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Nature in my Backyard

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

During the shelter-in-place, Sutro Stewards with partnership from Handson Bay Area created Nature in you Neighborhood a virtual volunteering experience where we challenge volunteers to go out into their backyard and neighborhoods to see what plants they can find near them! Below is one submission from our project with the youth from Handson Tomorrow. We hope you enjoy their discoveries!

By: Vivien Bui

Growing up, I was never really a huge fan of the outdoors. I especially hated the spring season when flowers were blooming again due to my allergies. However, ever since COVID-19 has caused schools, restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues to shut down, I’ve turned to walking around the neighborhood and rediscovering my mother’s plants in the backyard.

One of the plants I have discovered in my backyard are these beautiful flowers called Fortnight lilies or African irises (Dietes bicolor) which belong to the Iridaceae (Iris) family. Flowers of this plant, normally clumped together, are approximately 2 inches wide with outer, light yellow petals that have brown spots at the base, and inner petals with no brown spots. This species are native to South Africa and are considered ornamental plants in the California Bay Area. Dietes bicolor blooms from May to September, and winter during certain time intervals. They are often popular landscape plants that are low-maintenance, and are common to find in gardens.

These white flowers, another species present in my backyard, are often referred to as sweet alyssum or sweet alison, with the scientific name being Lobularia maritima (synonymous with Alyssum maritimum). Sweet alyssum is a species of low-growing ornamental plant in the family Brassicaceae, and are native to Southern Europe. They are one of the easiest annuals to grow, with dense clusters of tiny, white flowers consisting of four petals, stems branching off to various directions, and narrow leaves spanning an inch long. Sweet alyssum blooms during spring, most commonly from April to June.

Lastly, the flowers I enjoyed most were these eye-catching pink ones. This plant has the common name of oleander, and scientific name of Nerium oleander. It is a shrub/small tree in the family Apocynaceae. Although it is so widely cultivated, it is native to the Mediterrean, around Europe and Asia. Oleander blooms seasonally, and is a common ornamental container plant found in decks, patios, and other home locations, as well as in landscaping projects. This shrub produces purple, pink, or white five-petaled, funnel-shaped flowers in clusters, as well as glossy 5-inch long leaves. Every part of this plant is poisonous when ingested, so be careful!

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