifolia:  Archived in December, 2013.  Posted on December 5.
Lupinus spp.:  Archived in April, 2013.  Posted on April 29.                                      Malva assurgentiflora:  Archived in August, 2017.  Posted on August 8.
Quercus lobata:  Archived in August, 2014.  Posted on August 29.                                    Perideridia kellogii:  Archived in July, 2016.  Posted on July 14, 2016.                        Prunus ilicifolia:  Archived in October, 2015.  Posted on October 11.                                 Romneya coulteri:  Archived in May, 2016.  Posted on May 30,2016.                        
Sambucus mexicana:  Archived in August, 2013.  Posted on August 23.
Stipa (Nassella) pulchra:  Archived in April, 2015.  Posted on April 30.                       Vitis californica:  Archived in December, 2015.  Posted on December 1, 2015.

C.  PLANTS BY THEMES
About “Fire Followers”:  Archived in July, 2014.  Posted on July 10.                    Current Attractions – Earth Day, 2014Archived in April, 2014.  Posted on April 27.    Is There Life after Poppies?  Archived in May, 2013.  Posted on May 27.           Planting for PollinatorsArchived in November, 2013.  Posted on November 10. Precocious Poppies & Other Signs of Spring:  Archived in February, 2014.  Posted on       February 26.                                                                                                             The Colors of Spring (April, 2014)Archived in April, 2014.  Posted on April 6.            The Return of the WildflowersArchived in March, 2015.  Posted on March 19.      Two Surprise Appearances!Archived in March, 2015.  Posted on March 31. 

D.  GENERAL TOPICS
Welcome to the Granada Native Garden!                                                                         Archived in February, 2013.  Posted on February 18.                                                        Overview of the Granada Native Garden                                                                             Archived in February, 2013.  Posted on February 24.                                                     A Short History of the Granada Native Garden                                                                   Archived in May, 2013.  Posted on May 8.                                                               Plant Communities of the Granada Native Garden                                                            Archived in April, 2013.  Posted on April 1.                                                             Water Management at the Granada Native Garden                                                        Archived in January, 2015.  Posted on January 3.                                                     Why Should We Plant Natives?                                                                                             Archived in November, 2014.  Posted on November 11.                                           Why Do People NOT Grow Native Plants? – Part 1                                                         Archived in July, 2013.  Posted on July 18.                                                                       Why Do People NOT Grow Native Plants? – Part 2                                                            Archived in July, 2013.  Posted on July 24.                                                         Planting for Pollinators                                                                                                         Archived in November, 2013.  Posted on November 10.                                           Fire! … at the Granada Native Garden                                                                                 Archived in June, 2014.  Posted on June 10.                                                           About “Fire Followers”                                                                                                          Archived in July, 2014.  Posted on July 10.                                                          Current Attractions – Earth Day, 2014                                                                                 Archived in April, 2014.  Posted on April 27.                                                                  Is There Life after Poppies?                                                                                                  Archived in May, 2013.  Posted on May 27.                                                                      Precocious Poppies & Other Signs of Spring (Feb-Mar, 2014)                                          Archived in February, 2014.  Posted on February 26.                                                  The Colors of Spring (April, 2014)                                                                                        Archived in April, 2014.  Posted on April 6.                                                            Return of the Wildflowers                                                                                                     Archived in March, 2015.  Posted on March 19.                                                        Two Surprise Appearances!                                                                                                 Archived in March, 2015.  Posted on March 31.                                                         The Arroyo Mocho at the Granada Native Garden                                                          Archived in August, 2015.  Posted on August 25.                                                 What’s Blooming? – March, 2016                                                                                       Archived in March, 2016.  Posted on March 8.                                                                 In Defense of “Bugs                                                                                                             Archived in September, 2016.  Posted on September 10.                                                                                                        

ALN Credit

When a Rose Is Not a Rose

It’s a Mallow                                                                                                                                  With apologies to Shakespeare and Gertrude Stein (“A rose is a rose is a rose …”), the malva rosa is not a rose.  Not even close.  It’s a mallow, a rosy mallow.  Also known as island tree mallow, it belongs to the family Malvaceae, of which there are two other representatives at the Granada Native Garden (bush mallow, or Malacothamnus fremontii, and globe mallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua). In the same family are okra, cocao, cotton, hollyhock and hibiscus, as well as the pesty (but reportably edible) non-native cheeseweed (Malva parviflora) which we relentlessly pull out every year all over the Garden.

