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Life Observations

When heading out to the corners of the valley, in search of native plants, I had the assumption that there wouldn’t be much to look at. In my mind, I’ve been on hikes and it always felt like there wasn’t much to look at just dry rocks and greenery that all looked the same. Up until my last day out, on that same road, I was finding new types of plants I hadn’t observed before.

The city is hyper-stimulating and it’s probably through this CEL that I realize how easy it is for us to overlook the beauty that surrounds us. As a college student our lives are constantly focused on progress and productivity, peace and taking it slow is rarely on our mind. By week 4 of going out to the field, I became hyper aware that most of week 1-3 was blurred and so I couldn’t see all the little insects or movements right in front of my eyes. Inspection of my surroundings took a lot more effort than I expected. This only piqued my curiosity of what was around me and I went from studying two plant species to six.

Starting off with the native plants, Salvia mellifera, also known as black sage, was the first to catch my eye. While it is the most common sage in California, I only found it two of the three areas I focused on. These three areas include Reseda hiking trail, Serrania park, and Andora trailhead. The large flowering bushes in the beginning of our project were for the most part dark and dry, then towards the end of the observations there were green new flowering ones. Sadly, I didn’t get to see many of them with actual flowers on them but in these upcoming weeks I’m sure they’ll bloom. Black sage is said to prefer being in the sun but tolerates shade. With the newly formed flower buds, more insects were noticed around the area but not many of them were bees. Right alongside the black sage were the California sagebrush bushes where there were less insects observed both at the beginning of the experiment and at the end. This was the only plant species I noted that didn’t change from the duration of the project. The aroma was delightful but, sometimes a little difficult to smell through the masks.

Moving on to some native species that had more going on we began to observe Solanum xanit or more commonly known as purple nightshade. A beautiful purple flower with a bright yellow center with green dots surrounding the yellow. In the early weeks of the project, I spotted several clusters of them around Andora trailhead, in more secluded areas off the trail. These beauties are considered poisonous to both humans and animals and the only insect around them were small moth-like flies. Early in the 18th century another certain member of the Solanaceae was considered equally as toxic, thankfully we eventually realized tomatoes weren’t toxic. Towards the end of the project I realized that they looked drier and wrinkled and then one day they were basically all gone, except for these little circular bulbs in place of the flowers, I wonder what those could have been.

Up next we have one of the most attractive plants to pollinators, golden yarrow. From the start to the end Eriophyllum confertiflorum had bees and butterflies all over them. Surprisingly the vibrant yellow clusters shrank over time and at the end there was a significant decrease in the number of clusters of golden yarrow seen on Andora trailhead. The leaves of the plant eventually darkened and so did the yellow nobs on top. These remained one of my favorite to capture on camera because of how they branched off from each other. The flower thrives in the sun but it looked like they were struggling at a point until we had a single rainy day and that perked them up alongside most of the other plants included in the observations.

There were two plant species that weren’t a part of the project, but I also saw them over the time span of the project that is worth mentioning. The first being deerweed scientific name Acmispon glaber, this perennial subshrub was all over both the reseda trail and Andora trailhead. These shrubs at the beginning were pure yellow and towards the end had some new flowers that were bright red mixed with some yellow. Although surprising that they were everywhere, I figured that since they have excellent habitat value because of its nitrogen fixing property that it has been used for restoration effort. Of course, there was more than average bees and butterflies attracted to this plant it was actually very interesting to see how butterflies would stick to this one plant throughout their flight. Then, we have Adenostoma fasciculatum, also known as chisme, a white flowering plant that was mainly seen in Serrania Park. These tree-shrub like species was seen mainly on the top of the mountain which made sense since they are known to be used for anchoring a slope and resisting erosion because of their deeply penetrating roots. They didn’t change from the beginning to the end, but they did have a purpose I believe I would have never known about if I didn’t research the species.

For most of the experience with these 6 species it was difficult to find any changes at the time but after all the notes were taken and it processed at the end of it all, along with the pictures, there were clear changes. I believe that there were less pollinators out for longer periods of time. This could be due to the rise in temperature or possibly them being out at an earlier time of the day then what I started at in the beginning of the project. But observing at around the same time each day made it easier to tell that difference. This is one of the many observations noted throughout the experience. It couldn’t have been done if not for the adaption of viewing my surroundings more clearly, I’m truly appreciative of the experience.

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