Saturday, September 5, 2009

Blue and Gold and Black

When I was a kid, I'm talking 5 years old or so- I had the range of a free roaming wolf. We lived on a cattle ranch and my Mom was happiest when I wasn't in the house. From dawn to dusk I roamed the hills of Alhambra Valley. It was terrific for me- I thought I was an Indian! I tried making my own bowls from the blue clay that abounds in this area, gathered pine needles, trying to weave a basket from them ( never figured it out- but hey I was 5~)ground acorns and tried eating them.(Again it was years later when I could read that I learned how!) And I learned what plants to avoid if possible. 
The plant at the right is one of them. It is called Tarweed-Holocarpha virgata ssp elongata and though it isn't poisonous it is a nuisance. It is a native species, blooming late  in the summer in the hard pan of the hills.     

It's sometimes called Gumweed, or Slender tarweed, it's all the same- and it has a robust musty smell. Of course horses grazing in the hills will get their faces and legs covered with the stuff, which then turns dirty-black even.  The sticky faces collect the other evil plant in California- Yellow Star Thistle. Centaurea solstitialis

Star Thistle IS poisonous- luckily if there is enough fodder a horse won't eat it, but if they do it is a neurological nightmare. The locals call it Loco Weed, and if eaten the horse goes - well- Loco. They slobber and get aggressive, then the drooling and trembling begins. If enough of it has been ingested the horse has to be destroyed.  There is no easy way to get rid of it in your pastures either. The only thing to do is keep your horses fed enough so they will not want to eat it, or not put your horses in pasture when it is present. The early stages of the plant, not the thistle part, is non-poisonous.  

So I was up hiking around this afternoon, looking for Glacier,and the smell of the tarweed hit me like a hammer. All these memories of my childhood flooded back- triggered by that wonderful musty smell of a little golden plant.

I didn't have anything except my camera phone to take pictures of my world today- so forgive the grainy and out of focus pictures. You can see all the tarweed present!

This is the Alhambra Valley in all of its gold and (dark) green glory. The trees are varieties of Oaks- Live, Cork, Blue,Valley and Pin. There are also Bay Laurel trees and Buckeye trees. The Buckeye's have dropped their leaves and retain the               " Buckeye"- hard chestnut colored  seeds that are about as big as a child's fist. The Buckeyes are toxic too. Indians used to pound them into a pulp and toss them into the lakes. The toxins stun the fish and they float to the top of the water where they are easily gathered.  

I love the gold and green of California in the summer. So much in fact that in my starter marriage to Lil Mama's Dad- my bridesmaids wore deep green and gold! Sorry- no pictures of that!



Lil Mama said...

The Hunter and I love the smell of tarweed so much we bring it into the house. MMmmmmm.

Stephanie said...

Nice pictures and thank for the little tidbits of local plant knowledge.