field guide to western wildflowers

We have a lending library for docents at MCSP, and yesterday I discovered this treasure: Field Book of Western Wild Flowers by Margaret Armstrong, published in 1915. It’s a small, thick book, filled with 500 black and white illustrations and 48 watercolour plates, and the most delightful plant descriptions. Example (Easter Bells, p 28):

“A patch of these flowers bordering the edge of a glacier, as if planted in a garden-bed, is a sight never to be forgotten. Pushing their bright leaves right through the snow they gayly swing their golden censers in the face of winter and seem the very incarnation of spring.”

Makes me want to gayly swing my golden censer 😁

You can see the text here on Gutenberg, but of course holding the hundred year old book in one’s hands is an infinitely more special experience. I’ve borrowed it, and I’m already feeling sad about the day I need to return it to the shelves.

woodrats

Something I learned in MCSP Docent School this week: our native woodrats build large dens in coast live oak trees; dens can reach five feet in height and eight feet in diameter. They have separate rooms for sleeping (lined with chewed up bay leaves to keep away insects), food storage, nurseries, and protection. Woodrats live in a matriarchal social system where females choose mates, and boot out the males after mating. They are similar in appearance to the common rat species Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus, but with larger ears and eyes, softer coats, and furred tails (i.e., they are cuter!)