Apr 7, 2011

Flowers are my fiction III

 Some of the flower parts in this batch are positively inter-galactic.


Apr 6, 2011

Flowers are my fiction II

You can click on the photos to make them larger. Twice even. Enjoy!


Apr 5, 2011

Flowers are my fiction

I've been a little stressed lately. Who hasn't, right? Revolutions, worker uprisings, climate change and the day to day. I have a few coping strategies for stress. Dissolving into fiction for brief spells usually gives my brain a chance to relax. For some reason I keep choosing heavy material, e.g., Beloved  (Toni Morrison), Flight (Sherman Alexie). I switched to non-fiction, grabbing Eaarth by Bill Mckibben at a used bookstore last week. Also heavy, whew.

For the moment I've given up on reading and turned to Spring. Delving deeper into botany serves as a delightful distraction, particularly as buds open all around us. I found myself squinting at poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) flowers at Lake Merced today. They're tiny and not without charm. Their allure held me up for a second, but I resisted the urge to get a closer look with my hand lens. As much as I hang out with poison oak, I couldn't recall its family this afternoon (Anacardiaceae).

 I'm frequently counting flower parts, teeny tiny flower parts. Plant id sucks me in like a good book. A little oak branch can be a whole new world, with its own weather, topography and critter community. It's easy to get caught up in the bugs, forgetting the flowers for a second. I couldn't capture the tiny white bugs on this oak leaf (Fagaceae, Quercus agrifolia), but you can see their labor in the crevices of the midvein. I dunno what this critter is, despite my half-hearted attempt to figure it out.

The house I live in has an abundance of nature books and clever tools for the investigation of small plant parts. I'm enjoying the drafting table and ample work lamps as I pick apart petals in search of pistils and other pieces. Tweezers that screw together to hold samples: brilliant! Sharp scalpels that slice through soft, flexible sepals and petals make getting to the insides quick and clean.

I've always taken comfort in counting, so I suppose it's natural for me to enjoy counting flower parts from the outside in. Here's some amateur flora photography from today's adventure with the families.
Grossulariaceae, Ribes sanguineum

 Flowers of Coast Live Oak

Buckeye stamens

Feb 20, 2011

Press and Fun Fact

There was an article in the New York Times about the SF Free University teach in so I thought I'd post it. It even includes a mention of the class I helped with, Restoring San Francisco's Urban Wildlands. 

Did I ever post this article about eating invasives? I was interviewed for it.

Fun Fact: Yesterday I counted 73 Zigadenus fremontii on Bernal Hill, the only place in SF where it blooms.

Oh yeah, and some pix of those art bottles I made from the edible weeds!

Feb 10, 2011

Wildflower Walk Sunday at 11AM, Bernal Hill

I'm going to lead a wildflower walk this Sunday starting at 11AM on Bernal Hill in San Francisco. We'll look at early wildflowers, including a locally rare population of star lilly's (Zigadenus fremontii). Other early bloomers include Footsteps-of-Spring, Lomatium, and a few suncups.

We'll meet at 11AM at the South gate of Bernal Hill, which is near Anderson Street. I'll probably be hanging out by the water fountain.
Invite your friends, bring your kids. Dogs on leash are welcome.
Showers ok, steady rain cancels.

See you there!

Feb 3, 2011

This Sunday: Free University 'Class' and Art Project

This Sunday I'm helping with a class (of sorts) for the Free University of San Francisco's first teach-in weekend. I'll be assisting Sharon Beals, who is an awesome nature/wildlife photographer, and Martin Holder, who also works in restoration. The class is called "Restoring San Francisco's Urban Wildlands", so we'll show a bunch of pretty pictures of plants, animals, landscapes, people, and hopefully some maps from your favorite GIS nerd. There will be a lot of discussion so bring your piercing questions.

Did I mention that the Free University is free? And that we're all instructors if we have something to share? I'm stoked.

The class will be at 9AM Sunday morning, downstairs at Viracocha (998 Valencia St). See you there!

Later that day I'm participating in a nifty art show (who'da thunk it?) put together by the Revel Art Collective.  I participated in the Fun-A-Day project in January by eating weeds every day and documenting that fun activity by preserving samples of each species in solutions of varying toxicity .... Yes, I like chemistry, too. I haven't taken any pictures yet, but I'll try to post some soon. Oxalis is way prettier when you turn it clear or something akin to blue.

Here's a brief statement about the piece: During January I responsibly harvested invasive plants so that I could eat them. I took a sample of each plant and submerged it in 3 solutions of varying toxicity to alter the chlorophyll of the plants. I enjoyed watching the plants break down and change colors over the course of the month. There's also something satisfying about about leaving these previously edible samples as toxic and damaging to individual creatures as they are to entire urban habitat fragments. These 3 bottles hold about ten species each, just a small sampling of the invasives encroaching on local open space.

And just to make this a little more disjointed, I saw two very cool wild animals today. The first was a beautiful male coyote at Twin Peaks. He hung out at a safe distance for ages and was appropriately concerned about our presence but still very observable. Much to my co-workers' surprise, this was my very first coyote siting in SF. All these years of seeing elusive brush rabbits and way more snakes than anyone I know, I've been longing to see a coyote. Speaking of elusive hoppers, I had the great fortune of seeing a brush rabbit in our office parking lot today (Golden Gate Park), which according to a fellow gardener has been around for about a year, but was presumed dead after a long spell of no sightings. Cutest butt ever. Sadly, I don't have any pictures of them either. 

Finally, wildflowers are starting. Star lily open at Bernal so I want to do a walk asap. Probably next Sunday. More on that later.