Archive for January 23rd, 2015

Have you seen the Soap Plants in Guadalupe Oak Grove Park?

On Martin-Luther King Day, I went to the Guadalupe Oak Grove Park for a walk. It was a beautiful day and, it seems, we continue to have Indian Summer days in succession. I noticed that the buds on the Blue Oak (Quercus douglasii) were beginning to open! The little flowers that lead to acorns were beginning to show as were new, green leaflets. This is, perhaps, a false spring, with heavy winds and cold weather to follow (and hopefully rain!). Cold and wind can do a lot of damage to young oak leaves, as was the case last Spring. It is good to see that the prior heavy rains and current warm weather are promoting spring-like conditions…. but this is worrisome as it is only the end of January. What can you do? Enjoy it while it lasts!

chlorogalum-pomeridianum

I also noticed signs of CA native wildflowers burgeoning forth! Actually there are/were few flowers, just the sprouting plants. We’ll see the flowers soon, especially if we have a string of 72 degree days! More likely we must await the end of February and March/April.

I want to tell you about one CA Native Wildflower in the Guadalupe Oak Grove Park that grows from an underground bulb, and ask you to follow its progress this Spring. The plant is called Soap Plant (common name): Chlorogalum pomeridianum, the botanical name. This plant was used by the indigenous people to a great extent. Go to the following web page to see how it was used:

http://www.parksconservancy.org/conservation/plants-animals/native-plant-information/soap-plant.html

To see how it looks currently, go to the following URL:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorogalum_pomeridianum#mediaviewer/File:Chlorogalum_pomeridianum_aka_Soap_Plant.JPG

Note the ‘waviness’ of the leaves. As you enter GOGP from J. Fontana Park near the Tot lot, a good patch of the Soap Plant is on the upper trail  to your left, just as you are climbing to the first quarry site.  Now the Soap plant is ‘off trail’ for the most part; so please be careful to visit only the near-trail soap-plant sites. In ‘normal’ times, the first flowers may open just prior to Memorial Day.

Let me tell you one fascinating aspect of this plant. The flowers open like clockwork, one by one, within a minute of each other, and they go from fully closed to fully open in a matter of seconds. You don’t need slow motion or timed exposure to see these flowers open! For a little “soap opera” here’s a short PowerPoint presentation.  And here is a little soap-plant story I wrote in 2007.

Patrick Pizzo

Pat Pizzo

Pat Pizzo