Nature Notebook, May 18, 2017


A new moon rises over Memorial Day weekend on Thursday, May 25. Extreme morning low tides accompany the rising; a minus 1.7 tide on Saturday is the lowest point, about an hour after sunrise.

I am always surprised at how the lush spring greenery appears to turn golden brown seemingly overnight, though we are a month from the summer solstice. Equisetum, commonly known as horsetail, is green profusion now; just a month ago, it looked like spears of asparagus poking up. Now it has “opened” onto what looks like a feather duster, but is rough and sandpapery to the touch. The plant has an extensive underground root system and, since it likes sandy, moist soils, is popping up all over. Horsetail had a traditional use among coastal tribes: smoothing wood that was crafted into arrows.  

It could be a banner fall for coast live oak (Quercus Agrifolia) acorns. Many of the trees around the Bear Valley area appear to have larger than usual numbers of golden tassels, the first stage of the acorn. The acorns are an important food source for many species, so a good supply in the fall will help many get through the winter. The species name agrifolia is thought to be accidental, a printer’s error. It was meant to be either acrifolia (sharpleaf) or aquifolia (hollyleaf), which are good descriptions of the oak’s leaves, which can have sharp prickles like a holly leaf.

Don’t miss the annual California Coastal Commission art exhibit at the national seashore’s Bear Valley Visitor Center. Art and poetry from children responding to the ocean and coast are on display through June.