Nature Notebook, June 18, 2020


Celestial events in the coming week include a new moon and the summer solstice on Saturday, June 20. Traditionally, the solstice is the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest day of the year. Herbs are thought to be especially potent when gathered at this time, considered midsummer in the Celtic tradition, which is marked by building bonfires thought to strengthen the sun. Early-morning minus tides accompany the solstice through the week.

Elk clover (Aralia Californica) towers along the edges of Bear Valley Trail with its huge leaves and firework starburst of flowers, which will become a cluster of dark blue berries. The lacy white flowers of poison hemlock are also abundant right now, their stems blotched with rusty red spots. This European exotic can cause a skin rash if brushed against and its carrot-like root is poisonous. In sunny areas, small native blackberries are ripening. In shady areas, deep scarlet thimbleberries can be peeled off for a tangy treat.

From the national seashore: Harbor seal protection measures will lift on June 30 and Drakes Estero, as well as portions of Tomales Bay, will reopen to boating. A scaled-down trail crew has returned to work, catching up on annual mowing.