Malva rosa in February, 2016

Malva rosa (Malva assurgentiflora) used to be named Lavatera assurgentiflora, and it is still often sold under that name.  (And in case you are wondering, marshmallows originated when the roots of another member of the mallow family, Althaea officinalis, were boiled with sugar until thick.  Now, of course, marshmallows are made from sugar, water and gelatin, and puffed up with air, not anything related to the mallow plant.)  (Photos can usually be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Shy But Water-Wise                                                                                                                     The showy but shy blossoms have the habit of hiding somewhat within the interior of the tree, so that they are not readily seen without a closer look. Their color has been described as red with white stripes, or white with red stripes. (Personally, I tend to prefer “cerise” or “magenta”.)

California Floristic Province (in red)

Like many of the California natives growing in the “California Floristic Province”, malva rosa is native to California but not necessarily to the part of California where we want to grow it. In this case, malva rosa is specifically native to the Channel Islands, a chain of eight islands in the Pacific Ocean along the Santa Barbara Channel, where the climate is moderated by the moist ocean air with high humidity (often between 60%-100%), frequent fog, and unpredict- able but usually abundant rainfall. The Channel Islands are included within the boundaries of the California Floristic Province.

Malva rosa in July, 2016

 

This means that malva rosa evolved to grow in a less hostile environment than the hot, dry California interior. While this difference makes it difficult to grow some California natives where we might hope to enjoy them, this hasn’t prevented malva rosa from escaping its homeland and thriving in mainland California, as long as the soil has good drainage and it receives some summer water.

At the Granada Native Garden in hot, dry Livermore, malva rosa survives by being “drought deciduous” or “summer deciduous”. This means that, as the weather gets warmer and dryer, it retains only as many leaves as the available water can support, and drops the rest. The poor thing can look to be on death’s doorstep at the end of summer, but only until the winter rains begin, when it bursts into new foliage. And in 2016, we had a good start on the seasonal rainfall in mid-October (see the photos below; they can be enlarged by clicking on them).

Malva rosa in November, 2016!

Malva rosa in September, 2016

Other Fun Facts about Malva Rosa!                                                                                           Malva rosa is a fast grower. Ours was planted in fall, 2012, and now stands about 8 feet tall and about 10 feet wide. It needs vigilant pruning to maintain its shape and size, and keep its interior from getting too crowded.                                                                                It drops numerous seeds which readily sprout beneath its branches (but we have not yet tried to transplant any of these).                                                                                           The leaves seem to be a popular gathering place for numerous insects of various types, such as spider mites, thrips, lace bugs, psyllids and whiteflies, altho none of these have so far proved to be pests or bothersome.                                                                                Watershed Nursery reports that malva rosa was used by Native Americans to treat broken bones, sores, swelling and injuries.

Current Attractions at the Granada Native Garden                                                                  Summer is not the most colorful time of the year at the GNG, but nevertheless there are plenty of attractions to enjoy, colorwise or otherwise. Furthermore, we have been getting better at placing easily readible marker placards in front of many of the plants. So here are some of the attractions that might tempt you to visit before summer ends.                        Buckwheat is abundant and very much in bloom at this time of the year at the Granada Native Garden. Its white pom pom-like blossoms gradually turn to pink, then to copper, then to chocolate, as the season progresses. Two of the most prominant buckwheats of this description at the GNG are California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) and Santa Cruz Island buckwheat (E. arborescens), but not to be missed is red buckwheat (E. grande rubescens) with its showy red blossoms, but they are starting to fade. All of the buckwheats are great butterfly and honeybee plants. For more information about buckwheats, use the Newsletter Index to look up the article about buckwheats published in June 2013.

Buckeye on buckwheat

Three recent arrivals located in the general vicinity of the tables are the bed of red California fuchsia (Epilobium californicum, donated to us by Rob DeBree of Elkhorn Native Nursery), a field of bright yellow California goldenrod (Solidago velutina), and a small but expanding patch of lavender California aster (Symphyotrichum chilense).
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), featured in the March, 2017 issue of the Newsletter, is still in bloom at various locations at the Garden, altho much of it is “over the hill”, but retains its own “brown is a color” personality.

