Selasphorus sasin

We’re delighted to see a hummingbird nesting close by the house, though it means we have to creep past so as not to disturb her. Two years ago, when the lemonadeberry was bigger and closer to the pathway (and thus more easily disturbed), a hummer hatched two babies there, but they died before fledging. We never knew if our presence disturbed the mama too much, or there was some other reason for the fatalities. Fingers crossed for a successful raising this year.

The Allen’s hummingbird constructs her nest out of plant fibers and down, coating it with lichens and spider webs to give it structure. There’s likely one or two eggs, which she will incubate for 15 to 17 days. The young leave the nest about three weeks after hatching, so we might have another month of fun (cautious) viewing.

Clarkia unguiculata

Clarkia unguiculata is commonly known as elegant clarkia. It is endemic to California, where it’s found in many woodland habitats, including the understory of oak woodlands here in the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s one of my favourite wildflowers, and not just because my last name is Clark 😊.

The showy flowers have hairy, fused sepals forming a cup beneath the corolla, and four petals up to 2.5 centimeters long. The paddle-like petals are pink to reddish to purple and have a slender “stalk” and diamond-shaped or triangular “tongue” (sorry, are there more correct names for parts of a petal?). There are eight long stamens, the outer four of which have large red anthers. The white stigma protrudes from the flower and can be quite large.

The above paragraph does nothing to convey how pretty this plant is! It really is very elegant.

Diplacus longiflorus

Week 17 in the PerpJo. There’s a lovely orange/red specimen of bush monkey flower growing in Legacy Park. I first assumed it was scarlet monkey flower but that has quite different leaves, and simpler flowers. I’m confused about the Latin names of the various species. Some sites say that Mimulus changed to Diplacus. Some sites say the reverse. Regardless, the various monkey flowers are important butterfly host plants and a nectar source for hummingbirds.

Salvia columbariae

Our local wild chia (Salvia columbariae) is closely related to commercial chia (Salvia hispanica). It was a favoured food of the Chumash and other Native American peoples, being high in both protein and fat. The seeds were gathered in large quantities, stored and traded, then roasted and ground into flour. The seeds were also used medicinally and ceremonially. It is an annual herb, and is flowering now in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Elaeocarpus grandis

There’s a huge Elaeocarpus grandis tree in full flower in the park near my daughter’s house.

This rainforest tree commonly known as white quandong, blue quandong, silver quandong, blue fig or blueberry ash, is endemic to eastern Australia. It is a large tree with buttress roots at the base of the trunk, oblong to elliptic leaves with small teeth on the edges, racemes of greenish-white flowers and more or less spherical blue fruit, which are edible but bitter.

Indigenous Australians ate the fruit raw or buried the unripe fruit in sand for four days to make it sweeter and more palatable. Early settlers used the fruit for jams, pies and pickles. The fruit of E. grandis is eaten by birds, including the wompoo fruit-dove, southern cassowary and Australian brushturkey.

I have a vintage (1940s) Chinese Checkers set that belonged to my mother; the “marbles” are painted quandong seeds. It looks like this one. I am not sure if they are E. grandis seeds as there are at least a couple of dozen trees called quandong.

Mirabilis laevis

Week 6 in the PerpJo.

Mirabilis laevis var. crassifolia is a native perennial herb found in coastal sage scrub, chaparral and woodlands habitats in California and Baja California. It’s fairly common, especially on rocky slopes with sandstone outcrops. It re-sprouts during winter after the first heavy rain and dies back after the rainy season.

The leaves are ovate to heart-shaped. The red-violet sepals look like petals but there are, in fact, no petals. These vivid, cheerful flowers are just starting to open here on our hill. Sweet!

Encelia californica

Encelia californica is native to southern California and Baja California, where it’s a member of the coastal sage plant community. It’s a bushy, sprawling shrub reaching between one half and 1.5 meters in height. The solitary flower heads are daisy-like, and it blooms from February to June, attracting butterflies, bees, and other insects.

It’s often planted to start a native garden, and then replaced with longer-lived shrubs over time. It can help jumpstart an area to change the soil ecology to help mazanitas and ceanothus plants.

Our block is covered with bush sunflowers, and they’ve just begun to bloom. Yay! 🌻