Monday, November 2, 2009

What Reeks in Mission Viejo Lately?

During the last week, have you noticed a sewer-like smell in the Saddleback Valley? It turns out all of Mission Viejo has been stinky the last few days, and according to the OC Register, the reason has to do with... microscopic organisms. In this case, a species of algae, producing the very same gas that emanates from sewage: hydrogen sulfide. (Thus the "sewer gas" smell.)

The foul-smelling algae has been surfacing in the Upper Oso Reservoir. The Upper Oso Reservoir is a man-made lake near the intersection of Los Alisos Blvd. and the 241 tollroad. (The reservoir was constructed by building a dam across Oso Creek, a creek which starts in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains and flows down toward Laguna Niguel. It's the same creek that feeds into Lake Mission Viejo).

You can read more here, at the OC Register's website.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dozen Small Tsunami Waves Hit Orange County

Read the whole story here:

Above: The mouth of the Santa Ana River, where the river lets out into the Pacific at Huntington Beach.

Scientist Mark Legg, of Huntington Beach, explain what just happened while standing in the Santa Ana River:

(all sources, OC Register)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Follow-Up on Tin Mining in Orange County

Chris Jepsen over at O.C. History Roundup (a great blog, by the way--highly recommend you subscribe to it!) as of April 22, 2009 has a very informative post on this very topic, replete with fascinating photographs. Read it here:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Spring Wildflower Season Begins...

As a Midwesterner (but also someone still relatively new to admiring plants), last year I only began to notice spring wildflowers by around April or May.

That's when you'd expect wildflowers to begin appearing in Illinois, after all. And while it's true that spring wildflower season in southern California does not reach its height until approximately the same time, there are signs of spring as soon as the first rains arrive. This season, that meant as early as November.

For me it was an odd sight. Grasses began to green. The humidity was higher than usual: on Thanksgiving Day, we actually turned on our air conditioning. By Christmastime, leaving our apartment complex at 5am for the flight to Chicago, my wife and I heard the chorus of treefrogs from a pond in the distance.

By January, in the hills I saw the youngest sprouts of wild cucumber (more interestingly known as manroot), and in a few cases, even some small fruits already developing. I witnessed tiny ferns growing in Baker Canyon on the Irvine Ranch, and giant ferns profusely scattered along the oak- and sycamore-shaded slopes of Trabuco Creek.

Today, in February, I saw Fuchsia-flowered gooseberry (Ribes speciosum, below) well in bloom. Did they begin blooming as early as January? You'll have to ask either a more observant flower-enthusiast than I, or a hummingbird. For the hummingbirds, this plant is the seasonal equivalent of an early breakfast.

While the flowers strongly resemble those of fuchsia, careful examination allows you to see it's actually in the currant family--as in the berry, like blackcurrant. (Examination need not actually be too close, as the many spines on its stem will attest just fine to its non-fuchsia status.)

California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), whose tender but pointed, linear leaves stay green even throughout the dry season, has also begun to flower. During the dry season buckwheat flowers are still present as a dried, remnant cluster of dark red (seen in background, below).

They're quite pretty even then, but it takes spring to remind you of just how pretty buckwheat is when in bloom. Hopefully the bees are noticing as well, and making that delicious buckwheat honey of which I'm craving as I write this.

Buckwheat flowers themselves are nearly as striking as the pattern in which they grow off the stalk. I lack the botanical terminology to name this growth pattern, but the picture linked to here is worth those words.

And lastly, in the understory of a grove of live oak trees, I encountered a flower that was new to me: "Milkmaids", or California cardamine (Cardamine californica, below). The criss-cross, or "X" shape of the four petals, should have been my immediate tip off that this flower is a type of Mustard, that enormous (~3,700 species) order of flowering plants. More specifically, the Cardamines are the genus otherwise known as Bittercress, whose taproot and prolificness make them an annoyance of commercial nursery growers. These are among our very earliest of bloomers, arriving as early as December if enough rain has been present (Introduction to the Plant Life of Southern California).