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Give Thanks, The Bay Area is Peaking

Fall color and Palm Trees, Berkeley (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

In the early 1960s, Burlingame and San Mateo High Schools held “The Little Big Game” – their long-standing rivalry – on Thanksgiving Day.

I know, because I attended those games each Thanksgiving Day (Yes, I am that old).

Walking to the games (held at BHS) was a memory-searing experience. Cars, decorated with crepe paper ribbons of red, white, orange and black – the competing schools’ colors – rolled past, their passengers shouting cheers through open windows.

The distant sounds of bands, each trying to outdo the other with a louder fight song, was carried through the crisp autumn air across Burlingame parks and streets.

Those streets and parks are still forested with the same ancient trees. Their thick branches, during Thanksgiving Week, are laden with heavy loads of auburn, crimson, orange, ginger, yellow, gold, emerald and tawny-colored leaves.

Their crowns are supported by massive trunks rising from feet so gnarled that they unearth and twist sidewalks into tilting slabs of concrete.

Following the game, I’d return along those uprooted paths, my chilled hands stuffed deeply into my jacket’s felt-lined pockets, to a warm home in Hillsborough and Thanksgiving dinner.

Those days influenced a lifelong affection for autumn. I still associate vibrant Peak color and a football game played on a dewy field with Thanksgiving Day.

Today, a reporter from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat called to ask if the fall color is unusually vibrant everywhere or just in Santa Rosa (north of the Bay Area). I couldn’t say with certainty, as this has been an autumn when nothing seems to follow what’s happened historically.

Early this autumn, stands of aspen were still green near 10,000′ in elevation, while others at 8,000′ were peaking. Some groves had levels of color change, from Just Starting to Past Peak, all at once.

From across the state, anxious calls and emails arrived, asking why 2017 was so different. I had begun to question  everything I’d come to expect about fall color.

Then, proof arrived that this is not the end of times. Photographs from Bay Area color spotters Sandy Steinman and Darrell Sano renewed my faith in the traditions of autumn by reminding me of the lustrous hues I saw in my salad days.

The San Francisco Bay Area is again peaking on time for Thanksgiving Day. Give thanks.

San Francisco Bay Area – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – The best color can be seen in the urban forests of Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Novato, San Rafael, San Francisco, Danville, Walnut Creek, Corte Madera, Lafayette, Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro, Burlingame, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Atherton, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Saratoga, Los Gatos, Campbell and San Jose. Peak of the Week.

California Grape, Berkeley (11/19/17) Sandy Steinman

Chinese pistache, Berkeley (11/19/17) Sandy Steinman

Persimmon, Berkeley (11/19/17) Sandy Steinman

California Grape, Berkeley (11/19/17) Sandy Steinman

Fall color and palm trees, Berkeley (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

Berkeley (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

Telegraph Ave., Berkeley (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

Near Telegraph Ave., Berkeley (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

Japanese maple, Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

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Fall Color Run

Gilman St., Berkeley (11/18/17) Sandy Steinman

Marathoners passed Peak fall color on their route along historic Telegraph Ave., through North Berkeley and the vibrant Fourth Street district, down Gilman Street, along the waterfront and back to downtown Berkeley this past weekend, while competing in the Berkeley Half Marathon.

Berkeley – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

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Mixed Display at UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia (11/12/17) Sandy Steinman

November is when California’s botanical gardens begin to peak.

This late show is because of where the gardens are located… in and near major metropolitan areas.

Perennial color spotter Sandy Steinman, editor of Natural History Wanderings, visited the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden yesterday morning to find the color very mixed.

He reported, “Some trees and shrubs, were past, some were at peak and some were still early.” His favorite section, the Asian area, “is still probably two weeks away from peak.”

That makes it a prime location to visit on “Orange Friday,” CaliforniaFallColor.com’s much more satisfying alternative to Black Friday.

What you’ll see now in Berkeley are flowers still blooming. This botanical garden is a tribute to California’s Mediterranean climate in that, Sandy notes, it is “one of the few places you can see Willows across the path from Cactus.”

