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Early Dormancy

Blue Oak are peaking early in the Sierra Foothills (7/18/21) John Poimiroo

Blue oak (Quercus douglassii) are native to the hot, dry slopes of California’s interior valleys. They survive drought through a series of mechanisms, including the blue, waxy layer atop their leaves which helps reduce water loss in summer.

They need very little water. Blue oak will survive on 15 – 30″ of rain a year. Too much water is what kills them. Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories lists excessive watering as the leading killer of established Blue oak in the landscape.

In a normal year, Blue oak leaves turn golden yellow and pastel pink and orange during fall. However, in hot, dry years like this one, leaves achieve early dormancy, turn color suddenly and drop. That’s happening this week in the Sierra foothills where suddenly Blue oak are near peak.

  • Blue Oak, Sierra Foothills (Near Peak – 50-7%) GO NOW!
Early Dormancy, Blue Oak, El Dorado HIlls (7/18/21) John Poimiroo
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Azusa Splash

San Gabriel River, Azusa (1/12/21) Steve Shinn

Steve Shinn was exploring the San Gabriel River this past week when to his surprise a splash of remnant peak color brightened the stream above Azusa. He returned to Long Beach finding Anna’s hummingbirds also brightening his yard.

Anna’s hummingbird, Long Beach (1/13/21) Steve Shinn
  • San Gabriel River – Past Peak, You Missed It.
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Happy New Year!

Frémont cottonwood, Desert fan palms, Cottonwood Springs, Joshua Tree NP (12/26/20) Mark Hanning-Lee

Sometimes, the best Christmas presents arrive late. Mark Hanning-Lee waited until the new year to send these shots, taken at Joshua Tree National Park on the Christmas weekend.

The Deserts is the last of California’s regions to peak and then, you have to know where the few winter deciduous trees can be seen. Hanning-Lee found peak Frémont cottonwood at Cottonwood Springs a short distance from the parking lot, scoring a first report for Joshua Tree NP. Before leaving for Joshua Tree, Mark watched the moon rise over an ornamental pear in Irvine.

  • The Deserts – Past Peak, You Missed It.
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Holiday Nuts

California black walnut, Santa Monica Mountains (12/23/20) Peter Asco

I received more than my share of gift nuts this holiday season, including this snap of a California black walnut at peak in the Santa Monica Mountains sent by Peter Asco. He writes, “Despite wind, low temperatures and winter’s arrival,” … this full color tree is “a lesson on hope, faith, and the resilience of nature.”

  • Santa Monica Mountains – Past Peak You Missed It.
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See You Next Autumn, Dude

Frost, Black oak, Frémont cottonwood and bigleaf maple, Castle Crags (12/3/20) Philip Reedy

It was unseasonably warm on the final day of autumn. Temperatures rose to the high 50s in Sacramento and were predicted to rise to 65° in Downieville where Philip and Jane Reedy were headed to take fly fishing photographs.

However, when they arrived at Phil’s favorite “secret spot” along the North Yuba River, he was surprised to find winter’s icy finger frosting the last fallen leaves of autumn.

Phil got his shot, and I got to share a frozen finish to fall color.

Today is the first day of winter. That means CaliforniaFallColor.com has stopped reporting fall color regularly, until next September. So, I’ll see you next autumn, dude.

Frost, white alder, bigleaf maple, North Yuba River (12/20/20) Philip Reedy
  • California – Past Peak, You Missed It.
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Honey and Jelly

Honey and Jelly are being found in the Shasta Cascade.

You might consider that statement to be odd for a site that specializes in fall color, but the honey and jelly being described here are fungi. Late rain has caused the late appearances of honey and jelly fungi, and Redding color spotter Gabriel Leete found them at Anderson River Park on a Sunday mushroom hunt.

As December rains arrive, more fungi will appear. Gabriel estimates that “Blewits, Coprinopsis and other ink caps, late fall oyster, Bolbitius, and more will be popping very soon.”

Honey and jelly mushrooms are edible, though because many types of mushrooms look alike, CaliforniaFallColor.com cautions not to eat foraged mushrooms unless a mushroom expert certifies they are absolutely safe to eat, as several types of poisonous mushrooms exist in California.

Clinical toxicologist, Rose Ann Gould Soloway, RN, BSN, MSEd, DABAT emerita advises, “If you think that someone has eaten a wild mushroom, call Poison Control right away at 1-800-222-1222. Poison specialists will tell you exactly what to do.”

