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Discoveries from my Neighborhood

We are very excited to partner with Dolby Laboratories for a special Nature in your Neighborhood project for Dolby Cares Week. A time when Dolby brings art and science together to inspire the next generation of innovators, and address the most critical needs in their communities. Thank you for contribution to Sutro Stewards!

By: Erica Richstad

Queen’s Tears:

I’ve learned to identify a lot of plants just walking around my neighborhood, but when I stumbled across this beauty crammed underneath a tree I had to know more. At first I thought it was an unusual Fuchsia, but discovered that this is ornamental plant is called Queen’s Tears, native to South America. Queen’s Tears (Billbergia nutans) has shallow roots and can get most of its nutrients from the air, or any other vertical surface it attaches to. It’s often found attached to trees, although it can grow on the ground as well, which is where I found this one. I don’t know how it survives in my chilly and foggy SF neighborhood, since while it thrives in humidity, it also likes temperatures above 60F/15C even in the winter. In the right climate it is very easy to grow, propagate, and share, so a second name for it is Friendship plant. I have never seen another like it in all my city wanderings, and I will definitely make regular visits to check in on my new friend!

California Buckeye:

I took this picture in February. By now this buckeye may have its signature long strands of closely-packed blossoms, but I love the early season – when the tree is waking up from its winter’s nap and leaves burst out of buds like flowers. The California buckeye is perfectly adapted to its native environment – it is food for many native bees and birds, but its nectar is poisonous to non-native honey bees. The nut is also poisonous but can be used in a pinch if prepared carefully (don’t try it at home!) Historically the poisonous nut was used to catch fish by adding crushed buckeyes to small streams. The poison would stun the fish and they would float to the surface for easy scooping. The California Buckeye puts on a stunning show year-round, and is worth a visit in every season!

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