Category Archives: nature

Elegant Clarkia

Elegant Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata) is also known by the common name Farewell to Spring.

This showy, if somewhat bizarre looking, flower (Clarkia unguiculata) blooms late in the Spring, and is also known by the common name Farewell to Spring. It adds a refreshing dash of color to the hills of Southern California, as they turn from green to golden brown. The plant appears to be an excellent indicator of Spring rainfall. In a drought year it might only be a foot tall, but in a rain season with a wet Spring, some stalks may reach 6 or 7 ft.

This photograph was taken among Live Oaks, near Laskey Mesa, on a run in Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (formerly Ahmanson Ranch).

Related post: Rain Gauge

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Caterpillar Phacelia

Caterpillar Phacelia (Phacelia cicutaria)


Caterpillar Phacelia (Phacelia cicutaria) was prevalent at Sage Ranch prior to the 2005 Topanga Fire. It may be somewhat more widespread than I’ve generally seen, but this could be due in part to last year’s record rainfall and this season’s late rainfall. It doesn’t appear to be a fire follower in the same sense as Large Flowered Phacelia, Star Lily or Dicentra, whose populations have increased dramatically this year.

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Owl’s Clover


Owl's Clover, in this case Castilleja exserta, is a fairly common California native.


A close view of Owl’s Clover reveals the probable reason for the name — fat little purplish-pink owls, crowned with a tinge of yellow, perched amid the purplish-pink of this unusual blossom. Here’s an even closer view of one of the individual flowers, showing its remarkable structure.


Owl’s Clover, in this case Castilleja exserta, is a fairly common California native that seems to prefer the margins of dirt roads and other disturbed areas at lower elevations. It’s in bloom now in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills. I noticed some on the Bulldog loop while running the Malibu Creek Challenge on Saturday, and also while doing a short run out a Sage Ranch Sunday.


This photograph is from a run at Sage Ranch on May 2, 2005.

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Tarantula Hawk

Tarantula Hawk on narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis Dcne.)

Tarantula Hawks are among the largest of wasps, and are said to have one of the most painful stings of any insect. As chilling as any science fiction, female tarantula hawks hunt, attack and paralyze a tarantula, and then use the spider’s inert — but still living — body as a host for the wasp’s egg and developing larva.


This female tarantula hawk wasp has just attacked and paralyzed the tarantula.
Males have straight antennae, and females curled antennae. This may be because the long, showy antennae of the male would be a serious liability when battling a tarantula. The title photo is of a male on a narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) at the start of the Chumash Trail in Simi Valley. Here’s another photo, taken in Las Llajas canyon by runner Lynn Longan, in which a female tarantula hawk has just attacked and paralyzed a tarantula.

Several good runs start at the Chumash trailhead, and many variations are possible. It’s 2.6 miles up the trail to Rocky Peak Rd, and from there you can do out and backs north or south along the fire road, or loops via Las Llajas canyon, the Hummingbird Trail, or the Lower Stagecoach Trail. (Photo from a run on September 14, 2005.)

Related post: Sting of the Tarantula Hawk, Chumash Trail Training

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