Thursday, October 9, 2008

So Close and Yet So Far Away


This dudleya is one of the many gorgeous blooms you can see in Stough Canyon in the spring. The nearby nature center makes this a sweet destination. But I wouldn’t hike this with little kids, simply because the trail is so steep. It’s also quite hot in summer. However, after huffing and puffing up the big hill, you’re rewarded with good views of Burbank and the Verdugo Mountains. I’ve trekked here a couple of times in spring with botanist Ileene Anderson. We say nearly a hundred species of wildflowers, including wooly bluecurls;6-foot-tall scarlet delphiniums; caterpillar phacelia (they have curved, fuzzy, purple flowers); golden-back ferns; bright red members of the carnation family called "Indian pinks"; elegant clarkia, monkey flower, and California sunflower (encelia).

Stough Canyon Nature Center: 2300 Walnut Avenue, Burbank

From the 5 Freeway, exit Magnolia Blvd. Turn right on Magnolia (heading toward the hills). Turn left on Sunset Canyon, then right on Walnut Avenue. Follow Walnut until it ends at the nature center. The trail is to the left of the center.

On one of our hikes here botanist Ileene Anderson said, “I’d really love for everyone in California to recognize that we don’t have to go to a rainforest to find biodiversity, you simply have to get out into California open space, and you can have the same experience.”

We stopped to listen to a towhee twitter. She reminded me, “If it wasn’t for plants none of the rest of us would be here, because [we can’t] capture the energy of the sun and turn that into carbon-based living materials, which are the food that everything else eats. If it wasn’t for plants, there wouldn’t be any oxygen in our atmosphere. Their generosity is the reason we can live here. So I have great respect for them.”

I asked her if rare plants have the same legal protection that endangered animals do. She shook her head. “Unfortunately, they don’t. Under the state and federal endangered species acts, plants are what I consider second-class citizens. If a development is going to wipe out all the plants on a site, and it doesn’t jeopardize the plant to the point of extinction, then there’s really nothing the [wildlife officials] can do about that.”

For more on native plants, check out my Southland Ecology and Gardening posts.

Recommended reading: California Native Plants for the Garden by Carol Bornstein, David Fross, and Bart O’Brien.

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