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden – Patchy (10-50%)

Maple, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/12/17) Sandy Steinman

Blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium var. nigrum, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/12/17) Sandy Steinman

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/12/17) Sandy Steinman

Winged sumac, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/12/17) Sandy Steinman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asian Section, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/12/17) Sandy Steinman

Flowering dogwood, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/12/17) Sandy Steinman

Hawthorne, Crataegus pinnatifida, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/12/17) Sandy Steinman

Maple, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/12/17) Sandy Steinman

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East/West Redbud Debate

Western redbud, cercis occidentalis (11/10/17) Robert Kermen

Eastern redbud, cercis canadensis (11/7/17) John Poimiroo

When it comes to redbud, it’s debatable as to which is prettiest in autumn… East or West.

The eastern variety, cercis canadensis, displays bright gold and green heart-shaped leaves.

Whereas, western redbud, cercis occidentalis, display orange, red, gold and lime heart-shaped leaves.

Both are equally stunning.

Redbud is often overlooked by color spotters who give up looking for great fall color as soon as the forests of aspen have turned, but not Robert Kermen or me.

Robert found western redbud growing along Big Chico Creek in Chico’s Bidwell Park.

Cercis occidentalis are native to the Sierra and North Coast foothills. Native California indians used their barks for basket weaving and as a red dye. In springtime, their showy pink and magenta blossoms grow in clusters all over redbud shrubs that garnish foothill river canyons.

Western redbud, cercis occidentalis (11/10/17) Robert Kermen

Western redbud, cercis occidentalis (11/10/17) Robert Kermen

I have the pleasure of enjoying an Eastern redbud all year long. It grows in my side yard (El Dorado Hills) and provides an inspiring show when autumn light backlights the leaves in kelly green and yellow.

Eastern redbud are a popular landscape and street tree, appreciated for their shape, shade and autumn color (best from late October to early November).

Their heart-shaped leaves flutter in a soft autumn breeze, as if they’re beating.

OK, there’s no debate. East or West, who couldn’t love redbud with all they have to show?

Cercis Occidentalis Range – Wikipedia

Redbud – Peak (75-100%) – Their range forms an upside down fish hook, leading from the SF Bay Area north through wine country and the Redwood Highway, then bending east through Trinity County to the northern Sierra foothills, then south to the Southern Sierra. GO NOW!

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San Rafael’s Maidenhair

Gingko biloba, San Rafael (10/29/17) Anson Davalos

Each autumn, maidenhair coifs the streets of San Rafael with bright yellow.

The maidenhair of which we speak are the gingko biloba trees, a good choice to be planted along city streets, not just for their dazzling autumn color, but also because the trees don’t uproot sidewalks and roadways.

Gingko biloba is called a “living fossil,” as it is one of the world’s oldest living species, dating back 270 million years.

Extracts from the gingko are often associated with curing memory loss and sorts of ailments from dementia to Alzheimer’s disease to altitude sickness. Though, it’s never been established, scientifically, that they can do any of this.

And, while gingko seeds are sometimes found in Asian cooking, eaten in large quantities they can be hazardous.

Perhaps someday we will find beneficial uses for the gingko biloba beyond their beauty, though in the first two weeks of November they provide lovely color and form along the streets of San Rafael.

San Rafael – Near Peak (50-75%) – Maidenhair have coiffed the streets of San Rafael. GO NOW!

 

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September in Golden Gate Park

The Panhandle, GG Park, SF (10/1/17) Darrell Sano

Japanese Tea Garden, GG Park, SF (10/1/17) Darrell Sano

Golden Gate Park is one of America’s great central parks, well-used by The City’s residents and a great place to see bright color in autumn.

Bay Area color spotter Darrell Sano is better known for his shots of the east bay and Berkeley Hills, but he spent Saturday exploring Golden Gate Park.

His 9.1-mile walk led from the Hayes Valley to Fell Street along the panhandle, finding the park (as usual) alive with people, picnics, cyclers, runners and walkers in the outdoors enjoying the brilliant morning Autumn light.

Japanese Tea Garden, GG Park, SF (10/1/17) Darrell Sano

To Darrell, the park’s striking Conservatory of Flowers looked brilliant in the morning light, but he hastened to the Japanese Tea Garden via Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive and was delivered a treat.

