Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Yesterday, Cindy asked me to check to see if the Dirca on our property was blooming yet.  Western Leatherwood (Dirca Occidentalis) is a funny little plant that only grows in the Bay Area.  Despite it's persnickety nature--growing only where conditions seem to suit it best--it grows in abdundance on our property and across the street at the Jasper Ridge Biological Perserve. Belonging to a small genus consisting of three species, one which grows in Mexico and the other along the East Coast, Dirca is the only member of its family in our region.  It is slow growing, long lived plant. An individual 5 feet tall may be a centenarian. 

There's pretty much one person that studies Dirca.  It is our first bloomer of the season, budding  understated yellow flowers, beautiful and asymmetrical with their stigma and many stamens hanging well below their pedals.  The flowers appear even before the plant has produced leaves.  Its curiosity lies in its timing. Dirca has bloomed in October. It has also bloomed in January.  A theory has emerged that it may bloom after the first heavy rains of the season.  We had an unusual wet October, which is why I was out looking to see if it had bloomed.

The Dirca hasn't bloomed yet, although it is starting to bud out.  It grows in abundance on our property. They grow on the north face of a gulch cut by Bear Creek. The ground is so soft there that it's almost difficult to walk, and these plants have probably been visited by humans very rarely if ever since our house was built 60 years ago. I found some old, stately individuals as well as some young ones. Dusky footed woodrats have a reputation for pruning Dirca to build their middens, but I didn't find any signs of pruning. I did find some (very) old coke bottles and a rock that looks fire cracked to me.  This would mean there were Ohlone here once.

A lone black oak stands in the soft, moist soil at the edge of the gulch. I found this strange.

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