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Leafless Tree Identification

Gingko biloba, San Francisco (12/6/19) Friends of the Urban Forest

San Francisco’s Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) are “hedging bets,” this Sunday (love the pun), by leading a free walking tour of fall color remaining in San Francisco’s Mission District, regardless of predicted stormy weather.

Ben Carlson of FUF says the walk hopes to “catch the tail end of our fall colors, but on the other hand we’ll be talking about how to identify many of San Francisco’s most common deciduous species once they’ve lost their leaves altogether (looking for clues in twigs, bark, overall shape etc.).”

That’s a fascinating idea … a Leafless Tree Identification Tour. For me, it’s hard enough discerning one tree from another using their photographs, but take away the leaves? These FUF guys are good.

To participate, meet on Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. at 735 Dolores St. for the walk or CLICK HERE for more information.

Now, should you miss the walk, consider picking up a Green Christmas Tree from FUF. A $95 donation gets you a recyclable live tree to decorate. After the holidays, return the tree and it will be planted somewhere in San Francisco.

Ester goes home for the holidays, San Francisco (12/3/19) Friends of the Urban Forest

What’s pure fun about this program is that each tree has been given a name, not a number. In the above example, “Ester” (a fern pine, Afrocarpus gracilior) will be spending the holidays with her benefactor, then return to FUF to grace The City’s streets, thereafter.

For more about how to participate in this program and help green-up San Francisco’s urban forest, CLICK HERE.

  • Presidio, San Francisco – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT. And while you’re there, donate and borrow a living Christmas Tree to improve San Francisco’s urban forest.
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Out of this World

Vasquez Rocks (12/5/19) Allison Hastings

Nicknamed “Kirk’s Rock” for the many times it appeared in early episodes of the television series Star Trek, Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park in Agua Dulce (between Santa Clarita and Palmdale) is virtually out of this world when it comes to dramatic beauty and late fall color.

Allison Hastings scores a First Report for sending back photos of the hike she took with her dog there, today.

Most of the color comes from native Fremont cottonwood and western sycamore. Also in the area are bigleaf maple, black and blue elderberry, white alder, Southern California black walnut, chokecherry, California ash and various willows.

  • Vasquez Rocks, Agua Dulce – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Capitol Color

Capitol Park, Sacramento (12/3/19) Steve Arita

Today was the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at the State Capitol in Sacramento, though it wasn’t the only tree at Capitol Park that was lit up with color.

Steve Arita was there this week and sends these images of late peak color. Sacramento’s neighborhoods are now past peak, though spots of bright color – as seen in Capitol Park – can still be found in this city of trees.

  • Capitol Park, Sacramento – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
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LA County Arboretum Near Peak

Gingko biloba, Herb Garden, LA County Arboretum (12/4/19) Frank McDonough

Native and exotic trees are near peak at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, dressing its grounds with red, orange, yellow and chartreuse.

Red oak, Quercus rubra, Historic Section, LA County Arboretum (12/4/19) Frank McDonough

Los Angeles County has a long peak, from mid November to mid December, though it is specific to a few national forest drainages and to urban forests with concentrated areas of deciduous non-native foliage.

American elm, Historic Section, LA County Arboretum (12/4/19) Frank McDonough

Arboretums and gardens are the best locations in LA County to see peak fall color right now, including the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia, Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge, the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino and the South Coast Botanic Gardens in Palos Verdos Peninsula.

Two of these gardens add illuminated displays during the holidays. The LA County Arboretum in Arcadia hosts Moonlight Forest, a nighttime display of colorful lanterns (seen in some of these images). And, Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge hosts the Enchanted Forest of Lights in which trees are flooded with dramatic, colorful lighting.

Click to enlarge photos.

  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia – Near Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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SoCal: As The Crow Flies

Nanday conures, Peter Strauss Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA (11/25/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

“As the crow flies,” Kathy Jonokuchi reports, “Peter Strauss Ranch is a few miles west … from Paramount Ranch” in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Peter Strauss Ranch was another of the areas burned during last year’s Woolsey Fire and is still closed to the public. 

Named after actor Peter Strauss who lived on the ranch, then sold it to the National Park Service. The property been a site for relaxation and recreation for nearly a century.

Triunfo Creek, a seasonal stream on the ranch is home to Western sycamore and coastal live oak, both of which have recovered from the fire, Kathy reports.

Fall color there is now past peak, though Nanday conures were feeding on sycamore seed pods and a large flock of California Quail foraged the ground for scattered seeds, beneath the black-hooded parakeets.

