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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/795

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CALIFORNIAN DRY-WINTER FLOWERS.

straggling, hispid, or glandular-viscid plant to thrive. The variety hispida, Gray, was the most common form at Santa Barbara, and is a very unpleasant thing to handle. A large quantity of the pinnately divided leaves and prickly stems was gathered, as they were much infested by a cluster-cup (Æcidium) fungus. At least one species of Cuscuta was collected, viz., C. Californica, Choisy; but, as all the dodders are parasitic, it is not strange to find them flourishing even while their hosts were leafless and being robbed, so to speak, in their sleep. The species is quite variable, and the extreme forms have been defined under var. breviflora and var. longiloba; both by Dr. Engelmann, the great and almost life-long student of these sickly parasites.

The dry earth in old stubble-ground was in some places found entirely covered with a carpet of Calendrinia Menziesii, Hook., a fleshy-leaved acaulescent plant of the purslane family, and in habit not unlike its cousin, the obese purslane (Portulaca oleracea, L.), so frequently spreading over eastern fields and gardens with its low, fleshy stems and leaves. Both seem equally well adapted for thriving in hot and dry places. A downy mildew (Percnospora) was, however, making inroads upon this calendrinia, although not, perhaps, as fatal in its work as to Claytonia perfoliata, Down. These two hosts are in adjoining genera, and the peronospora seems to be the same in both cases. The claytonia was in flower, but as this "spring beauty" only thrives in moist places, it does not come within the province of this paper. Occasionally a flower of the popular forage plant of the foothills, the alfileria, or "pin-grass," was seen, but only when there was some chance for moisture. This low, leafy crane's-bill (Erodium cicutarium, L., Her.) grows rapidly when the rains come and clothes the pastures and foot-hills with a rich carpet of green, followed by a profusion of flowers, unless the cattle and sheep keep it closely cropped.

As a transition to the woody plants, mention may be made of a variety of black nightshade (Solanum nigrum, var. Douglasii, Gray) which grows abundantly in all parts of the country. It is, perhaps, most at home along the streams or upon the lower areas, but it may be seen almost everywhere, forming clumps six feet high, and shrubby at the base. It can usually be found bearing blossoms and fruit in all stages of development, and is one of the coarser weeds that is quite sure to find its way into cultivated ground and become thoroughly established if sufficient time is given it. Much more attractive than the above is Solanum umbelliferum, Esch., which forms long, straggling, tomentose stems, that climb over surrounding shrubbery and peep out here and there with small clusters of large, yellow-throated, blue flowers. This forms one of the cheerful surprises as a person pushes his way through the dust-laden underbrush. In the same localities the flower-hunter will encounter tangling masses of a poison-ivy (Rhus diversiloba, T. and G.), called by the natives "yeara" or "poison-oak." The vines grow rapidly, and the shining, newly-devel-