Dawg Day Afternoon

Yes I know I know… I missed you too!

First I have a cool rare wildflower to share.  Found this growing out of the base of some rocks alongside the rapidly disappearing stream up Matilija North.

Rothrock's lobelia

Rothrock’s lobelia

What I found was definitely a lobelia, though I wouldn’t swear it was this specific species.  Cool find though, you folks may be more familiar with this flower in your planters and hanging pots, it’s pretty popular.

Now to the main event.  Lanny will be wrapping up his 37th consecutive Herb Walks season (take that Cal Ripken) down in Ventura.   He sat down for a chat about the past, present and future.

1.  So how did 2012-2013 go for Herb Walks?  Was the lack of rain a big factor?

This year has been great so far. We’ve had almost 180 people participate, although a number of those were repeats. Attendance has been strangely unpredictable, ranging from a low of 1 to a high of 35.  Rondia and I go out and enjoy a hike even if no one else shows up; fortunately, that hasn’t happened yet. The lack of rain has not been a factor, other than forcing me to abandon the dry and dusty inland trails earlier than usual.

2.  How about the plants, discover anything new this year?  Blooms you were surprised to see?  Others you were surprised not to see?

This was not the year for new blooms (or annuals of any kind, for that matter) due to the lack of rain you mentioned. A lot of familiar plants were missing in action. On the other hand, there was an historic, profuse bloom on the Islay Cherry trees leading to what looks to be an historic harvest of cherries sometime in late August. I attribute that to the early rain we had last fall. My new discovery this year was Wild Celery (Apium graveolens), quite edible and delicious, though not a native. For me, it’s more about discovering known plants in places I hadn’t noticed them before or learning something new about their growing habits.

Holly leaf cherry

Holly leaf cherry

3.  Favorite flower of the year?  Favorite trail?

This was my second year of leading an Herb Walk on the Stunt High Trail on Cold Creek in the Calabasas Hills where I had my first sighting of the flowers of the elusive Stream Orchid (Epipactis gigantea). The creek was lower this year, so seeing it still thriving was a treat and a relief. I’ve also seen my all-time favorite Humboldt Lily (Lilium humboldtii var. ocellatum) growing places where I’d not seen it before although the flowers had not opened up yet.

Stream orchid

Stream orchid

4.  What can HerbWalkers expect to see on the Seaside Wilderness Park trails?

The Seaside Wilderness Park consists of two trails. The River’s Edge Trail follows the mouth of the Ventura River and the estuary where it meets the ocean, so we see a lot of the same plants found upstream. Then it crosses the railroad tracks and becomes the Ocean’s Edge Trail where we’ll find Beach Evening-Primrose, Pickleweed, Sea Rocket, and other sand dune dwellers.

Beach evening primrose

Beach evening primrose

5.  Any rare flora you are hoping to possibly catch a glimpse of?

I’d like to find Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis californica). It’s considered an important medicinal plant of the Chumash and there are reports of its habitat disappearing.

Yerba mansa

Yerba mansa

6.  Big year for rollouts on the Herb Walks website, how are the blog and store going, anything new to report?

Thanks for asking. Yes, both are new projects this year and I’m trying to bring both the HerbBlog and the Herb Walks Store to people’s attention. Unlike your Ojai Rambler blog which is published through wordpress.com, there doesn’t seem to be a simple way for people to subscribe to a blog that is part of a wordpress.org website. I could use some help in that department. I also send out a monthly email newsletter. Here’s a link to the July Herb Walks Newsletter. Of course, your readers are welcome, nay encouraged, to join my mailing list.

I like to think that the Books section of the store is the best place in the world to shop for a book on our local native plants and their uses. The hand-picked titles represent what I consider the most valuable of my own personal references.  I’m excited to be offering Sue Reinhart’s Tri-County Medicinal Plant Cards, a remarkable life’s work on her part. These cards have more info per square inch than anything else out there. And I just ordered 3 new titles including a botany book and two by the legendary herbalist Michael Moore.

7.  Will it ever rain again?  I’ve only been here 6 years and these last two rainy seasons make me want to move to Humboldt.

Yes, we are in a drought, one of several I have witnessed in my 40 years in Ojai, along with several floods. It does seem to me that, over time, the creeks have not returned to their historic levels but remember, we are still warming up from the last Ice Age and the creeks are forever cutting a deeper trough for themselves. To answer your question, though, I’ll go out on a limb and say yes, it will rain again.

8.  What’s on the horizon for Herb Walks in 2013-2014?  New trails maybe?

I’m always on the lookout for new places to go, especially riparian habitats. Next spring we’ll definitely be visiting the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy’s new Valley View Preserve. I’d love to venture further into the wilderness. As you know, I have an Operating Permit with the Forest Service to take people into the backcountry but, for whatever reason, those locations have not been as popular as sites closer to town. I hope your readers will share their ideas and feedback. And thank you, Ron, for your interest and support.

And thank you Lanny for taking the time and helping to bring the folks of the valley closer to nature.  We look forward to seeing you in the fall.

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