Nature Notebook, June 20, 2019


This Friday, June 21, brings the summer solstice: when the North Pole tilts toward the sun and reaches its northernmost point over the Tropic of Cancer. It is considered the longest day of the year and the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

Practicing roadside botany? Many of us are fortunate to be able to hike the trails with our trusty field guides, but if you commute over the hill, the end-of-season spots of color may be a blur. On Lucas Valley Road, as you leave the redwoods and descend toward East Marin, the golden-brown grassy hills show pops of purple Brodiaea. Among the last wildflowers are the small, pink poppy-like Clarkia amoena, or Farewell to Spring. If you get a chance to look closely at them, the four petals each have a dab of scarlet inside.  Along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard are plenty of apricot-orange sticky monkey flower (Mimulus sp.) and yellow-flowered blue elderberry shrub (Sambucus mexicana), along with clouds of white blackberry blossoms.

The Bear Valley Visitor Center is undergoing utility upgrades and may appear closed, but look for the outside tents, where staff remain on duty. Bookstore operations move outside on weekdays and inside on weekends. Work is anticipated to conclude by June 27. Lighthouse repairs continue, with the re-opening date pushed back into fall.