Notes from the Field: What’s in Bloom along the Shoreline?
July is a lovely time of year to get outside and explore what is happening in nature. Working with volunteers along Damon Marsh Trail in the Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline, I’ve noticed a lot of beautiful native seedlings getting established in their new homes. Many of these species are in full bloom and, with all their different shapes and sizes, are worthy of inspection.
Here is a small sampling of three species you’ll discover on the trail this month:
- Marsh gum plant, Grindelia stricta var. angustifolia: This staple of the high marsh edge is just opening up its bright yellow flowers. It is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae), known for its late season blooms and is the largest plant family, with almost 24,000 species worldwide. The flower heads we see on plants in this family actually consist of hundreds of small flowers packed closely together; ray flowers make up the outer ring and disc flowers fill the center and generally are the producers of fertile seeds known as achenes. The unopened flower buds have a gummy resin that glistens in the sun, thus the name gum plant.
These shrubs thrive at the upper edge of the tides where they’re close to the water, but enjoy better drainage and less daily saturation. They have slightly serrated edges on their tough, thick leaves, and grow from 2 to 5 feet tall. They are an important part of the tidal marsh ecosystem as they provide critical high tide refuge for California clapper rails, black rails, and the salt marsh harvest mouse, as well as, food for many insects with its many flowers.
- Sticky monkey flower, Mimulus aurantiacus: This smaller shrub stands 2-3 feet tall and has dark green, sticky leaves with obvious veins and finely serrated edges. These shrubs in the figwort family (Scrophularaceae) produce asymmetrical yellow and orange flowers with petals slightly rolled back and lower petals stretched out, as to make a beautiful landing strip for bees in search of nectar. As the bees enter in, these tricky flowers have evolved to have their stamens lightly brush pollen off on the nectar focused bee, which she carries to pollinate the next flower she visits. Once pollinated, the stigmas (top of the pistil where pollen lands) close up so as to not scrape off any unneeded pollen, saving the unknown stash for the next flower in need.
- Blue Eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium bellum: These low growing herbaceous perennials in the lily family (Liliaceae), produce thin, grass-like blades and beautiful blue flowers with a small yellow and black center. There are five petals that are slightly fused at the base. They grow about 6 inches to 1 foot tall and produce flowers throughout the summer.
To learn more about these species and to help grow and plant them along our shorelines, join us on our volunteer programs at the nursery and in the field. For more information about what’s in bloom, send me an email.
- Doug Serrill, Nursery Manager