Saturday, May 2, 2009
Some Stones Best Left Unturned? ... And a Clutch of Clarkias
A couple weeks ago, I was preparing a small bed near the swimming pool in the "back yard" for some native California annuals. I lifted a stepping stone the better to weed thereabout, only to find it was doubling as a roof for the home of a rather surprised Coast Mountain Kingsnake, which is a subspecies of the more widely distributed California Kingsnake.
Formally known as Lampropeltis zonata multfasciata, not that I'll remember that. Plants are bad enough. Still it's fun to know what the Latin means, so for those interested:
Lampropeltis - Greek - lampros - shiny and pelta - shield - referring to the smooth, shiny dorsal scales characteristic of this genus zonata - Greek - zonata - banded - refers to the black banding multifasciata - Latin - multi - many and fasciata - bundled, banded - refers to the banded dorsal pattern
Quoted from the same site I linked to above. Lampropeltis - shiny shield. I'll remember that now. For a while. Or maybe bright shield. I like that better - more Beowulfian.
I wonder if this is the same critter I saw in the "front yard" - near a large boulder - a few days or weeks earlier.
They are considered non poisonous and eat: lizards, small mammals, nestling birds, bird eggs, amphibians, and occasionally snakes, including its own species.
Hm. Well, they don't harm humans anyway, and plenty of lizards skittering around here to keep a snake or two fat and happy. Hopefully he - or she - can also eat whatever made all the the tunnels my trowel revealed as I was digging planting holes. Ever the optimist, I just squished the tunnels in, thanking the critters for aerating my soil and politely asked them to leave now. (I was actually just too lazy to put chicken wire down and entertained wishful thoughts that the annuals wouldn't be too tasty.)
The snake wasn't particularly startled and stayed there, looking at me. You can see a tiny head poking out of the hole beside the body at the top end. I'm amazed at how sharply the snake can bend its body. My daughter just informed me (via IM from the UK) that when she was taught how to handle snakes, it was with a Kingsnake.
I carefully lowered the stone again and haven't moved it since. I don't know if the snake is still down there but I've been thinking of him - or her - in that dark narrow space - whenever I give the flowers a bit of water, keeping the roots moist till they can start to grow into their new home.
They don't look like much yet. It's wet and foggy right now but I took a quick snap to show you.
I hope to show a more impressive picture later on! The photos on Google (see below) show masses of flowers. BTW all around are non-natives - sages and some ornamentals I forget the names of. The pool garden is the first area I planted and I didn't have a clue back then. I'm hoping to do some replanting in the Fall. But I'm reluctant to take out healthy non-invasive plants that are doing OK. The hummingbirds love them. And there is a garden ornament hiding in the foliage near the fence- a shiny pottery fawn that was left behind by the former owners. Not something I would buy, but since it's been there for so long, I like to keep it lurking about.
I obtained the annuals at the CNPS sale. I bought a couple, then as they weren't selling very well, the volunteers got to take some freebies home. Perks! Yay!
I planted two of each of the following (Some photos from laspilitas.com, some from anniesannuals.com and others I forget. Sorry! The pictures are in a MS Word table I keep of the plants I get and their growing conditions etc):
Clarkia rubicunda blasdalei “Ruby Chalice Clarkia” - dark red - Self sows strongly. Grasslands. Make a patch. Bees. Easy. Found locally:
C. lewisii - Blue - Rare and endangered. Could be local:
C. speciosa immaculata - purple-red - Rare and endangered. Could be local:
C. unguiculata - Pink-red-purple - An annual with slender petaled pink flowers up a 2-3' stem. Not showy unless massed. Useful on north or east slopes up to and under oaks and pines. Easy to grow (text from laspilitas.com). Found locally:
Camissonia bistorta - Lemon yellow - Not local - from Southern California:
All of them take moderate water and like sun. C. Lewisii is sun to part shade.
I also got four four-inch pots of meadow foam, Limnanthes douglasii, which also grows locally. But it is a wetlands plant and I'm not sure where to put it yet. Under a hosebib I think!
So my project is to gather seeds from all but the camissonia bistorta - especially from the rare ones - and see if I can naturalize them here, and in time, offer seeds to neighbors as little gifts and scatter some along the road.
I've also been collecting some different kinds of lupine seeds locally (and trying to identify the species without great success). I'm keeping my eye on the native Douglas Iris as well, waiting for some seedpods to snap up. I hope to propagate indigenous natives and get them into the native habitat hereabouts. We'll see!