After a first rain storm

We had our first big rainstorm of the year yesterday morning with 1.5 inches falling in about 8 hours. Squalls continued to blow through for the rest of the day, but about 10:30 I decided it was dry enough and went out to look at the trails (I did get completely drenched by two squalls, but it was certainly drier than it had been).

I have noticed after the small rains we’ve had so far this year that various species respond quickly, and I wanted to see how quickly.

I grew up with something I called “Resurrection Fern” (Polypodium polypodioides) which curls in on itself, appearing dead, in dry weather and then unfolds again into greenery after a rain. There are at least three ferns here which seem to have the same behavior, but I was only sure of one, so I wanted to check out the other two.

I know that Gold Back Fern (Pentagramma triangularis) does this and I suspected that California Lace Fern (Aspidotis californica) and Coville’s Lipfern (Cheilanthes covillei) did the same. With these ferns in dry conditions you can see the withered fronds which regreen in the rain.

Another fern Coastal Wood Fern (Dyopteris arguta) stays green through the summer drought (mostly) but only puts out fiddleheads once the rains come. And California Polypody (Polypodium californicum) dies back every summer and pops up new fronds with the rain.

Bushy Spikemoss (Selaginella bigelovii) also has the resurrection property; it’s not a fern though, it’s in a class (spikemosses — Isoetopsida) that I’d never heard of until I met this plant — vaguely related to the Lycopodiums. But I already knew about it’s behavior and didn’t really need to check.

And then there are the Liverworts, over the last few months these have seemed to appear out of nowhere after a rain, and then slowly fade back into nothing as the drought reasserted itself. I find them amazing because I see no sign of them in the dry times, even just a few weeks after a rain has perked them up.

The only trail I know that has all three “resurrection” ferns on it is Cold Spring (and it is well supplied with spikemoss and liverwort sites too). I hadn’t been on Cold Spring for a month before this so I suppose it is conceivable that plants had started and I hadn’t seen them, but I’ve been up and down San Ysidro trail (only one mile away) frequently (the last time being two days ago) and I know there were no Gold Back Ferns, or Polypodies or Liverworts and only dried spikemosses on it.

So I’m fairly certain these would not be on Cold Spring either.

Cold Spring trail is also mostly rock and sand, not mud, so it’s not destructive to run on it after a rain.

I saw Gold Back Fern first, and right nearby some liverworts. These two are pretty common and I was almost certain I’d find them. I know they respond quickly.

A little further up is the first patch of Lacefern. These had already uncurled once after a bit of rain in September, but they curled up again. However I’d only seen them a week after the rain so I didn’t know how quickly they responded. Last time I’d been by they looked like this:
Lacefern dormant
But today, less than 12 hours after the rain started they looked like
Lacefern today
Green shoots are unfurling. They aren’t new fiddleheads, they aren’t coiled, these are old fronds that have come back to greenness. They aren’t fully out yet though. This is the same spot a week after the rains in September:

As I went up the trail I found more sites with new green Lace Ferns — basically everywhere I remembered that I’d found Lace Ferns in the past, I found green Lace Ferns today.

Just below the powerlines I found a small patch of Polypody unfurling their fiddleheads. This is the species that dies back, losing its fronds in the summer. In this rain year I hadn’t seen any examples of it in the front country (I have seen some in the back country, which gets more rain).

Spikemoss all along the trail had perked up and was green. But I expected that.

I only know one place to look for Lip Ferns, there are a few patches right on top of Montecito Peak. These had also unfurled briefly in November and then furled up again in December. Today, however, they were fully open
Lipfern today
(Sorry about the picture quality, it was raining and my lens had fogged up). A month ago they looked more like this
Lipfern dormant
Again the difference comes within 12 hours of the start of the rain.

Lichens look very nice in rain:

Oak Moss Lichen
Goldspeck Lichen
No Idea
Powderhorn Lichen

So ferns can resurrect themselves very quickly it seems. And Polypody ferns can produce and unfurl fiddleheads quickly too (but as I only found one patch, very few of them choose to do so). Liverworts can also change from invisible, to green plants in a short period.

I saw no fiddleheads yet from Coastal Wood Fern though.

I saw one flowering plant that appeared to be responding to the rain: Chaparral Currant (Ribes malvaceum). This plant usually starts blooming in October (once in September), but it has been waiting for rain this year.

Nice clouds on the way down




One Response to “After a first rain storm”

  1. Adger Says:

    Nice contrasting photos.

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