|Blue witch - Solanum umbelliferum|
|Blue witch sprout|
|In disturbed places, these weeds like a little shade. I forgot to take a photo of the more heavily infested areas; just photoshop the weeds across the scene in your mind with that stamper tool thingy.|
I think of weeds sometimes as a scab on mother earth's skin, or a rash, or a skin infection - and I'm not sure always how to treat the problem, if it is a problem and I think it is. Weeds are plants from elsewhere, the worst of which form thick stands that exclude the natural balance of native plants. Elsewhere might be elsewhere in California, or the U.S., but usually it's farther off, Europe or Africa maybe. Australia.
This much we all know: if you can pull profusely reseeding weeds before they let fly their load, then you're ahead of the game. But it's good to pick your battles. If you can't be thorough, then maybe it's better to leave the area undisturbed. You can end up just spreading the weeds by missing some and disturbing the soil to give their seeds a niche to grow in.
I don't have a vision for this steeply sloping, south-facing area with its powdery, sandy soil. It's too far from the house to irrigate, and too large an area as well. This "defensible zone" needs to be thinned to lessen fire danger - hence coppicing of chamise and older more straggly shrubs. The undisturbed dense chaparral farther away from the house has no weeds, I'm pretty sure. I haven't planted the slope. (Well I tried once to create a "river of grass" using native bunch grasses, but what the bunnies didn't get dried up and died.) I'm taking the "weed and wait" approach as yet.
In the cleared areas, besides weeds, we are seeing a lot more native perennials and annuals, like Pseudognaphalium ramosissimum (pink cudweed) Pseudognaphalium stramineum (cotton-batting plant), Anaphalis margaritacea (pearly everlasting), Scrophularia californica (bee plant), and Lotus scoparius (deer weed), and a few others I forget the names of. All of which are great in spring and summer but leave dry and highly flammable stems at the end of their life which I have to remove eventually.
Sticky monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus) is lovely in season, and golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum), too. They are also filling in more here and there. The yarrow likes partial shade or afternoon shade. Blue witch can grow in hotter dryer areas. But not much else, it seems, except hardy weeds.
As I walk the dog each morning I've been dismayed at the patches of low-growing weeds on the slope. Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), not a native, and certifiably invasive. And lots of pop weed, also known as bitter cress (Cardamine oligosperma). Native to America, it grows in disturbed places. And nursery containers! It has some edibility, and was used by native people, as explained on this First Ways blog post. But it's a real nuisance to me. And there are baby thistles, too, of various sorts. All growing mainly in the areas we disturbed when clearing and weeding in past years.
The first infestation after clearing was horseweed, Conyza canadensis, and Ms Town mouse helped me pull those. With a couple years pulling, they have abated and I see only a few now. Horseweed also has some value, as explained on this Eat the Weeds blog post, but it's not for me, not here. It just takes over. I was advised by a restoration horticulturist to remove it and remove it I have - with a little help from my friends.
|A dense stand of Conyza canadensis, horseweed|
To tackle this lot is to enter a Lilliputian world where weeds four inches tall start to feel like giant redwoods. I can only do it if I enter a zone where my focus also becomes Lilliputian in scale. If you can't do that, you go mad, mad I tell you.
|Lilliputian weeds that pack a punch.|
Now and then I cringed - no matter how hard I tried, my clodhoppers sometimes smooshed one of the plants I'm trying to cherish here gosh darn it, causing me to yet again question the value of what I'm doing. I'm always arguing with myself when I'm not totally sure about what I'm doing.
|Bee plant casualty!|
Having done my best, or worst, to the designated patch, I headed back to the house. I'll have to do a repeat treatment in a few days or a week, to get the ones I missed, and there will still be some I miss. Sigh. But then close to the road I was surprised to see...
|Caterpillar of the checkerspot butterfly, on its favorite host, sticky monkeyflower bush.|