California aster

California goldenrod

Closer to the center of the Garden, you can find bladderpod (Peritoma arborea), with its yellow blossoms and its foliage smelling like sauteed bell peppers and onions.  Read about it in the February issue of the Newsletter.  Speaking of plant aromas but not currently in color, but looking lush and spilling over the pathway is mugwort (Artemesia douglasiana). Its cousin, sagebrush (Artemesia californica), with its totally different physical appearance but similar distinctive pleasant medicinal aroma, is growing along the path at the other side of the Garden near Murrieta Blvd.                                                                                                    Along the Arroyo Mocho bike trail is a large (and growing larger) field of gumplant (Grindelia camporum or G. stricta, we’re not sure, probably both!), with its sticky yellow blossoms and sticky leaves and sticky flower heads. Give them a feel!                                            Finally, yampah (Perideridia sp., aka “Indian potatoes”) is taking over the triangular area formerly monopolized by the elderberry (Sambucus mexicana, featured in the August, 2013 Newsletter.  The berries are forming now, but a few weeks ago the blossoms were emitting the unmistakable aroma of cloves as you passed by.  The elderberry gets cut down to 5-6 feet every winter, but quickly grows to its full height within the next few months.                                                                                                                                           And if you are looking for a native California grass with a tall, graceful appearance but doesn’t turn dormant during the summer, there is a patch of alkali sacaton (Sporo- bolus airoides) nearby.

Quote du Jour                                                                                                                                “It is the time you have spent on your rose that makes your rose so important.”                                                               – Antoine de St. Exupery (author of “The Little Prince”)

Check out the native plant selection at ALDEN LANE NURSERY, 981 Alden Lane, Livermore, CA 94550

Plants in 4-inch pots

Plants in 4-inch pots

1-gal and larger plants

1-gal and larger plants

For reliable certified arborist services, contact STUMPY’S TREE SERVICE, (925)518-1442, http://www.stumpystrees.com .

Stumpy'sGuided Tours of the Granada Native Garden Are Available!                                                     Are you interested in seeing some of the plants that are described in this News- letter or in past issues?  One or more staff of the GNG are routinely on duty at the Garden on Mondays and Thursdays, roughly between 10:00 AM and 12:00 noon.  But it isn’t very hard to arrange a guided visit at other times.  If you are interested in scheduling a visit, just email Jim at  JIMatGNG@gmail.com .  Or if you have any questions or inquiries, please email Jim at the same address!

Yarrow – The Native with 1000 Leaves

achillea-whiteThe Plant with a Thousand Leaves                                                                                           Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) acquired its scientific species name because its foliage appears to consist of thousands of tiny leaves:  “mille”= thousand, and “folium” pertains to its foliage.                                                                                                                                      In reality, the picture at the right shows 7-8 leaves of yarrow, with a midrib running divided-leaves-1the length of each leaf.  The blade on each side of the midrib is made up of numerous smaller divisions.  This leaf adaptation serves the plant in at least two ways.  The small divisions in- crease the total surface area exposed to the sun and capable of carrying on photosynthesis.  It also allows the leaf to resist the heat of the sun, because smaller parts shed heat more easily.  Thus, yarrow is well equipped to thrive during hot, dry California summers.  (Most photos can be enlarged simply by clicking on them.)

Chiron instructing Achilles

Chiron instructing Achilles

Myth or Reality?                                                              Yarrow has an interesting history, altho its history is based in myth.  Achilles was a mytho- logical Greek warrior who fought during the mythological Trojan War.  Achilles had been a student of the mythological centaur Chiron, who excelled in many useful skills, including medicine.  Chiron introduced Achilles to the medicinal qualities of the yarrow plant, which Achilles subsequently used to treat his own wounds and the wounds of his fellow warriors.

         Yarrow grows in many countries, but the native California yarrow comes in two colors – white (Achillea millefolium californica), and a pink variety that is native to the Channel Islands near Ventura (Achillea millefolium rosea).  Another variety, frequently found in local nurseries and gardens, happens to be bright yellow, and is not strictly a native to California, but it appears to fit in ecologically, growing in the same environment and attracting the same pollinators as the native varieties.  Its varietal name is ‘Moonshine’, and is reported to be a cultivar formed by a cross between the native yarrow (A. millefolium) with Egyptian yarrow (A. aegyptiaca var. taygetea).  Its leaves are silvery green, as opposed to the dark green of the California native.

