Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/32

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

It is in the valleys and foothills that the typical California flora is seen in its full glory. Here poppies and buttercups, creamcups, tidy tips, yellow pansies, sun cups, yellow forget-me-nots, berries and bush mustard throw a gorgeous mozaic of mingled yellows over the coast meadows. In the open foothills, fields covered with splendid splashes of the wonderful gold of the poppy and the deep blue of the lupine, broken in spots by the gray green of the oak, spread out like a huge impressionistic canvas. On gentle slopes of sandy loam, escobita, cousin of the gaudy Indian paint brush, stretches out into a velvety carpet of old rose.

Typical also of the California flowers are the many varieties of bulbous plants curiously adapted to the California climate by their deep-seated bulbs that lie dormant through the long dry season, sending up their foliage leaves in early spring and their flower-stalks at the end of the rainy season. In the open fields and country roadsides the mariposa tulips, coming after the showy spring annuals, display large open cup-shaped flowers, delicately painted as a butterfly's wing. Brodiæas, some with open, others with close clusters of blue hyacinth-like flowers, greet one everywhere. Mission bells, mysteriously invisible, stand solitary tall and erect in the open woods, delighting their discoverer with drooping bell-shaped flowers mottled with bronze and green. Fairy lanterns, exquisite little plants of graceful form and delicate coloring, grow half concealed among the grasses of the open woods and rock ledges.

The advent of the white man has greatly changed the aspect of the vegetation in the valleys and foothills. Not only have vast fields of showy annuals, chaparral and noble oaks given way to orchards, vineyards and grain fields, but many of the open, unfilled foothills are now covered with wild oat, bur-clover or filaree, southern Europeans, brought over by the Spanish padres and spread broadcast by nomadic bands of sheep, which at the same time wiped out forever many a delicate native annual.

 

The Chaparral

On dry gravelly hillsides, especially on southern exposures, and in the valleys where the soil is light and the water-table below the reach of roots, drought-resisting shrubs abound, forming dense, impenetrable thickets known as chaparral. These shrubs are evergreens with short, stiff, often spinescent branches and small, thick, leathery leaves of a dull gray or olive green. The level mass takes on a somber monotonous tone. But in blossom time, manzanitas with their tiny urn-shaped flowers of a delicate pink, lilacs forming masses of bine, lavender or white, garrya, with its long, pendant, soft gray catkins that have won it the name of "silk-tassel tree," the ever-present chamise, a peculiar rosaceous shrub with the foliage of the heath and spiræa-like clusters