From the monthly archives:

September 2009

“A River Runs Through It”

by Lorraine on September 20, 2009

Well, not exactly a “river”, more like a stream and we’re not talking about something you’d find in the wilderness.   It’s the Arroyo Simi, which in the 21st. century is no longer a stream in the sense of water that is free flowing and harbors native vegetation along its banks providing cover and food for wildlife and birds.

No, the Arroyo Simi is only a memory of an earlier and possibly wilder time.   It’s sides are now concrete and it wends it’s way through the cities of Simi Valley and Moorpark where I think it connects with the Conejo Creek.    An urban stream tends to be a dumping ground for waste and trash and yesterday I spent three hours as a volunteer, cleaning a section of it in recognition of Coastal Cleanup Day.

Once a year this event takes place  and people volunteer across the country to pick up trash and other crap (Excuse my expression but it’s how I feel) along  shorelines and inland water ways throughout the country.   It should be interesting to see what the figures are for this year’s cleanup but where I was working, we found 32 shopping carts that had been dumped along with the usual plastic water bottles and bags, food wrappers and lots of broken glass.  And I even found a machete!

What I did find surprising was the amount of life along the stream.   I was thinking about how filthy the water was but in some areas  there were pools and small fish swimming about in them.   There were also a number of White Egrets, Mallard ducks, frogs and a big surprise.   Crawfish!

Cattails were flourishing but so were many plants that aren’t native and there was an abundance of alge, too, making it quite slippery to navigate along the edge of the water.  In spite of the fact that the stream is lined in concrete and there is nothing but runoff from the streets providing water to it that you know is loaded with grease, oil, pesticides and fertilizers , there actually is a habitat that somehow is supporting life.

As the stream meanders between Simi Valley and Moorpark it passes by the waste treatment plant that discharges treated  waste water into it and this section of the stream is quite thick with vegetation and not encased in concrete.  Although I know that it’s okay to discharge the treated water, it still bothers me to think about going into the ocean but that is where it eventually ends up.

Every time I picked up another plastic bag or bottle or some other sort of trash, I thought about how my simple action was protecting wildlife on the land and in the ocean.   Just one little piece of plastic could kill a bird, fish or have devastating effects on a marine mammal.  Especially when they are bombarded with it every single day.  The health of the worlds oceans are imperilled by trash, especially plastic but it seems to me, that many people don’t care.

(There is a huge amount of plastic swirling out in the Pacific ocean that is thousands of miles wide and no one knows how to clean this mess up.   And Midway Island has tons and tons of plastic that has floated up out of the Pacific onto it’s shores  the last fifty years, which is causing great harm to the Albatross nesting areas on the island.  The chicks eat the plastic).

You can look this up on the Internet….

My wish would be that people would start to develop a moral consciousness about how their acts impact the environment and just make an effort to pick up after themselves and show a good example of environmental ethics to their children in the process.

“Imagine” as John Lennon said………….

Protecting our environment, protects ourselves as well.   Harm done to it, is harm to ourselves and our future and those of our children.  And we are in the position everyday to make wise choices about how to treat our planet and the lovely and endangered ecosystems within it.

As simple as choosing a canvas bag over a plastic one or no longer buying bottled water which is not any better than what comes out of the faucet.  Doing this can have a very postive impact on the trash problem and you get to feel good in the process, too.

“Just Do It”.


Autumn’s Tentative Arrival

by Lorraine on September 15, 2009

Last Saturday was the perfect day to get caught up on doing some routine maintenance in the garden and I set about doing some pruning and spiffing it up a bit.   It was still warm but a gentle breeze was playing about and the sun seemed to have a more tranquil and lazy feel about it.

Just a hint of Autumn in southern California and a welcome break from the high temperatures that we had been experiencing the last two weeks.   Although the forecast is for 100 degree weather by this coming weekend but we know that summer is winding down.

Looking at the garden, I feel that it’s not nearly is pretty as it was a couple of months ago but then I remind myself that it’s during the hot summer months native plants go into a sort of hibernation that sustains them through the summer.

There are some plants blooming as always but several plants (especially the Salvias and the Mimulus/Monkey Flowers)  look dead.   But underneath their brown disguise lies the potential for new growth and fabulous blue and purple flowers on the Sages and ruffley yellow and orange ones on the Monkey Flowers

The lizards are still active as well as the Hummingbirds who are feeding on the orange-red Fuchsias and of course, constantly having arguments over who has dibs on the blossoms.  It seems to me that they never tire over their constant efforts to remain in control of their turf.

(Now that I think of it, many people are the same way.   Always fighting to stay on top but in the case of humans, it’s not usually about food, it’s about “stuff” and egos.)

The garden feels “relaxed” and somehow anticipatory of things to come.   I will be making some changes in the next few months and I’m also planning on starting to bring in native plants to my backyard.

Meanwhile there are tender and subtle hints of Autumn.   And those of us who are “true” natives of California, know it is so….


More of the Poodle Dog Bush

by Lorraine on September 11, 2009

Here’s a copy of the article that was run in the Orange County Register newspaper.   It’s short and interesting and this is the first time that I’ve seen anyone discuss it.

Flower danger: ‘If you touch it, it’s going to get you’

Purple-flowered poodle-dog bush, growing in burn areas, is hazard to humans.



Comments 17| Recommend 23

A pretty purple-flowered bush blooming on the hills of the burned areas in Santiago and Modjeska canyons is a danger to people, according to the Department of Forestry.