Moonshine

Island pink

Island pink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Achilles Was On To Something!                                                                                                  But the medicinal qualities of yarrow are not a myth.  One of its most pleasing characteristics is the aroma of the crushed leaves, which seems to be more noticeable on some plants or at different times of the year.  The aroma is due to several chemical compounds (achillein, chamazulene and numerous others), and aromatic plants have been used medicinally by all cultures in various parts of the world.  In 1960, traces of yarrow along with other medicinal herbs were found in the grave of a Neanderthal man in Iraq, dated about 60,000 years ago.                                                                                                                                                 However, one of its more common uses appears to be its ability to treat cuts and sores and to stanch bleeding from wounds.  Native Americans used yarrow for this purpose as well as for colds, respiratory problems, pain relief (it contains salicylic acid, the active ingredient in Aspirin), headaches, toothache, fever reduction, an aid to sleep, and joint relief.                                                                                                                                        This newsletter does not attempt to recommend any part or decoction of yarrow for any medicinal application.  However, an Internet search will reveal medicinal uses of yarrow for virtually every ailment known to man (including prevention of baldness, which would have been useful to me many years ago), as well as a substitute for hops in the brewing of beer.  And, again without promoting any specific uses of yarrow, there appears to be extensive legitimate research into its curative qualities, such as from the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Review and Research, and the German Commission E and German Standard License (“Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals, A Handbook for Practice on a Scientific Basis”, edited by Max Wichtl, CRC Press).  Warning:  It should not be used during pregnancy. 

Yarrow in a residential setting

Yarrow in Your Garden                            Whatever variety of yarrow you might choose, yarrow is a good choice for a native garden.  It requires little care, aside from clipping off the old flowering stems and dividing the clumps every couple of years to reinvigorate them.  It seems indifferent to the amount of water it receives.  It propagates itself both by seeds and by underground stems; in other words, it spreads, but not uncontrollably.  It blooms mainly from spring into fall, but some individuals at the Granada Native Garden are in bloom even at this time, in February.  Yarrow has also been recommended for the stabilization of slopes, and as a lawn substitute because it tolerates light foot traffic and can be mowed.  However, I have trouble imagining it as a mow-able lawn because of its clumping nature, and I would love to receive clarification on this issue from our readers!

bee-on-yarrowbuckeye-on-yarrowFurther, yarrow attracts many beneficial insects, pollinators, butterflies and hummingbirds.  Its foliage provides winter forage for birds. (Thanks to Laura Hanson of The Watershed Nursery for letting us use her photo of the bee gathering pollen from the yarrow.)

Jack                                                                                                                                              St. Thomas Aquinas said that something reaches perfection when it is used for the purpose for which it is intended.                                                                                                    Jack is one person who helps the Granada Native Garden reach its perfection.  He is an almost daily visitor to the Garden, walking from his residence (almost a 2-mie round trip) to purchase his cup of coffee at a nearby donut shop and work on his Chronicle cross- word puzzle or catch up on his reading at one of the Garden tables.  Jack already knows many of the plants there by name, and is obviously one who enjoys being out of doors and values contact with nature in the relatively placid environment of the Garden!  May there be more like him in the future!jack-5Wildflower Update, Spring 2017                                                                                                We anticipated that the abundant Fall and Winter rains would produce a display of California native wildflowers rivaling last year’s exceptional show.  But it is not to be.   The bank of non-native weeds lurking in the ground, mainly oats and crane’s bill, saw their chance and effectively crowded out most of the native wildflowers, which germinate a bit later in the season.                                                                                                             wildflower-marker           In the process of “weeding out” the non-natives, we have tried to rescue some of the native wildflowers and give them a chance to greet visitors to the Garden.  This year, visitors will find markers to help you identify the wildflowers by name.  If you have children, you might challenge them to visit different parts of the Garden and find other examples of the same flower.                                                                            Meanwhile, we are working on a strategy that, hopefully, will limit the spread of the non-native weeds in future years.

 

Check out the native plant selection at ALDEN LANE NURSERY, 981 Alden Lane, Livermore, CA 94550

Plants in 4-inch pots

Plants in 4-inch pots

1-gal and larger plants

1-gal and larger plants

For reliable certified arborist services, contact STUMPY’S TREE SERVICE, (925)518-1442, http://www.stumpystrees.com .

