Nature Notebook, October 25, 2018


The full moon that passed yesterday was known in the Dakotah Sioux tradition as the “quilling and beading moon.” Cooler weather means more inside time for handiwork and less outdoor gathering work as plants become dormant.

West Marin remains a little nutty after last column’s hazelnut story. This week, nuts from the California bay—also called pepper nut, Oregon myrtle, bay laurel and even headache tree—are dropping. Like coast redwoods, this bay is limited to coastal California, southern Oregon and the Sierra Nevada. The nuts are all over the start of the Earthquake Trail and the Kule Loklo exhibit; they look like small purple avocados (the tree is related to the avocado tree) as they ripen. Peel away the fleshy outer pulp for a dime-sized, hard-shelled nut. It is edible after roasting, which removes the bitter raw flavor, and is drier than the oily native walnut. 

Coyote brush, generally a low-growing shrub with fuzzy yellow flowers, has begun its fall bloom with separate male and female plants. The fluffy seeds carry on the wind, so the plant is called a “pioneer” and is one of the first to move into areas where soil is disturbed or fire has cleared landscapes. Several plants are found in front of the Bear Valley Visitor Center.