Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tidy Tips

Layia platyglossa: photo by Cliff Hutson
Layia platyglossa: photo by Cliff Hutson

Layia platyglossa

Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa, is an annual wildflower in the Asteraceae (Sunflower) family. It is native to California, but also found in Utah, and Arizona. Occurring in many different habitats, it is not uncommon to our Coast Ranges, Central Valley, Channel Islands, and southern coastal plain where it is a member of spring wildflower displays in meadows and grasslands in low elevation, dry environments . It is notably seen in Southern California on sandy flats along the coast.. Apparently tidy tips once covered vast expanses of the San Fernando Valley, but have been succeed by houses and malls.

Tidy tips blooms in Spring, typically flowering March to June. I think the common name suits it. Typical of the sunflower family, what appears to be a single flower is actually a cluster of small flowers. There are “ray flowers” that look like yellow petals, each with a  with neatly painted tip of white, which seems to have been trimmed with pinking shears. These flowers are complemented by numerous yellow “disk flowers” in the center of the floral head. Tufted, dandelion-seed-like fruits succeed flowering. The seeds of this plant are a favorite of birds. The leaves are are narrow, somewhat  rough-hairy with lower ones being lobed, while the upper ones are entire.

Layia is named for George Tradescant Lay (1799-1845), botanist on the HMS Blossom which visited California in 1827, while in search of the Northwest Passage.  Lay also botanized in Hawaii and Alaska, in addition to California. The genus name "platyglossa" comes from the Greek meaning "broad-tongued,"  referring to the ray flowers.

“Nature is garrulous to the point of confusion, let the artist be truly taciturn.” -  Paul Klee

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Field Notes

Field Notes Reprint

I have been a user of Field Notes brand notebooks for about a year. This began with a desire to purchase the Two Rivers quarterly edition,  which was contributing support to the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum.

"Two Rives": photo by Cliff Hutson
"Two Rivers": photo by Cliff Hutson
This led to my becoming a yearly subscriber to the quarterly editions, and even though I do not consider myself to be a collector, most of these seem too nice to use. So, for daily carry I purchase the classic Kraft Memo Books in the grid pattern. And, pocket one with ruled lines when actually working in the field.

Field Work: photo by Cliff Hutson
Field Work: photo by Cliff Hutson

Clearly, I think these notebooks are a damn fine product. But, the impetus for this post was a bonus shipment containing a 2-pack featuring Commemorative Reprints of “Butcher Orange” and “Butcher Extra Blue,” with my name printed on the belly band! (See photo at top.) That seems like one heck of a commitment on their part. This has had, what I assume to be the desired effect. I can probably now be classified as a loyal customer.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Brief History of Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus Trees photo by Cliff Hutson
Eucalyptus (1)
Originally uploaded by The Marmot

Gum Trees

“. . . they’re planting windbreaks of of gum trees. Eucalyptus-comes from Australia. They say the gums grow ten feet a year. Why don’t you try a few rows and see what happens? In time they should back up the wind a little and they make grand firewood.”

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

According to my 1988 copy of the Sunset Western Gardening Book, Eucalyptus are the most widely planted non-native trees in California and Arizona. It maintains that you can drive several hundred miles in parts of California and never lose sight of one. I am not sure that is the case any more for Southern California. I know that in my youth miles and miles of of Baseline and Foothill, from the foothill communities out through Claremont, Cucamonga,  Fontana, and beyond, were lined with eucalyptus. But, as vineyards and farms became housing developments and shopping malls the trees went with them.

The first eucalyptus came to California in the mid-1850s. Historical accounts vary, but according to tradition the first blue gums arrived in Southern California in 1865, when fur trapper-turned-farmer William Wolfskill planted five specimens outside his house -- the Hugo Reid Adobe -- on Rancho Santa Anita. Eventually, many thousands of acres were planted in the hope of getting rich by selling the wood to the railroads to be as ties for the rails. Companies advertised in the newspapers and issued booklets and broadsides describing to unsuspecting souls the beauty of California and how a fortune could be be made from the trees they could provide when you bought their land. Sadly, the only people who got rich were the companies selling the land and trees. It seems that, of the some 500 species of eucalyptus, the trees they sold were singularly unsuited to be used as hardwood railroad ties as the wood would not stay straight after being cut and cured.

Even so, many types of eucalyptus have easily adapted to our lands which parallel similar climate zones in their native Australia. Thus they thrive here in Southern California’s Mediterranean climate and in what I consider to be the considerably harsher environment of California’s Central Valley.

There used to be, and perhaps still is, an interesting difference in how the trees were planted in the two areas. Growing up down here I was used to seeing the trees planted along roadsides and in rows between fields, serving as windbreaks. However, in the Central Valley, along 99W near the town of Dunnigan for example, large farms would have seemingly hundreds of Eucalyptus all jammed in to one small corner of the property. The trees were planted so closely together that a cat would have had trouble walking between them. My friends from Davis were of the opinion that this was a clever way of scamming the homesteading requirements.

The government would give sections of land away in exchange for a promise to make certain improvements, including the planting of so many trees per acre. I am sure that the bureaucrats envisioned that these trees would be nicely spaced out over the land. That, of course, would interfere with the cultivation of crops and the farmers quickly figured out how to meet the letter of the law (if not the intent) while maximizing room for food or fodder.

The trees are still a popular landscape feature in many throughout the State. Although concerns about safety cloud its future -- its heavy falling limbs are known to be fatal, while in a fire its oil-rich crowns can become explosive -- the eucalyptus remains a fixture of Southern California's arboreal architecture.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Street Art

One of the simple pleasures in life is to grab a small camera and walk around town to see what art one can see.


photo by Cliff Hutson

photo by Cliff Hutson

photo by Cliff Hutson

photo by Cliff Hutson


photo by Cliff Hutson

photo by Cliff Hutson

photo by Cliff Hutson