Stumpy'sGuided Tours of the Granada Native Garden Are Available!                                                     Are you interested in seeing some of the plants that are described in this News- letter or in past issues?  One or more staff of the GNG are routinely on duty at the Garden on Mondays and Thursdays, roughly between 10:00 AM and 12:00 noon.  But it isn’t very hard to arrange a guided visit at other times.  If you are interested in scheduling a visit, just email Jim at  JIMatGNG@gmail.com .  Or if you have any questions or inquiries, please email Jim at the same address!

Directions to the Granada Native Garden

GNG Neighborhood.jpegThe unofficial address of the Granada Native Garden is 801 Murrieta Blvd., Livermore, CA  94550                                                                                                        The map above and photos below can be enlarged for better viewing by clicking on them.

If you are a Livermore Resident . . .                                                                                 • The Garden is directly across Murrieta Blvd. from the Nob Hill-RiteAid shopping center. Parking is available in front of RiteAid.  The Garden is also directly accessible via the           Arroyo Mocho Bike Trail.                                                                                                       • See the map above for the safest place to cross Murrieta Blvd. and walk to the Garden, approximately 600 feet east of the Garden (toward Holmes Ave.).

Note:  Because of the boulevard center divider, there is no direct automobile access to the Garden for cars traveling from east to west on Murrieta Blvd.  And no on-site parking at the Garden itself … see below for parking information.

A View of the Woodland & Grassland Sections

A View of the Woodland & Grassland Sections

If traveling 580 eastbound to Livermore . . .                                                                     • Pass Airway Blvd. and exit at Isabel/Portola Ave.                                                               • Turn right onto Isabel.                                                                                                        • Continue past the big blue water treatment building; get in the left lane.                            • Turn left onto Jack London Blvd.  Follow it to its end at Murrieta Blvd.                               • Turn right onto Murrieta Blvd.  There will be 2 sets of traffic lights before you go under the railroad tracks at Stanley Ave.                                                                                           • Cross Stanley and get in the right lane, go 0.2 mile.                                                           • The Granada Native Garden will be on the right, just before an apartment complex at 975 Murrieta Blvd.  The Garden is immediately to the right of the apartments.                        • Limited unauthorized parking is in the apartment complex, along the tall chain-link fence.  Other parking is across the street in the Nob Hill/Rite Aid shopping center, but         to get there you will need to make a left turn into the shopping center.  See the map           above for the location of authorized pedestrian crossing, approximately 600 feet east         of the Garden.

A View of the Grassland-Chaparral Sections

A View of the Grassland-Chaparral Sections

If traveling 580 westbound to Livermore . . .                                                                     • Exit 580 at N. Livermore Avenue.  Turn left onto Livermore Avenue.                                   • Continue to Portola Avenue.  Turn right onto Portola Ave.                                                  • Continue to Murrieta Blvd.  Turn left onto Murrieta Blvd.  There will be 2 sets of traffic lights before you go under the railroad tracks just before Stanley Ave.                                    • Cross Stanley and get in the right lane, go 0.2 mile.                                                           • The Granada Native Garden will be on the right, just before an apartment complex at 975 Murrieta Blvd.  The Garden is immediately to the right of the apartments.                        • Limited unauthorized parking is in the apartment complex, along the tall chain-link  fence.  Other parking is across the street in the Nob Hill/Rite Aid shopping center, but         to get there you will need to make a left turn into the shopping center.  See the map           above for the location of authorized pedestrian crossing, approximately 600 feet east         of the Garden.

If traveling on Stanley Avenue from Pleasanton . . .                                                        • Follow Stanley Ave. into Livermore to the ARCO station at Murrieta Blvd.                           • Turn right onto Murrieta, stay in the right lane and go 0.2 mile.                                           • The Granada Native Garden will be on the right, just before an apartment complex at 975 Murrieta Blvd.  The Garden is immediately to the right of the apartments.                        • Limited unauthorized parking is in the apartment complex, along the tall chain-link fence.  Other parking is across the street in the Nob Hill/Rite Aid shopping center, but         to get there you will need to make a left turn into the shopping center.  See the map           above for the location of authorized pedestrian crossing, approximately 600 feet east         of the Garden.

