Nature Notebook, April 9, 2020


The Lyrid meteor showers sparkle overhead between April 16 and April 25, peaking late Wednesday, April 22. Look for 20 or so meteors an hour, many with tails. The constellation Lyra, or Lyre, rises on the eastern horizon after 10 p.m. It’s named after Orpheus’s lyre, which was made out of a tortoise shell and could charm trees and rocks as well as humans.

It is a little more challenging to find wildflowers with the park closures, but some town viewings include twinberry across from the vet’s office in Point Reyes Station. The shrub has two tubular sunset-colored flowers that will become dark berries with a scarlet frill.  

Poppies have been blooming in abundance. You may have noticed that these heat-seeking flowers close up toward evening; like us, some plants have a circadian rhythm and close as night falls, just as if they were sleeping. The botanical term for this is nyctinasty. Poppies have been used as a medicinal plant for sleep because they close at night—an adaptation that allows them to survive the cooler temperatures. 

Also blooming are puffs of purplish blue Ceanothus spp., commonly called California lilac or deer brush, around the library and community center. I always like to stop and look at them because you will often hear the hum of bees.