Nature Notebook, July 13, 2017


The summer sky’s fireworks begin this week in the east, as the Delta Aquarids meteor showers arrive. They will peak on July 28 and 29 and stretch through August. 

Waiting at the stop sign at the painted bridge? A fine display of apricot-colored sticky monkey-flower is on the rocky hillside at the intersection. On warm days, the plants ooze a sticky substance, an adaptation that discourages insects from chewing on them and allows them to hold water in dry times. 

Another plant drawing attention is wild cucumber, or manroot, now developing its golf-ball-sized seed pods covered in spikes. The vine originates from a huge underground root that stores water and sends out tendrils similar to a grape vine’s. The spiky seed pods discourage predators and, as they mature, burst open and send lima-bean-sized dark-brown seeds out into the world. The seeds are poisonous, but had a traditional use for Coast Miwok, who added ground seed pods to creek pools to stupefy fish and thus capture them for eating.