The classic image of a redwood forest is one of stately tall trees, dense shade, and lots of green. The columnar trunks of the giant trees draw our gaze up to the high canopy, but if we follow them down … Read more
The study and science of plants.
The hills above Oakland once held some of the largest redwoods ever seen, one estimated at 31 feet in diameter. Ten million years ago, such trees towered over much of North America. Nothing in this long history prepared them for the coming of men, armed with axes and saws, who felled all of Oakland’s redwoods in just 15 years. But even second- and third-growth redwood forests hold their charms, not to mention the subtle suggestions of the forests they can once again become. And you don’t have to go too far from downtown Oakland to find them.
Imagine a landmark so prominent that anyone looking south from San Francisco or north from San Jose could spot it. Spanish missionary Padre Pedro Font wrote in his diary in March 1776: “I beheld in the distance a tree of … Read more
Although solidly rooted in California’s natural and cultural history, our native oaks are disappearing at an alarming rate. The loss of these magnificent trees to urbanization and Sudden Oak Death has been widely publicized, but there is another threat that … Read more
When Spanish explorers first saw the San Francisco Bay in 1769, they found a land cloaked largely in perennial grasses. But the extirpation of the native elk herds that grazed the land, the introduction of cattle, and the incursion of European annual grasses abruptly and dramatically transformed the landscape into the familiar green hillside carpets that turn into brown thickets in summer. Today’s grasslands, altered as they are, still produce some beautiful wildflowers, lots of wildlife, and if we look closely, remnants of the native bunchgrasses of yore, which can be enhanced with careful management. The parks of the East Bay hills are a good place to start looking for that mix of the grasslands of yesterday and today.
It turns out that some of the Bay Area’s showiest wildflowers are also parasites that draw water and nutrients from their neighbors.
David Amme, author of “Grassland Heritage” in Bay Nature’s April-June 2004 issue, called purple needlegrass “the undisputed candidate for official state grass.” Now that may soon become literally as well as figuratively true: State Sen. Michael Machado, D-Linden, is sponsoring … Read more
In technical terms, mushrooms are the charismatic sexual reproductive structures of fungal individuals whose main body (fine, cobweb-like filaments called hyphae) is well hidden in the soil or amongst leaves and rotting wood. The primary role of the mushroom is … Read more
Although the disease is popularly known as Sudden Oak Death, the funguslike organism that causes it, Phytophthora ramorum, is also responsible for less severe symptoms in a number of other native and nonnative plants. The continually growing list of affected … Read more
by Linda H. Beidleman and Eugene N. Kozloff, University of California Press, 2003, 505 pages, $29.95 (www.ucpress.edu). Linda H. Beidleman, an instructor at UC Berkeley’s Jepson Herbarium, and Eugene N. Kozloff, a professor at University of Washington, have put … Read more