Purge the Spurge! - and a Nifty Newt. A Good Day!

(OK I give up trying to make photos appear side by side! This is too frustrating!)

I spent most of today on the steep chaparral hillside pulling petty spurge, Euphorbia peplus, an annual weed that has totally exploded on parts of the hillside where we cleared. Here are some before and after pictures:

I was going to try snipping it as the roots were dislodging so much soil, but then I found a way to hold the ground around the plant as I pulled it, and that worked.

I noticed lots of very fine bee plant, Californica scrophularia, as I worked, covered with caterpillars of the Chalcedon Checkerspot butterfly, Euphydryas chalcedona.

Don't you just love those big juicy green leaves? In California we don't see so many of those, not like the Florida gardeners do, for example.

It's really quite a handsome plant, though the flowers are very small.

I also found quite a lot of poison oak sprouting, and I sprayed it with roundup. As I was working on the hillside, I don't think any critters got rounded up. I hope not anyway. I had a wheelbarrow full of spurge when I was done.
Most satisfactory! So after dumping it in the compost pile, I thought I'd see how Rat was doing. He was trying to bust open the concrete where the pipe runs under the pool patio. He sawed a box shape with a masonry blade and was giving it some good whacks with a sledge hammer.

Rat Wielding Sledgehammer... on YouTube

But to little effect! I glanced into the (somewhat dirty) pool - what was that little guy?

Oh, he is a newt! A Coast Range Newt, Taricha torosa torosa to be precise, and he didn't seem too bothered by his situation.

They have skin secretions that can kill you if you eat enough of them. He looked too cute to eat though. You can tell the difference between this one and the Rough-skinned Newt, Taricha granulosa, by the way the eyes stick out on either side of the head. Rough-skinned Newts' eyes don't do that.
He went off happily into the damp miner's lettuce.

A good day in the garden.


Your newt is so cute he looks like a Disney character! I couldn't see Rat well enough to dish out a compliment on his eyes too.
Carol said…
OMG your third photo from the bottom is incredible!! What a little creature with so much presence!
I love Newts! Used to keep them as pets as a kid, Isaac & Figg. Cute, but not very cuddly (and then there's that secretion thing...) Glad you got out in the sun today too!
I love newts too - and your pictures of him are wonderful -
Country Mouse said…
That newt did have presence. He wasn't upset, just kept looking around him alertly and walking about. As a kid I once had a garden toad as a pet - in a sort of vivarium where he could come and go. Eventually he went. But it was fun while he stayed, knowing it was his choice too. I realize on looking at the before and after pictures that it looks like a mess still. It is a wild hillside, but come summer I'll prune back more of the dead branches so it'll look a little more garden like, and I'll be establishing pathways. It's endless fun seeing what grows in place of the invasives that are removed (and removed and removed). Also I might get out there and plant some bunch grasses I propagated in the soft places where I pulled the spurge... If I get time...
rebecca sweet said…
I love newts! And your photos are amazing....I'm always so careful when moving pots, or anything large & heavy that's been in the shade, as I fear squashing these cute little guys..I've done a pretty job training my family, too, as just the other day I caught my husband 'lifting' instead of 'dragging' a shady pot - WITHOUT me reminding him for the umpteenth time to 'be careful of the newts or salamanders'!
Liisa said…
I so enjoyed your photos of the newt paying you a visit. I envy you spending the day outside in the sunshine, even if it was spent weeding. ;)
Anonymous said…
The flowers of that Californica scrophularia ressembles those of the Scrophularia nodosa (Knotted figwort/Knotige braunwurz), native here in Europe. So I'm quite sure that your Californica gets its species named after our genus Scrophularia.
Christine said…
I can't get over the newt. So adorable! It's interesting that our native foliage is so muted, yet the newt's coloring is so vivid. (I guess that's the point, though so that he won't get eaten)
I'm squirming with jealousy over your caterpillars, too! Glad they're getting to have a snack between rainstorms. (and you have a chance to go outside!)
I've been curious for a while about the etymology of the word "spurge." Did the nasty weed get the name first? Or did it adopt the name of some unwelcome interloper ("the spurge of the family")? I think the plant got there first from my nosing around, with a name derived from early words that meant "purge," which is all we do with the little horrors... Anyway, nice that you had a little newt of a distraction. Sounds like it made the day.
Country Mouse said…
Good question, LostLandscape - Seems like it is from purge (American Heritage dictionary):
Middle English, from Old French espurge, from espurgier, to purge (from its use as a purgative), from Latin expūrgāre; see expurgate.
Too bad the local bunnies don't like taking a good regular purgative... Or maybe not.
Brad said…
I had the same problem with posting pics. I wanted to have some side by side. You have to increase the width of the body of your blog. I can't find the website I used, but a quick search should point you in the right direction. You basically change the html, but it was really easy once I decided to do it.

I love the pics of the newt, by the way.