There were juxtapositions of yellow gingko starting to turn, and Japanese tiger lily (Lilium leichtlinii) with red leaves to overlayed.

Inside the Tea Garden, color change was Just Starting (it’s an early November peak, normally), as the large ginkgo trees and most of the Japanese Maple still lacked color.

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco – Just Starting (0-10%)

 

 

 

Layers of color near the Music Concourse, GG Park (9/30/17) Darrell Sano

Mission palm and autumn blooms/color (9/30/17) Darrell Sano

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Here’s What’s Happening Around California

Quaking aspen, Hope Valley (9/15/17) Phillip Reedy

With just four days to go before the Autumnal Equinox, anxious readers have been asking, “What’s happening!?” So, we reached out to our network of color spotters and received these reports.

Bishop Creek Canyon – Just Starting to Patchy – Jared Smith of the Parcher’s Resort says it’s been “very odd weather wise” all summer. He said unseasonably warm August temperatures have delayed the emergence of fall color high up in Bishop Creek Canyon, west of Bishop (Inyo County). However, Jared says, “there’s been a marked difference in the past four days, since we began waking up to frost on the ground.” Still, the aspen are “super spotty,” though changing rapidly. Jared plans to provide a more extended report this week. So, stay tuned.

For those of you who’ve never had the delight of staying at Parcher’s, it’s at 9,200′ in elevation and surrounded by great fly fishing and aspen forests. The resort has so few cabins that it’s often difficult getting one, but here’s an insider tip… reserve a cabin there anytime after Mule Days (a Bishop tradition over the Memorial Day Weekend) during the first two weeks of June and you’ll be treated to a beautiful, uncrowded time of year. The fishing is out of this world, as is the welcome by Parcher’s knowledgeable staff. And, you’ll be able to see the aspen dressed in their freshest green.

Quaking Aspen, Hope Valley (9/15/17) Phillip Reedy

Hope Valley – Just Starting – Phillip Reedy found these jewels carried downstream in the Hope Valley. Phil cautions that it’s still to early to see much color, but if you’ll be there, look down to find colorful harbingers of what’s coming.

North Coast – Just Starting – Max Forster reports that bigleaf maple are beginning their show of gold and bright yellow along spots along the Redwood Highway (US 101).

Mendocino County – Just Starting – Koleen Hamblin reports that autumn marks the arrival of Mendocino County’s coveted candy cap, chanterelle, porcini and hedgehog mushrooms. Mendocino County is a hotspot of mushroom hunting with 3,000 varieties sprouting there, 500 of which are edible. CLICK HERE for a link to fungi foraging sites, tours, walks, rides, botanical gardens and cooking classes… all happening in Mendocino County during autumn. This is such a fun fall outing, that we plan a followup report on it.

Colorado – Patchy – North Coast color spotter Walt Gabler said a mid September drive through Colorado found lots of patchy yellow in the aspen. What’s happening in the Rockies is what should be happening in the Sierra, were it not for the hot August we experienced.

Lassen Volcanic National Park – Just Starting – Darrell Sano found lots of still-green aspen along the road to Butte Lake inside Lassen Volcanic National Park. The same was happening in Chico and along state highways 36, 44, 89, 128, 299, as he criss-crossed northern California.

Weaverville – Just Starting – Darrell reports that this scenic and historic town survived this past summer’s wildfires, though stretches of twisted metal and the burnt out remains of homes and cars left by the fire provide a surrealistic landscape through which to pass. Weaverville’s bigleaf maple and black oak are still standing by the Trinity River, so the color should be dramatic against the ashen landscape.

Lake/Napa/Sonoma Vineyards – Just Starting – Darrell tasted a little wine country, returning via Clear Lake to Pope Valley, seeing the lushly green vines along highway 29 and the Silverado Trail loaded with fruit.

Berkeley Hills – Just Starting to Patchy – The exotics are speckled with saturated eye candy in the Berkeley Hills says SF Bay Area color spotter Darrell Sano. He sends these shots taken while wandering the Berkeley Hills, yesterday.  Now, that’s a happy wanderer.

