Archive for September, 2018

The flowers that bloom in the Spring, tra-la.

September 10, 2018

I keep track of what is blooming on the Santa Barbara front country trails, and when it blooms. At the end of each year I make a graph to show how many species I found blooming across the year. My year runs from 1 Sept to 31 Aug, following the rain year used by Santa Barbara county.

The first shows the data for the past year, the next compares that year with the previous four.

Three big, related, events affected last year.
1) The drought. Most of California had enough rain in 2017 to escape drought; Santa Barbara did not. Santa Barbara is entering its 8th consecutive year of drought.
2) Because of the drought the Thomas Fire burned much of the SB front country. This had several effects (as far as my data collection was concerned), first it destroyed any plants blooming in December, second many trails were closed until May and I could not collect data on them as I normally do, and third the fire introduced a burst of species diversity.
3) Because of the fire we had the Montecito mudflood. This scoured out the local creeks, removing canopy trees and allowing sunshine into the creek bed. It also meant that seeds from higher elevations were washed into the creek bed where they sprouted.

Basically in 2018 we had no rain Sep-Dec, 2 inches in January, no rain in Feb, 7 inches in March and no rain after that. This meant that plants that normally start blooming in December did not bloom until March. It also meant that there was little growth in the burn area before March.

When the trails were opened in May regeneration after the fire was in full swing. July was very hot and species diversity declined on the trails.

But the biggest surprise to me lay in the creeks. The creeks did not dry up this year as they usually do. I attribute this to two factors
a) there are no nearby trees to transpire water in their leaves
b) normally water flows through the creek bed underground but above the bedrock. Now the creeks are cleaned out to the bedrock so the water can be seen to flow.

The creek beds are full of flowers not usually seen there. Some are normal creek flowers that have never before had enough sunlight to grow well, and others are plants that have washed down and sprouted and grown.

There are Minuluses (Monkeyflowers) currently blooming in the creeks which I’ve never seen in them before. Although the Phacelias are basically over on the trails, they are still blooming strongly in the creeks even though I usually don’t see them in creeks.

I also learned what it meant to be a fire-follower. For many years I watched a single patch of Ehrendorferia chrysantha flower and die back as the months passed. Then in 2015 there was a small fire and suddenly there were more plants. After the Thomas Fire rolled through there were plants all over the trails, and along the creeks (interestingly plants did not grow on the lower elevations of the trails but did grow in the adjacent creeks).