The flower, commonly known as poodle-dog bush, is an irritant akin to poison oak, said forester Eric Oldar.

“This time of the year, the floral stalk is brilliant and it’s very attractive, especially along hiking trails or roads where people make a stop,” Oldar said. “They’ll go out and actually pick it and take it home as a flower arrangement, not knowing that contact, for the vast majority of the public, will cause a poison oak reaction.”

Symptoms range from itching to a rash or blisters lasting as long as two weeks. George Ewan with the Orange County Fire Authority said the pain is reminiscent to coming in contact with stinging nettles.

“It’s like that that except it doesn’t wear off,” Ewan said. “It goes for quite a while.”

Oldar said the bush is typically dormant, but bloomed as a result of the Santiago Canyon fire in October.

“It becomes prevalent after a major disturbance like fire or something that takes the area back to the barren ground,” Oldar said. “It will blossom, grow, and eventually be replaced by other dominant vegetation until another disturbance occurs.”

Oldar said the prevalence period could last as long as a decade, which is one of the reasons his department is trying to get the word out about the bush. Another reason is because of the attractiveness of the flower.

“This time of year, it can be a greater attracting to the public,” he said. “Later in the season, the flowers drop and the shrub will continue to exist, but it has no particular characteristic that would cause the public to come in contact with it.”

Oldar said people should go to their doctor if they start to itch. An over-the-counter remedy is calamine lotion or anything that has a cortisone derivative.

Ewan said avoidance is the best remedy.

“If you’re going to go out into the foothills or into the burn area, be careful,” he said. “There’s a cute little flower out there that’s purple and if you touch it, it’s going to get you.”

Contact the writer: 714-704-3704 or


Poodle Dog Bush

by Lorraine on September 10, 2009

Funny name, huh?   And the sweet looking plant doesn’t even look remotely like any kind of dog, let alone a Poodle.   I’m wondering if it was named after it’s attitude.   Some of those smaller dogs can be quite “aggressive” and not too friendly.  I guess they have to make up for their lack of size….

I don’t mean to offend anyone that has a small Poodle, they are cute.   But this plant isn’t.   In all of the years that I’ve been hiking, I had never heard of it and I certainly had never seen one before.   But last year I had my first opportunity to hear about it and observe it out in the field.

Poodle Dog Bush

Poodle Dog Bush

It’s pretty isn’t it?  And it just wants you to to lean over and inhale from it’s colorful flowers and touch them and maybe even pick a few.

Don’t even think about it and you don’t want to be sticking your face in it, either.   Within a few hours if not a day, your eyes will be swollen shut and depending on what part of the rest of your anatomy has touched it, it will be suffering as well.

"Come and breath in my lovely fragrance!"

This plant appears in areas where there has been a brush fire and are being more frequently seen  now than they were in the past.   These photos were taken in the Johnson Ridge area of the Los Padres National Forest and they appeared for the first time last year following  the Day Fire.  They have grown larger since then ( As much as 3-4 feet tall) and I have encountered people who mistakenly touched them and paid the price.

Now some people aren’t sensitive to Poison Oak and maybe this plant won’t bother them either.  But I certainly wouldn’t be taking any chances with it when I come across it and I make sure to avoid touching it. 

There was a recent article in an Orange county newspaper that I will post here tomorrow if anyone would like to read it.   But if you do any hiking or biking in areas that have burned in the last year or two, watch out for these villains so that you can avoid getting yourself into a painful predicament.

And sorry, but I can’t find the botanical name for this plant but I’m sure that someone will let me know what it is.


Heat & Smoke

by Lorraine on September 1, 2009

We’ve had a couple of brush fires burning for over a week in the San Gabriel Wilderness area, about an hour from where I live and they are still considered to be out of control.  Fire season in California has always been considered something that happens in the Fall, when the Santa Ana winds start to blow out of the desert into southern California.   Making for some very nasty and dangerous conditions.

But now it seems that there is no longer a “season”, it’s all year long and with the dryer climate, the conditions for horrific fires is substantial and frightening.

The last week has been extremely hot and I’ve been adding some extra buckets of water to some of the plants in the garden that looked like they were suffering.   My garden is just about two years old but would still be considered to be new and needs extra help when the situation calls for it.

I was leaving town last Friday and the temperatures were already climbing and I knew that the weekend would be very hot, so I pre-watered several of the plants just in case they needed a drink to get through the heat.  And when I returned yesterday, I noticed that some of the penstemons looked cooked and even one of the sages was wilting, too.

Meanwhile, the heat continues and there’s a bit of a wind as well (Not good) and the sky is filled with smoke and ash particles.

The Station brush fire in the La Canada area had only just started and as of this writing it has burned almost 122,000 acres and is only 5% under control.   Living in southern California means having to be prepared for earthquakes and brush fires which always put me on edge.  I hate this stuff!

Meanwhile, the American Robins are still visiting the birdbath and enjoying the cool water.   Who wouldn’t?.   And no, I don’t have a swimming pool or A/C.   And yes, the house is hot but I’m used to it.

Chico, Sparkle and Biscuit know how to get through these hot days.   Napping, napping and more napping.   Only slight potty breaks and munching on some cat kibble get them through the day.

If you would like to know more about forest or brush fires there is a very informative site that is linked up with state and federal agencies.   It’s a good site to have for emergency info and you may want to have it for future reference.

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