Berkeley Hills (9/17/17) Darrell Sano

Berkeley Hills (9/17/17) Darrell Sano

Sunflower Helianthus SP, Berkeley Hills (9/17/17) Darrell Sano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luculia Gratissima, Berkeley Hills (9/17/17) Darrell Sano

Dogwood, Berkeley Hills (9/17/17) Darrell Sano

Japanese Maple, UC Berkeley campus (9/17/17) Darrell Sano

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Darrell Sano Scores Several Firsts

Sunol Regional Wilderness (8/20/17) Darrell Sano

Color spotter Darrell Sano (dksfoto.smugmug.com) began his search for fall color “a bit early this year,” by hiking into the Sunol Regional Wilderness and along Alameda Creek this past Sunday, where he saw the first reported “hints of fall color.”

Sunol Regional Wilderness (8/20/17) Darrell Sano

Sunol Regional Wilderness (8/20/17) Darrell Sano

Darrell said the display wasn’t obvious. He had to search for it and hiked “off the trail to really see it.” Nevertheless, despite that temperatures were pushing 90 degrees, Darrell said he “still could sense the change of light,” and that autumn was approaching.

Should you visit this preserve in San Francisco’s east bay, you’ll find alder, willow and sycamore, though mostly evergreen coastal live oak and gray pine, plus blue oak, elderberry, madrone and … rattlesnakes.

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Sunol Regional Wilderness (8/20/17) Darrell Sano

Sunol Regional Wilderness (8/20/17) Darrell Sano

The well-fed snake seen in this photograph (far left) crossed a shaded trail toward Darrell.

Congratulations to Darrell who scores several color spotter firsts: the first to file a report in 2017, the first to report from the Sunol Regional Wilderness and the first to set a record for the hundred yard dash.

Rain Enhances Color

Oakland (12/10/16) Darrell Sano

Oakland (12/10/16) Darrell Sano

Oakland (12/10/16) Darrell Sano

Oakland (12/10/16) Darrell Sano

Oakland (12/10/16) Darrell Sano

Oakland (12/10/16) Darrell Sano

Winter (er, Fall) storms have been rolling across Northern California of late.  This past weekend, Darrell Sano awoke to the sound of pounding rain on his roof.

Likely rolling over in bed and groaning, Darrell awoke later that morning to find Oakland embraced by heavy fog and rain shrouding “all chances of any light passing through the winter (Fall, Darrell) mix”.

The rains continued through the afternoon.  

So, did Darrell use the day to check his home for leaks or clear gutters of leaves? No. He did as any great fall color spotter does… he went outside to take photos.

He wrote, “The sky was a giant soft box, gently illuminating leaves in the trees. Leaves knocked down by the rain covered cars, grass, sidewalks, you name it.

“Fall color transported to anything under it! The rain also produced another side effect, coating leaves in a lacquered, shiny surface.”

With the holiday rush in full swing, Oakland neighborhoods were quiet, calm, and speckled with harlequin colors.

Darrell ended his afternoon in the outdoors, soaked to the skin from the constant rain, but having spent one of the most enjoyable Saturday afternoons shooting in and around Oakland.

Oakland – Peak to Past Peak (YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!)

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Botanical Friday

Japanese maple, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

Japanese maple, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

Fall color has now descended to see level. See it at the state’s botanical gardens this week.

Erica bauera, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

Erica bauera, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

Forget-me-not, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

Forget-me-not, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

Erica glandulosa, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

Erica glandulosa, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bay Area naturalist and color spotter Sandy Steinman visited the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley to find it filled with late blooming South African flowers.

One could almost be convinced that they’re still on a southern hemisphere springtime calendar, from their November blooms. Nah.

Beautyberries, callicarpa mollis, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

Beautyberries, callicarpa mollis, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

The Botanic garden was also full of irridescent Japanese maples, and our favorite ornaments of the season… Beautyberries.

Japanese maple, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

Japanese maple, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

Japanese maple, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

Japanese maple, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

Japanese maple, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

Japanese maple, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/20/16) Sandy Steinman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re going this week, the garden closes at 2 p.m. on Wed. and will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.

But then, for fall color shopping pleasure, it reopens the following day, which we call “Orange Friday” (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.) or should we call it “Botanical Friday,” ’cause it sure ain’t black.

UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!