Fremont cottonwood, Big Tujunga River, Angeles National Forest (11/30/19) Ken Lock

Elsewhere in Los Angeles County, Ken Lock found Fremont cottonwood to be peaking along the Big Tujunga River. He noted that while autumn has ended elsewhere in California, several locales in Southern California are still prime.

  • Angeles National Forest – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Cottonwood.
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Bay Area Gets Vibrant

Autumn in the San Francisco Bay Area is often best during Thanksgiving Week. Color spotter Vishal Mishra found Los Altos and Palo Alto true to form and glowing yesterday.

Landmark elm, flowering pear and Chinese pistache are still heavy with leaves, though dropping them in a steady fall.

  • San Francisco Bay Area – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Paramount Ranch, Not “The End”

Valley oak, Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA (11/18/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

Last year, the Woolsey Fire roared through the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, incinerating the historic Paramount Ranch film location. At the time, many thought the park’s closing credits would declare “The End” for Paramount Ranch.

However, on a visit this week, Kathy Jonokuchi found that the National Park Service, with help from motion picture studios and the public, plans to rebuilt its Western Town, to be used again in television, commercial and feature films.

Paramount Ranch had served as a film location, since 1927. All that remains of Paramount’s sets are the Western Town’s train station and church (seen in the HBO series, Westworld). Click to enlarge photos.

Gone are sets once used to film the TV series Cisco Kid (1950s), Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman (1990s) and countless feature films, TV commercials, videos and photo shoots.

Valley oak, Western Town, Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA (11/18/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

The magnificent Valley oak that grew in the middle of the set had been rumored to have budded this past spring, though it is a charcoal remnant of the great tree it once was (seen above).

Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA (11/18/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

Kathy found that many of the trees had succumbed to the combination of drought and the fire. Though there’s still life in the now stark landscape surrounding Paramount Ranch.

The park still had “plenty of songbirds and raptors … Nanday conures and an acorn woodpecker” seen storing acorns for his winter cache.

Paramount Ranch can’t claim a happy ending, though it’s not entirely a downer, either. Nature is recovering, and with a helping hand, the national recreation area’s legacy as a film location will recover, as well.

  • Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA – Patchy (10-50%) – there is not a lot of fall color. Though, what’s there inspires hope.
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Cupertino Gold

Cupertino has been producing high tech gold for decades. Now Gingko biloba are littering the home of Apple Corporation with fallen gold.

Deepa Yuvaraj writes she’s been sharing pictures of Silicon Valley fall color with friends for years, though just discovered CaliforniaFallColor.com, perhaps because of The Merc’s review (previous post).

Perhaps someone who works at Apple would take pictures with an iPhone of fall color inside the Apple Park campus ring. It would sure be fun to post them.

  • Cupertino (72′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Mass Ascension

Colusa National Wildlife Refuge (11/22/19) John Poimiroo

Birders and photographers stood on a platform at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge in the chill morning air yesterday.

Most were regulars. They visit the refuge almost daily with their spotting scopes, binoculars and long lenses.

“An eagle must have spooked them,” one of the photographers said, as swirling white and grey specks rose above a line of orange-black oaks in the distance.

Mass Ascension, Colusa NWR (11/22/19) John Poimiroo

Lenses turned as one as one of several mass ascensions seen that morning approached. At first, I shot with my Nikkor 200 to 500 mm lens on a D850, then shifted from the big gun to a separate body with a Nikkor 24 to 70 mm on a D700.

By the time the snow and Ross geese arrived, I’d dialed down the lens to 24 mm. Phil Reedy stood nearby, doing the same.

Mass Ascension, Colusa NWR (11/22/19) John Poimiroo

Geese circled above us in great, flapping, squawking wonder. I got off a couple of dozen frames on motor, then thought, “Enjoy the moment” and put down the camera to just be enthralled by the beauty of being immersed in the experience.

Northern shoveler hen, Colusa NWR (11/22/19) Philip Reedy
  • Colusa NWR – Peak Migration – Snow geese, Ross geese, various ducks and other migratory fowl.
Eurasian Widgeon (l), American Widgeons (r), Colusa NWR (11/22/19) John Poimiroo
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Visions of Sweet Gums

At a time when visions of sugar plums dance in childrens’ heads, Anson Davalos sends visions of Sweetgums, Flowering pear and Chinese pistache from Silicon Valley.

  • Los Gatos – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Santa Clara – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!