Showing posts with label plants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label plants. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos
Photo of Elfin Forest from Boardwalk, Los Osos, California, © B. Radisavljevic

The Elfin Forest is a natural area in Los Osos. It's named for its "pigmy" live oaks which have been stunted by growing where they do. The forest looks out over the southeastern shore of Morro Bay and covers about 90 acres. 

Should You Visit the Elfin Forest?

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos
Sign at Entrance of Elfin Forest, Los Osos, Photo © B. Radisavljevic


Every traveler or tourist has unique interests. I, for example, am much happier walking a nature trail than I would be walking in downtown San Francisco. I know, because I've done both. I'd rather be surrounded by nature and have a camera in my hand.

One winter day we decided to play tourist while out doing errands. We had time to kill after our medical appointment in San Luis Obispo. It was too soon to take advantage of the lunch special at our favorite restaurant (now closed).  After twenty years in this area, we’d never stopped in Los Osos. I thought it was time. I wanted a photo walk, and Hubby couldn't take his usual swim at the gym because we were away. We both needed exercise. We decided to go see the Elfin Forest in Los Osos.

Before we left for San Luis Obispo that day, I'd checked the sites that listed tourist attractions. Although the AAA Tour Book for Northern California did not consider this attraction worth mentioning, I had passed signs along the road before. So I looked it up and discovered we could walk the entire trail through the pigmy oak forest in less than an hour. We decided to see what was there and walk off a bit of the buffet lunch we would eat afterwards.

We took the Los Osos Valley Road exit west from the 101 Freeway in San Luis Obispo. Below is a scene we passed on Los Osos Valley Road once we were out of the commercial area. I made my husband stop the car so that I could snap the photo I used in this canvas print. It's also available as a greeting card, poster, postcard, and iPad Mini case. In fact, once you are on the Zazzle site, you can transfer the design to any product you choose.



What We Saw at the Elfin Forest

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos
Shot from Elfin Forest, Los Osos, Photo © B. Radisavljevic


As mentioned above, we toured the Elfin Forest in winter, but Los Osos is on the coast and the climate is mild. The weather was just right for taking a walk outdoors -- not too hot or too cold. But the season did give us a different experience than we would have had in spring or summer. We were still experiencing the drought of 2014 when we took our walk, as well. 

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos - View of Estuary
Estuary, with Morro Rock in Distance, © B. Radisavljevic


 I took the photo above from a lookout on the trail called Siena’s view. It looks out toward Morro Bay, and you can see Morro Rock off in the distance. Do you see how the drought has affected the estuary?

This is another view of the estuary from the boardwalk, looking toward Baywood Park. I made a puzzle of it on Zazzle with the same design as the postcard below. The text is easy to remove with the customize button.




Fauna I Saw During My Visit


I'm sure there were probably some fauna around, but I didn't see anything in the Elfin Forest itself the day I visited. The creatures must have seen me first. In other reviews I've read, people mentioned seeing rabbits, lizards, and even a fox. All I saw was birds. In one of the photos above there was either a hawk or a vulture in the sky. There were many water birds I could see in the estuary from the boardwalk. To get a good view one would need binoculars. This is what I was able to capture with a zoom lens from quite a distance. It would have been better if I'd been zeroing in on the birds, but at the time I was more interested in the overview.

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos- Water and Shore Birds in Estuary

Many people enjoy bird watching from the Elfin Forest. I recognize the ducks, but not the birds with longer legs. Here is a complete list of the birds that hang out here. Unfortunately, there aren't any photos. If anyone recognizes the two wading birds near the center of the photo below, please let me know in the comments.




Flora of the Elfin Forest


I have seen photos taken in spring when the forest's many plants are in bloom, but not much was blooming in January. I did see coyote brush in bloom. You can learn more about coyote brush here - Coyote Brush: Blessing or Curse.

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos- Coyote Brush
Coyote Brush in Bloom,  © B. Radisavljevic
I did find something else in bloom, but I haven't been able to identify it yet. I'm quite sure it's a berry, but the blooming times and/or leaves didn't match what seemed to make sense from the list I checked of the flora of this forest. Or maybe my eyes are bad. If you recognize it, please let me know in the comments. 

