Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Signs of Summer

On the way up the mountain to piano lessons, we didn't see a single California tortoiseshell butterfly this week. We saw a few California sisters, a tiger swallowtail, and a fluttering white butterfly. We also saw a goodly number of dragonflies, but none of the millions of tortoiseshells that covered the mountain last week.

While looking for butterflies, however, we saw leaves fluttering down from the madrones and tanoaks.

When we got home, we found that our own small madrones were dropping their leaves, too.

Madrone leaves on the driveway

We have many varieties of evergreen broadleaf trees here in the coastal mountains. They leaf out during the rainy season and then drop their old leaves in the early part of the summer drought. They seem more adapted to our climate than the riparian maples and sycamores, who drop their leaves at the beginning of the rainy season.

The madrone is a thirsty tree, like the maples and sycamores. Its evergreen leaves allow it to do most of its growing when rain is plentiful. Dropping its leaves at the beginning of the dry season allows it to grow further away from water than its riparian cousins.

One of our small madrones (Arbutus menziesii)

I tried to get a picture of a tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflora) across the road, but it was mixed in with redwoods, douglas fir, maples, and hazel, so it's hard to make out the tanoak.

The live oaks and bay laurel aren't dropping their leaves yet, and neither are the redwoods and douglas firs. The redwoods will hang onto their leaves until their cones are a little more mature, and the others will start dropping leaves as the weather heats up.

I had a good vantage of our Grandmother Oak tree, so I decided to include a picture of her.

Grandmother Oak, a healthy coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia)

It's really hard to get a picture of a tree around here without other trees getting in the way.

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