Friday, January 29, 2010

The Arrival of a New Species

A new plant has appeared in the yard. It stands about 2 feet tall and is growing beneath some established native holly cherries. It is the perfect example of how the biodiversity in our backyard is constantly changing.

While many species like the trapdoor spiders and slender salamanders have been here since
we moved in 16 years ago, others are gradually appearing as the yard becomes home to more native plants. Chocolate looper, western fence lizard and Allen's hummingbirds.

Some plants, like this non-native asparagus fern, have spread to other areas of the yard because the native hermit thrush that visits over the winter eats its berries and moves the seed in its droppings.

The native manroot, on the other hand, has moved into the yard from the surrounding hillside. The manroot or wild cucumber has a large seed pod that explodes with mature seeds helping the plant venture into new territory.

Within the last month I have noticed a new plant. This volunteer arrived via seed either carried by the wind or a visiting animal. The berries on it could be food for a bird, but they have the appearance of something that might be toxic to mammals. Each berry is about the size of a green pea.

I've been looking through California plant ID books and on-line sources, but I have yet to figure this one out. A friend thought it might be pokeweed, but it doesn't have a red stem and the berries are quite different. If you have an idea as to what this might be, please let me know.

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