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos- Flora
Mystery Plant in Bloom at End of January,  © B. Radisavljevic



Poison Oak also lurks around the Elfin Forest. Be careful of it, especially in winter when it's harder to see. In the photo below, the very bright leaves are oak leaves. The leaves that show some red are poison oak. Do you see their bare stems? Those are just as dangerous to touch as the leaves are. Sometimes in winter there aren't any leaves to warn you. So stay on trails and don't touch bare stems unless you know it's not poison oak. Find more help with poison oak identification in this article: Oak and Poison Oak in Photos - Can You Tell the Difference? 


The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos: Poison Oak
Oak and Poison Oak in Winter,  © B. Radisavljevic
The pigmy oaks are live oak trees that are stunted by their environment and can't grow as tall as the live oak trees you find in other places. It appears many of them are dead or barely alive. Some appear to be skeletons offering a place for Spanish moss to establish themselves. Below you see one such tree with what appear to be suckers or fresh baby branches near the bottom of the tree. A healthy tree sits to the right displaying branches full of deep green leaves. 

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos: Pigmy Oak and Spanish Moss
Pigmy Oak in Winter with Spanish Moss,  © B. Radisavljevic
To get things into perspective, here are some photos to help you gauge the size of the plants in relationship to the boardwalk. Usually when one thinks of walking through a forest, one imagines looking up at the trees which block the view of what's beyond them. The Elfin Forest is different. Everything that grows there is short -- elf-size. Here's my husband, a giant among the pygmies.

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos: Hubby on Boardwalk
Giant Among the Pigmies,  © B. Radisavljevic


But sometimes the trees and shrubs along the boardwalk do grow higher, as did the oaks in the previous photo. The photo below shows that they can often go over one's head and block the surrounding view.

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos
A Tunnel through the Elfin Forest,  © B. Radisavljevic
There are many other photos of the flora that I snapped from the boardwalk, but there is not room for all of them here.

Amenities in the Elfin Forest


There really aren't many to speak of. There are no restrooms or drinking fountains nearby. If you plan to stay long, bring water. Most people would not spend more than an hour here. The boardwalk loop is only 4/5 of a mile long. It is flat and wheelchair accessible. There are several benches for resting along the way. Here is one resting place. You can find out where the nearest restrooms are here.

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos: A Resting Place
Benches along Boardwalk at the Elfin Forest,  © B. Radisavljevic
Some benches like these, do have backs.

The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos: A Resting Place
More Benches along Boardwalk at the Elfin Forest,  © B. Radisavljevic


Along the walk there are also signs to point out attractions or help identify some of the plants. Some just let you know where you are on the walk. I showed one such sign near the beginning of this post. Although sometimes as you go through a "tunnel" you may feel like you are in a maze, there is little chance you will get lost.

The Los Osos / Morro Bay Chapter of Small Wilderness Area helps maintain the Elfin Forest and also sponsors nature walks on the third Saturday of each month. You can find more information about visiting the Elfin Forest here.  If you are ever driving south on Highway 1 or 101 from Paso Robles or Cambria or points north, The Elfin Forest is a quick place to stop and stretch your legs and get a dose of nature. 

Hungry people can take a short drive to the San Luis Obispo Costco afterward for an inexpensive snack. Pizza, hot dogs, frozen treats, and more are available to the public -- not just Costco members. Purchase the food outside the store and eat at the picnic tables provided. There are also several restaurants nearby.  


If you are in the area with some time to kill and would like to take a quick nature walk or do some birdwatching, stop by the Elfin Forest. It's also a good place to walk your dog. And admission is free. I plan to go back in a couple of days when we again have a medical appointment. I'm hoping to find all the plants that were dormant in January in bloom in June.
The Elfin Forest in Los Osos, California: A Review in Photos:
This collage was created with Fotojet. See review by Contributor Dawn Rae

Related Posts


Dawn Rae reviewed one of my favorite places that also appears to be one of hers -- Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. She has done a lot of hiking there. I've only been there for a couple of hours at a time on my way to and from other historical sites. If you're ever near it, don't hesitate to stop and explore.

Contributor Mary Beth Granger reviews some tips for taking photos while hiking.


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Sunday, March 10, 2019

Two Durable Plants that Have Survived for Over Twenty Years

After reading this article on Houzz about a plant that's hard to kill, I realized, heck that's the plant I have! It all makes sense now.

The photos on this page feature the two plants we've had in our family room for over twenty years.

I haven't been the best plant caretaker. Nobody in the house has.

These plants have even withstood a move from our previous home to this one. Yep, they're durable and as the article on Houzz says, hard to kill.

The Houzz article only references the Pothos plant. That's the leafy green plant positioned to the left in the photos. The plant on the TV stand is our spider plant. We've owned it for so long that I had to confirm it was indeed a spider plant.

Plants for the Forgetful and Neglectful

The Spider Plant and the Pothos Plant have both survived my flawed gardening thumb. But they're still my babies. Over the years I've learned to adopt a kinder loving nature towards them. I no longer ignore or forget them. They've taught me to be a better gardener.

As we get older I believe we become drawn to things that grow. Maybe it's when the kids are all grown-up that we itch to help another living thing grow again. I have to say that's kinda what happened to me.
These plants were patient, they knew I would eventually come around.
What I Did Right

These are the few basic things I did do correctly without knowledge or effort:
The flowers in the Pothos Plant aren't Real
The Spider Plant is Beside the TV

  1. I tried several locations in the home until I found the spot that gave them the right amount of light. They're by a window that gets the morning sun.
  2.  My mom once told me to never over water your plants. So I only water them about once a week. They almost dry out completely before their next watering. I have no idea if that's what these plants need, that's just how I roll.
  3.  Do plants like being close to each other? I dunno. But if they could talk I think they'd say they're family. So yah, for that crazy reason, they're positioned fairly close to each other.
  4.  Once in a while I clean up dead dry leaves.
  5.  I ask them how they're doing from time to time. Hubby cracks up.
What I Did Wrong

These are the few things I've done wrong.
  1.  I used to forget to water them for weeks. My poor baby plants. I no longer do that!
  2.  I never fertilize them. Yah I know, I should.
  3.  I've never transplanted them. 
  4.  I should probably freshen up their soil, so yah, I've never done that.
  5.  I used to keep them in a place where they didn't get enough light. However, that was just a guess on my part. They seem happy by the morning sun window.
A Few Things I Love About These Plants
  1.  The Pathos and the Spider plant clean the air
  2.  The Spider Plant is said to be an EMF (electric magnetic field) cleaner. I have it positioned near the tv for that reason as well.
So don't hesitate to become the mother or father of either the Spider or Pothos plants. In my book, they're durable and easy.

If you're looking for a little more guidance on plants and gardening, a fellow reviewer Olivia suggests the Old Farmer's Almanac, there's even a farmer's almanac calendar. Pretty cool.




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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review

The Best Weed Field Guide for the West I've Seen


I just discovered the best field guide I've ever seen for identifying weeds here in California. I'll finally be able to properly name all those I find and photograph while out walking and on my own property. The book was sitting on the shelf at my local public library. At almost an inch and a half thick, Weeds of the West includes almost every weed I've seen in my area. It's published by the Western Society of Weed Science. Its seven authors all have advanced degrees and specialize in weeds. I'm reviewing the 5th Edition published in 1996, but there are later editions I haven't yet seen.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
Wild Cucumber with Grasses and Mustard, Photo © B. Radisavljevic


What I Love about This Reference Book


It's more like what's not to love? The picture quality is excellent. The arrangement of listings is logical. The descriptions provide all the information farmers, campers, gardeners, or hikers need to identify the weeds they encounter. Finally, the pages at the back make everything easier to find and understand.

The Photographs

Poison Hemlock

There are three photographs for each plant listed. Let's look first at the poison hemlock plant listed on pages 22-23 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West. It's a weed found almost everywhere in San Luis Obispo County that's not cultivated. Each listing has three images like this.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review. This book has all one needs to identify weeds growing in the Western United States.
My scan of pages 22-23 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West (Western Society of Weed Science)
First we see the overview of the plant in bloom in its habitat. We can compare its height to the other weeds near it. The opposite page shows a close-up portion of the stem, covered with the purple spots that help one distinguish poison hemlock from similar looking plants. We also get a close-up of the leaf. It's a much more detailed look that one would get from the overview shot.

In Roadside Plants of California, Thomas Belzer has given poison hemlock a playing-card size color photo of the top of one flowering stem. It has a good shot of the flowers and a couple of leaves, but the descriptive paragraph doesn't even mention the purple spots. It does mention that Wild Celery is a near look-alike that is not poisonous. Weeds of the West does not mention that.

The Sunset Western Garden Problem Solver's photos of  poison hemlock are so small they are almost useless. You get an overall idea of what one section of leaves and flowers looks like, but no view of the entire plant or its surroundings. You have to rely on the written description of the purple spots because the inset photo is only an oval of 1" x 1½."  It's a good book as far as it goes, but it's purpose is more to help gardeners identify the weeds so they can manage them.

The large full-page photo in Weeds of the West shows as much of an overview as possible, and if a plant is too tall for a photo to hold it all, you will see as much of it as possible for identifying its form. The two smaller photos on the opposite page under the description zero in on the two most important plant characteristics for identifying it. For poison hemlock you see the purple stem and a leaf. For western waterhemlock the smaller photos are a branch with leaves and a split distinctive root, its most poisonous part.

Matt Ritter in California Plants and Plants of San Luis Obispo County has photos with the same high quality, but the book lacks the overview shot. The book also has fewer plants included than Weeds of the West, since it's more specialized. See Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter for a more thorough review of his field guides.

Jointed Goatgrass

When I work in my garden, it seems the weeds that bother me the most are the grassy weeds. So far I've had only the Ritter books and the Sunset Western Garden Problem Solver to help me identify these pests, and they haven't helped as much as I'd hoped. But Weeds of the West identifies at least twice as many of these grassy weeds as the other books. I'll admit it covers more than just California, and that may be part of the reason why.

My scan of pages 408-409 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West (Western Society of Weed Science)
Look at the right page of the photo above. The top photo on that page shows the part of the plant where the leaf joins the stem -- something people like me might not even notice. (I do now.) This leaf juncture often provides key identifying information, but many books only show the grass blades or spikes and the flowering part of the plant (inflorescence) or seeds with or without a pod. I like that the photos in this book show a close-up of this juncture when important. The text also points it out so I know what I should look for.

The Arrangement of the Listings


Weeds of the West entries are arranged by plant families. Many other books are arranged by habitat. Both arrangements are useful, but I find the arrangement by family helps me see that plants I never would have suspected are related to each other. Since related plants don't always need the same growing conditions or share a habitat, having them together in a book section make the relationships more obvious. 

If you look at the tops of my scanned pages above, you will see the left page has the common name for the weed in boldface at the top. Under it is the scientific name in italics. On the page on the right we see the common name again followed by the plant family's scientific name. Under that is the common name for the plant family. I'm not surprised that poison hemlock is related to wild carrot and wild caraway. I am surprised that the bull thistle is related to the sunflower. I'm amazed at all the cousins the sunflower has.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
This photo I took in my yard features the wild cucumber (also called manroot.) Weeds of the West will help me  identify the wild grassy weeds that surround it. Photo © B. Radisavljevic


The Text Descriptions


The text that accompanies the photographs in Weeds of the West provides any other information it takes to identify the plant. It points out where to look for what in the photos. It tells you where the plant is native, its size, and its growth habit -- tall and erect  or prostrate and sprawling. Words describe the color and the odor of each plant part if it's a factor in identifying it..

Leaf descriptions include whether they are dull or shiny, how their edges look (smooth or sawtoothed), whether they are divided and if so how many times, how they are arranged on the stem (opposite or alternating), and anything special about how they are attached. Flowers and seeds are also thoroughly described.

The last paragraph explains where you are likely to find the plant (habitat.) It also mentions any other important  information you may need to know. Is the plant poisonous to humans or animals? If it's poisonous, does it resemble closely a plant that is safe?

Handy Helps in the Back of the Book


Many listings use terms laymen may not understand. So there is a Glossary at the beginning of the back matter. Next is an  easy-to-use "Key to the Families in Weeds of the West." It describes what the plant families have in common and what distinguishes them from one another. The final  aid to readers is an index that includes both common and scientific names.

Used editions of this book vary in price.

Should You Buy This Book?


If you live in the American West and garden or spend a lot of time outdoors where wild plants grow, I think you would find this book a helpful addition to your home library. I take a lot of photo walks in parks and I also garden. I like to be able to identify what I photograph, and most books don't supply the information I need. This book is more complete than any of the others I have seen or have on my shelf. The print is large enough for even me to read easily, and the publisher did not skimp on the photos.