If traveling from San Jose/Santa Clara . . .
  • Take 680 north toward Pleasanton.                                                                                   • Take Exit 25 (Sunol Blvd.).                                                                                                 • Continue on Sunol Blvd. thru Pleasanton; Sunol Blvd. becomes Stanley Ave. in Pleasanton; continue on Stanley Ave. toward Livermore.                                                        • Follow Stanley Ave. into Livermore to the ARCO station at Murrieta Blvd.                           • Turn right onto Murrieta, stay in the right lane and go 0.2 mile.                                           • The Granada Native Garden will be on the right, just before an apartment complex at 975 Murrieta Blvd.  The Garden is immediately to the right of the apartments.                        • Limited unauthorized parking is in the apartment complex, along the tall chain-link fence.  Other parking is across the street in the Nob Hill/Rite Aid shopping center, but         to get there you will need to make a left turn into the shopping center.  See the map           above for the location of authorized pedestrian crossing, approximately 600 feet east         of the Garden.

NOTE:  Because of the boulevard center divider, there is no direct automobile access to the Garden for cars traveling from east to west on Murrieta Blvd.

           Check out the Granada Native Garden Newsletter by googling “Granada Native Garden Newsletter”.  New articles about California native plants appear monthly, bimonthly, or irregularly.  You can be informed by email whenever a new article appears by clicking the FOLLOW button at the lower right corner of your screen.  You can also contact the Garden personnel by emailing the staff at  JIMatGNG@gmail.com .

The Intriguing Aroma of Bladderpod

Bladderpod at Ulistac Nature Area, Santa Clara (click on the image to enlarge it)

Bladderpod (Peritoma arborea) is naturally at home on coastal desert hillsides and, with its deep taproot, has been described as being so drought-tolerant as to actually resent watering once it is established.  But it also excels in its overall versatility.  It produces interesting spider-like yellow flowers that bloom most of the year (but especially in the winter and spring).  It can be used as an informal hedge or screen.  It is considered a fire-retardant plant.  It can be used for irrigation control, soil retention and hillside stabilization on dry slopes and banks.  It is a source of pollen for bees, of cover and shade for quail, finches, sparrows and doves, of seeds for ground foragers and nectar for harlequin-beetles-2hummingbirds and native bees.  Harlequin beetles (at the left) are especially attracted to the bladderpod and may live their entire lives on the leaves or pods.                                               But perhaps its most inter- esting characteristic is the “aroma” produced by its leaves.  Just gently surround a cluster of bladderpod leaves with your hand and, keeping an open mind, explore the aroma left behind on your hand.  In the interest of full disclosure, the aroma has been unfairly des- cribed as pungent, strange, disagreeable, like burnt popcorn, like bell peppers, pretty stinky, ill-scented, evil smelling, foul smelling, even repulsive.                                                           Unfairly, I maintain, because  while I agree that the odor of the bladderpod is unlike anything else you might encounter in an otherwise lovely green plant, in my opinion it is none of these things!  Instead, I would actually describe it as appetizing, and even savory.  I’ll explain later on in this article, after I have whetted your appetite!

Why It Is Called “Bladderpod”              flowers-fruit             The flowers of the bladderpod (formerly also called Isomeris arborea and Cleome isomeris, and still often found in the literature under those names) develop into soft, fat bladder-like pods about an inch or so long.  Both the blossoms and the pods remain on the plant at the same time.  The pods are filled with a few large, round seeds which look remarkably like peas in a pod, and in fact are edible and can be eaten very much like garden peas (except that they are somewhat bitter, and may need to be cooked for a while to remove the bitterness and become sweet).

Why Plants Have Aromas                                                                                                             Many plants have their own aromas that humans can detect (the sages are good examples), and most probably have aromas that only insects can smell.  That fact tells you something right away about why plants have aromas.                                                                     One reason is to attract pollinators – insects, bats and hummingbirds – to transfer pollen and create fertile seeds.  The scent of the flower alerts pollinators that the plant is ready to be pollinated; in fact, the attractive aromas in plants are strongest when this time arrives.  Plants and pollinators often have a long history of mutual evolution over the millennia.                                                                                                                                         On the other hand, plants also have certain aromas to repel animals that might otherwise eat them.  The smells come from chemicals that are often toxic to animals and are likely to taste bad to the animal or make it sick (milkweed, for example).                                    Less obvious to us are plants that release their scents when insects are eating them.  The scents travel thru the air and alert other insects that are interested in eating the bugs that are eating the plants (like freshly cut grass and clover).  Finally, some of the chemicals in plants have antimicrobial properties.  They serve to kill bacteria and fungi that threaten a plant that has been injured by something trying to eat it, or by traffic or some other source of injury.  Native Americans recognized the antimicrobial potential of certain plants and utilized them to treat wounds and heal infections.

