Thursday, April 17, 2008

Flora and Fauna

My dog and I took a short walk this afternoon and what was real great was seeing two of my old favorites. It is warm and spring time but here in Southern California the green is already vanishing. Many of the flowers have lost their color and are turning to seed.

The mustard still is yellow everywhere but one of my favorites is the bright orange that spots the steep hills and lines the bushes along the creek. I was first fascinated by it when I found it while hiking in Trabuco. No one could tell me what it was called then but later I found out one of its many names "Witches Hair". That was about forty years ago when we were without our instant Internet so I then so the Main Street Library in Huntington Beach helped me find more about it. I even took some home and tried to attach it to the bushes in our front yard. It is also called "Witches Shoelaces" but the correct title is California Dodder, Cuscuta californicia. It is consider a weed and a parasite but the patches of orange are splashed everywhere as if a giant drunk painter was on the loose and I love it.

My other good buddy is harder to see from a distance but up close it is a rich beautiful blue, the Common Blue Damselfly. This insect also is fascinating and is very similar to the dragonfly we all know. My grandparents had a fish pond in their backyard so of course they had dragonflies hovering over the water. To me they are a sign of future good luck like finding a four leaf clover.
My interest in the Damselfly started with a hiking trip in Modeska Canyon with my son when he was in first grade. There was this old dam with a large pond backed up behind it. We were at the water edge picking up rocks when he uncovered this thing not knowing what it was. We took it home and put it in our aquarium and I started searching insect books until the answer was found: a Damselfly nymph
If you check on these links you can investigate their curious metamorphosis. We watched it molt in the aquarium several times then finally it rose out of the water and filled in its body and wings. I took the aquarium outside and it flew away. These neat little guys (please note my exact scientific terminology) predate the mighty dinosaurs by a 100 million years.
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