Moving down here is like moving into the subtropics. Oh, or, wait, it's not like it, it is moving to the subtropics. It's an adjustment as I learn about new and different timing for seasons, plant care, different sorts of plants (all of which appear to be some variety of weed/allergen or hibiscus, oh except for the plethora of azaleas).
My husband and I have always believed in xeriscaping and water conservation, which is no problem here where it rains every day during the growing season and everything grows really well, almost jungle like. It's a daily battle to keep the vegetation from taking over, actually.
We have a very large lot. The first half of the backyard is lovely flat grass---St. Augustine, God Help Me---a perfect soccer field. Halfway back the tree line begins and the rest of the yard vanishes into dense growth. Last fall I noticed all of my neighbors doing something called cutting back. This is where you trim things back to nubs. Despite joining a gardening club and going to master gardener lectures, I still know nothing about this whole gardening business and regularly manage to kill everything I plant.
I contrived to hire a neighbor with a green thumb. He has a landscaping business and regularly clicked his tongue at my yard. He named a price to fix everything, I accepted, and he got to work.
We chatted off and on as he did the job. I explained how since moving here my allergies are so bad I rarely go out of doors, but at this house, it seems even worse. I said I couldn't stand to be out back.
"It stinks," I said, "And it makes my sinuses burn."
"Do you think," he asked, "That it could have anything to do with the large crop of ragweed you are growing near the back fence?"
"Isn't that Ambrosia?" I asked, suddenly fearing the lovely, rich, lush, full bushes I had so admired with their ball-like yellow blossoms.
"Ambrosia is common ragweed!" he laughed at me.
That's the trouble with everything down here: it has two names, and one makes it seem benign and lovely.
After that story and the previous photo, I imagine you look at this lovely plant to the left and probably think of ragweed and allergies. No, not ragweed, but it's much, much worse.
This beautiful flower is actually an orchid. It's unique to Yosemite National Park.
And it smells like dirty, stinky feet.
I know...you want to rush out and get one for your home right now.
On CNN, I learned
Botanist Alison Colwell said the species' minute, tennis-ball yellow flowers weren't what first led her to it, but rather the smell of sweaty feet that the Yosemite bog-orchid emits to attract pollinators.
"I was out surveying clovers one afternoon, and I started smelling something. I was like, 'Eew, what's that?"' said Colwell, who works for the U.S. Geological Survey in El Portal. "It smelled like a horse corral on a hot afternoon."
The plant, which is the only known orchid species endemic to California's Sierra Nevada range, grows in spring-fed areas between 6,000 and 9,000 feet, Colwell said.
The plant was first collected in 1923 and recently was identified as a distinct species.
Now the greatest fear is that it will be trampled.
I think the smell ought to deter most curious people, if not a short sign:
Step on this and people will think it's you who smells.
I felt compelled to share this in case anyone was going hiking in Yosemite soon. A PSA because I like you.
Further---also in the event that you are hiking in a national park---you have a greater chance of seeing a bald eagle. The birds are now officially off the endangered species list.
The danger to the species was first noted in 1963 when only 417 breeding pairs were found in the US. Today, that number is up to 9,789. Apparently, exactly.
The recovery of the bird is attributed to the ban of DDT in 1972.
Silly wildlife, always getting into chemicals that are bad for them. Listen up woodland creatures: just say no!
In all seriousness, I am really glad that the bald eagle is healthy and hale again. I'm also glad that they will remain a protected species. This doesn't, however, protect their habitat. Landowners are even happier about the change in status because now many---who have waited for years---will be able to develop their land.
Maybe they'll plant Platanthera yosemitensis (the orchid) and ambrosia.
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert