Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/788

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
770
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
CALIFORNIAN DRY-WINTER FLOWERS.

By Professor BYRON D. HALSTED.

THE writer spent three months of the winter of 1886-'87 in and around the cities of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara in Southern California. The previous summer had been no exception to the rule, and the whole country received no rain from the last of April until the close of the year. In fact, the long-expected rains did not come until the middle of February, and we left in the midst of the raging floods. The wild plants, therefore, which were in bloom from December until February, had not felt the invigorating influences of water from the clouds for nearly ten months.

It is the purpose of this paper to call attention to the winter-blooming plants found upon the highlands, or at least not growing along the streams or within easy reach of water coming from any natural springs or other perennial sources of moisture. The roadways, for example, during the winter, were deep with dust, and every passing breeze carried the impalpable powder in a fine cloud over all surrounding objects.

The first plant bearing blossoms that attracted our attention was the western bindweed (Convolvulus occidentalis, Gray). This perennial, twining herb seemed to flourish in the driest earth, and hung out its white or purplish flowers to catch the dust as well as the winter sunshine. Unlike its first cousin, the common morning-glory, as we see it in the East, this wild convolvulus keeps its flowers open the whole day through, and, for aught we know, for several days in succession. This would only be in keeping with other living things in that quiet, lazy climate, where there is no real winter, or the activity exhibited among plants in localities where they must prepare for impending frosts. A very common species in flower was Galium angustifolium, Nutt. This is one of the larger "bed-straws," and may be found in almost any thicket climbing to the height of three or more feet over the dusty and leafless branches of the surrounding shrubbery. The flowers are very small and inconspicuous, but are present in large numbers. The fact that this is one of the polygamo-diœcious species adds interest to it. Botanists have puzzled over it to some extent on account of there being male and female plants, which differ somewhat in general appearance. Upon this species it was interesting to observe the long, slender, and apparently lifeless stems from which sprang at frequent intervals the green, leaf-bearing branches with their large clusters of small flowers. There was an adaptation to circumstances, and young shoots were developed where they would do the most good. One species of the "painted cup" {Castilleia parviflora, Bon.) was occasionally met with in the open grounds, but it looked the worse for