Bladderpod at the Granada Native Garden

Bladderpod at the Granada Native Garden

The Truth About Bladderpod Revealed!                                                                                     A recent visitor to the GNG was invited to experience the aroma of  the bladderpod leaves and describe his impression.  A curious look came over his face, and he said, “Bell peppers and onions!”  As a matter of fact, that is exactly my impression as well as of a number of my colleagues – fresh bell peppers and onions sautéed in a little olive oil!  Scrumptious!                                                                                                                                   Another imaginative reader, Aquila, reports that the smell reminds her of new automobile tires!                                                                                                                              Regardless of one’s ambivalence toward the scent of bladderpod, Native Ameri- cans relished the seeds and flowers for food.   In fact, Native Americans aren’t the only ones.  In her book California Foraging, Judith Larner Lowry describes the unripe fruits (the bladders) as “sought-after delicacies”.   The immature peas inside are fresh and juicy, and can be harvested like garden peas.   They can be used as capers.  The flowers are edible too, but they reportedly need to be cooked for four hours to remove bitterness and reveal their sweetness.  Then “they can then be mixed with cooked onions and salt and eaten on a tortilla”.                                                                                                                                         In her blog, Deborah Small describes making a bladderpod taco in a similar way by sautéeing some onion, stirring in some flour, then adding the cooked and drained flowers with a dash of salt on “a fresh handmade tortilla”.

lewis-clarkMore About the Diet of Native Americans                         Lewis and Clark were saved from starvation by some of the Native Americans they encountered.  Having no super-markets from which to purchase food, the indigenous people managed quite well using the native plants growing among them.  The following excerpt from  http://factcards.califa.org/cai/diegueno.html  gives us some insight into the food resources of our “almost ancestors”, as Theodora Kroeber referred to them in her book of the same title:                                                                               “For most of the Diegueño, acorns were the main food.  Some of the southern Tipai groups depended more on pods from the mesquite bush, which they pounded into flour in much the same way that the others pounded acorns into flour.  Seeds of the sage, flax, and buckwheat plants were also ground into flour, and used to make mush and flat cakes.              “In the spring, the women and girls gathered fresh greens such as watercress, clover, yucca stalks and roots, and the blossoms and buds of roses and several kinds of cactus.  In some areas they found berries on manzanita and elderberry bushes, wild plums and cherries.  Wild onion was used as a seasoning.  The agave plant, which provided fibers from which sandals were made, was also used as food.                                                        “The Tipai who lived in the Imperial Valley were one of the few early California groups to plant some crops.  They learned from people living to the east of them how to grow corn, beans, and melons.  Even those who did some farming, however, still got most of their food by gathering wild plants.”

Guided Tours of the Granada Native Garden Are Available!                                                     Are you interested in seeing some of the plants that are described in this Newsletter or in past issues?  One or more staff of the GNG are routinely on duty at the Garden on Mondays and Thursdays, roughly between 10:00 AM and 12:00 noon.  But it isn’t very hard to arrange a guided visit at other times.  If you are interested in scheduling a visit, just email Jim at  JIMatGNG@gmail.com .  Or if you have any questions or inquiries, please email Jim at the same address!

Many thanks to …                                                                                                                  Alrie Middlebrook of Middlebrook Gardens for allowing us to use the photo of the harlequin beetles.                                                                                                                    • Judith Larner Lowry of the Larner Seed Company for her suggestions for the culinary delights of the bladderpod.                                                                                        • Dennis Dowling of the Ulistac Nature Area for allowing us to collect the seeds that have become the bladderpods at the Granada Native Garden.                                              • Rob DeBree of the Elkhorn Native Plant Nursery for donating six Epilobium canum plants, which are now installed near the tables at the GNG.

Check out the native plant selection at ALDEN LANE NURSERY, 981 Alden Lane, Livermore, CA 94550

Plants in 4-inch pots

Plants in 4-inch pots

1-gal and larger plants

1-gal and larger plants

For reliable certified arborist services, contact STUMPY’S TREE SERVICE, (925)518-1442, http://www.stumpystrees.com .

Stumpy's