In 2018, I wrote, “Gabriel has been hunting mushrooms for nearly two decades and knows his fungi. He’s the first to say that one person’s edible chanterelle might, upon closer inspection, be a poisonous variety of Cortinarius. So, expertise and caution are required when adding wild mushrooms to your diet.

“However, he also believes mushrooms have gotten a bad rap. They’re full of B vitamins, gmushrooms.com writes, “especially niacin and riboflavin, and rank the highest among vegetables for protein content. But because they are low in fat and calories, Western nutritionists mistakenly considered them of no food value (a fresh pound has only about 125 calories). Yet in dried form, mushrooms have almost as much protein as veal and a significant amount of complex carbohydrates called polysaccharides. Shiitake mushrooms are among the most delicious & very nutritious.”

“Because they grow from decaying matter, they’re all somewhat disgusting, but also things of beauty. And, of course, they can be deadly.

“In 2012, The London Telegraph reported that 18 Italian mushroom hunters, “died in just a 10-day period. Many of them had forgone proper footwear, clothing and equipment and died after steep falls down Alpine slopes” while hunting for mushrooms. One of them was a 65-year-old woman who fell 40 feet to her death near the Swiss border.

“My sordid attempt at humor aside, while there is the hazard of hunting them on wet, slippery slopes, there is also the possibility of eating a poisonous variety. Of one thing is certain, there’s no sitting on a fence when judging a mushroom, even though mushrooms often do.”

  • Mushrooms, Northern California – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
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OC Orange

Mountains to Sea Trail, Peters Canyon Regional Park (12/20/20) Mark Hanning-Lee

It’s orange in Orange County along the southern end of Peters Canyon Regional Park where Near Peak color hangs on.

OC color spotter Mark Hanning-Lee walked ten minutes from the park’s south entrance along the Mountains to the Sea Trail to enter a boulevard of tall peaking red willows, while others filled the basin that comprises the normally dry Peters Canyon Reservoir.

  • Peters Canyon Regional Park (683′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
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S’M*A*S*H

Malibu Creek State Park (12/16/20) Elliot McGucken

Elliot McGucken visited Malibu Creek State Park yesterday morning and found S’M*A*S*Hing color.

The park was the site of filming M*A*S*H from 1972 – 1983, which explains why Korean-War-era trucks have been placed there to mark its role in the hit television comedy.

Fall color remains beautiful there in late autumn, though is limited by foliage and terrain to backlit cattails, western sycamore and willows.

Nevertheless, we’re still declaring “GO NOW!” to Malibu Creek, which provides a fascinating, colorful hike to the location of a beloved episode in American cultural history.

Cattails, Malibu Creek State Park (12/16/20) Elliot McGucken
  • Malibu Creek State Park – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
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Faithful To The End

Frémont cottonwood, Alabama Hills, Inyo County (12/13/20) Kathy Jonokuchi

As Southern California color spotter Kathy Jonokuchi returned from the Eastern Sierra following a recent getaway, storm clouds were gathering as a Frémont cottonwood stood guard among the jumble of rocks that form the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine.

She snapped a picture of it with her camera phone, worrying that it might not be good enough to make the big screen, but this is just the kind of scene that John Ford would have captured in one of his westerns.

A lone tree stands resolutely against the elements, not ready to give up its autumn gold to the dark forces of winter. A last holdout, faithful to the end.

  • Alabama Hills, Inyo County – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
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Last Drips of Color

Wisteria, El Dorado Hills (12/14/20) John Poimiroo

Despite the occasional last drips of fall color, California is now largely past peak.

These images were taken on a foggy, wet morning, the kind that quickly transforms warm cotton blue jeans into sponges when bush whacking through foliage.

Most of the native color throughout the state has fallen, been blown away or is now rain-damaged by the storm that passed over the state this past weekend. Exotic, ornamental plants are providing the encore.

Wisteria are among the last climbing exotics to turn. They’ve dropped their seed pods which explode loudly upon hitting the ground, ejecting their seeds as much as 20 feet away upon impact.

Bright, red Hawthorne tree berries hang from bare branches in clusters of Christmas ornaments. The leaves long since fell and carpet the earth as they decay.

It’s now time for other ornaments to attract our attention, though Toyon and Pyracantha join Hawthorne in one last flush of seasonal color as winter approaches. There’s only a week to go until autumn is just a memory.

  • El Dorado Hills (768′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.