 There are bound to be a few mistakes in a book this large -- 630 pages. I don't have the scientific background to judge the facts, but the authors certainly have academic credentials that indicate they know these plants well. I did find one omission quite by chance. I wanted to see if Queen Anne's Lace was listed in the book, since I hadn't seen it with others in the parsley family. It was in the index, but the name of the plant on the page I was directed to only said  "Wild carrot" with Daucus carota L. under it. Nothing in the page for Wild carrot mentioned that Queen Anne's Lace was another common name for it. I had to find that out on the internet.

As soon as I can afford it I will probably buy this book. I'm interested in nature and especially in wild plants, so for me it would be worth it. I like the convenience of a handy reference book when I have a question.



Buyers should be aware that this is not exactly a field guide. It's too large and heavy to take hiking. It does, though, draw attention to parts of plants you should remember to photograph to identify at home later. I have never realized how important it is to observe how the leaves are attached to the stem, for example. If you have found other books for identifying wild plants too limited, I believe you will find this book is different. I believe it's worth buying for the presentation and completeness of the information.




As I was finishing this review I saw another book that may be even more complete. If you're interested in California weeds, you may also like Weeds of California and Other Western States (in two volumes.) I used the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon to check it out and it, too, looks like a book I'd like to own.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
Photo © B. Radisavljevic

More I've Written about Common California Weeds


Poison Hemlock: Lovely and Lethal: a photo essay with original photos from my property and my nature walks.

Milk Thistle and  Hemlock: The Prickly and the Poisonous: A Photo essay that shows both these common western weeds at all stages of growth so you can easily identify them.

Oak and Poison Oak in Photos: Can You Tell the Difference?: This will help you recognize poison oak  during all stages of growth and in any season. Our local police department asked to use parts of this to help train their search and rescue teams.

Weeds I Love to Hate: Photos of my worst weed enemies and why I hate them

Vetch Runs Wild: Short post from my gardening blog with many photos of vetch I took while hiking

The California  Weeds You Need to Pull Now! If you get them while they are young they won't cause as much trouble later.





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Friday, June 13, 2014

I am the Weekend Gardener Contributor

Hi, I'm known as GrammieO and I am the Weekend Gardener Contributor.


Let me put this right out there:  I am not happy unless I have some dirt stuck under my fingernails at some point in the day! 
  
There I’ve said it.  Now this doesn’t mean that I go around with dirty hands or anything like that, but the feel of the earth on my hands is like a salve that takes all my troubles away.
  
Short of Parenthood, I don’t know of any other miracles that we are allowed to partake in.  Parenthood lets you (two) become the makers of a new life. 
  
Gardening lets you take a little seed, with all its Genetic Materials wrapped tightly inside it, and nurture it to life as a plant, that will bear many more seeds just like itself.
  
Gardeners help to color the world with their own special brand of flowers and help feed our families and friends with the abundance, from our gardens.
  
I have been a gardener for a very long time.  My parents started us off, by making us help weed the vegetable gardens.  Our home grown tomatoes were the best!  While I was young, I’m not sure that I had the same appreciation for getting my hands dirty.  Over the years though, that has changed.
  
I love to garden, help other people learn about gardening, encourage others to try something new and share all the beauty that is out there.  Come join me and a great bunch of others, as we learn and grow, not only our gardens, but also our minds, bodies and souls.
  
After all,  I think that was how I was made the Weekend Gardener. I have two lists of gardening tools and products that need to be reviewed and I would welcome you to join in the fun.  Tell us what you like about any one of the things you see on either list, write about your experiences and I will make sure that everyone sees what you have to offer.  I will promote your writings on Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest so that all your great ideas will be shared.


Gardening has been a passion of mine for the last 40 years or more. Now don't start adding the years to figure out how old this Grammie is....cause I'll tell you!  I will be 60 this coming 4th of July, so get the fireworks ready.

I love to share gardening ideas, tools, plants, best practices and anything else that makes gardening more enjoyable.

When I find something I like, I share it on our Weekend Gardeners Page on Facebook

I will also Pin it on Pinterest


And not to be forgotten Google +




If you have something that would interest other Gardeners, please don't hesitate to reach out and let me know.  I'm only too happy to spread around the beauty that I find in nature.

Come and check out some of the best ways to make things grow in your garden, right here!

As well as having dirt under your fingernails, you will end up with so many interesting ways to make your garden a beautiful place.


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Review This is Dedicated to the Memory of Our Beloved Friend and Fellow Contributor
We may be apart, but You Are Not Forgotten

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