Had we fish to stupefy
with turkey mullein seeds
the late rains have left
in turquoise waves
above the knees—
we could be native.
Instead we feed
the squirrels beneath
these fuzzy canopies
where shotgun hunters
will wait for mourning dove
to light and leave.
Croton setigerus: a native of the western United States, and found commonly from southern California north to Washington, particularly in the more arid locations away from the coast.
I don’t ever remember Turkey Mullein, or Dove Weed, so tall and thick and claiming such large tracts of dry summer pasture, or its color quite so blue—worth journaling, I think.
Ran across this striking perennial earlier this week after loading some dry cows to go to town. Apparently common, I have never seen Silverleaf Nightshade, so I went back this morning to photograph it. Related to the tomato, potato and many other garden vegetables, it is poisonous with narcotic properties. And like many nightshades, natives prepared concoctions with the fruit to address headaches, sore throats, etc. Also the root was chewed before sucking rattlesnake venom from a bite. I continue to wonder how the natives knew when to pick the berries and how much of their preparations to ingest. All in the realm of the medicine keepers, I suspect it was not just trial and error.
Due to our wet May, there’s still quite a bit of color in places. Late May, 2010 was the last time I observed any amount of Centuary, (Charming Centuary or the Long-stemmed), after a fairly wet year here. Also this year, a very small yellow monkey flower that I don’t recall seeing before that I have identified as Larger Mountain Monkeyflower or Erythanthe trinitlensis, substantially smaller than the common seep monkeyflower. I marvel at the seed bank that must exist while waiting for the right weather conditions to germinate, reinforcing nature’s ability to survive despite the other troubles on this planet.
Where wild remains
heavenly in spring,
where deer dance
and Golden Eagles nest
close to a generous sky.
Only God knows why.
for Earl McKee
Robbin and I spent most of yesterday checking the cows and calves in Greasy, scattering salt and mineral beneath the Golden Poppies on Sulphur. Colder and under quite a bit of snow this winter, the grass and wildflowers are just getting started. Note all the drought-killed Blue Oaks in the foreground.
In the fenced and ungrazed barn lot
where water rests before it rises
when it rains to find the culvert,
a thatch of summer flowers tall
all face the dawn—a photograph
to match with Calflora—
I’ve learned the names
of most wild and local flowers
that have survived our occupation.
Fifth generation in the same place,
I don’t care that these are non-native,
these immigrants established
year after year, flashing color
‘midst the bland and blond dry grasses
as they chase the sun down.
Like jewels glinting in summer weeds
as the creek retreats, Scarlet
Monkeyflowers, like faceted rubies
scattered among the cockleburs
within the rising green, flash
day’s first light before their tongues
unfold—unroll to sing to whirring
hummingbirds to pollinate their seed—
fine powder stirred with their foreheads.
along the creek
ignore the heat.
Our native feed germinated early at the end of October, and by Thanksgiving the rains came, six days at a time spaced with six days of gray. A fairly warm winter with few days below freezing, the grass grew, and by March, there was little room for wildflower bloom to compete for sunlight.
Exceptions are the yellow cascades of Bush Monkeyflowers and the purple Winecups or Farewell to Spring, both now showing spectacularly around Lake Kaweah. While looking for strays yesterday, this Twining Brodiaea caught my eye.
Rising from the earth,
heavy head climbing for light,
no two knots the same.
Lost in a thatch of brittle stems,
foxtails and grasses ripe
with seed, we are not extinct
despite extremes: grazing hoofs
and rising floods of rain—
the four-year drought
before they finally came
and all the honest mistakes
the ignorant have made.
We are tough and may outlast
your conceit, your
Endangered Species List.