March Week 2: Redwoods, Badgers & Bluebirds . . . Oh Yes, and Trilliums

3-14-10 A Western Bluebird in Roys Redwoods Open Space Preserve

To give us patience in a changeable season, here are two familiar stanzas from Robert Frost’s poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time.”

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume,
His song is pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake; and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn’t blue,
But he wouldn’t advise a thing to blossom.

This week was shortened by our desert trip and by a favorite 9-mile hike I took on a day that rained so hard I had to keep my camera and phone hidden safely away. But Tina and I got to romp at Roys Redwoods (this enchanted corner of the world, San Geronimo Valley’s plein air cathedral — and not Muir Woods — is the home of Marin’s biggest redwood tree), stick our noses in a fresh badger dig, and spend about 10 minutes in the midst of a group of 6 helicoptering bluebirds.

3-14-10 A glimpse of the several acres of Stream Violet on the redwood flats at Roys

 You’re Not Cleistogamous, Are You?

Violets have a secret. To uncover it, lie down on the ground next to a violet that’s almost finished blooming. Ignore the yummy edible flowers the plant’s waving at you in some shade of blue, purple, yellow or white  (this is about science, not lunch). Look underneath the charming, heart-shaped leaves. Sprawled on the ground or even burrowing colorless in the duff, you’ll find 3- or 4-inch long “stalks” with little, sometimes recurved bumps at the end.

The bumps are the violet’s backup reproductive strategy: its hidden cleistogamous flowers. They’re flowers that never open, secret and self-pollinating. The plant makes them at a mere third the cost of its showy, often fragrant, pollinator-seducing flowers high above.

When Utah’s first delegates were sent to the US Senate, there was a move to refuse to seat them because of anger and ill-will over polygamy. Hiram Bingham of New York, one of the powers of the Senate, stood to make the first speech. “I know these gentlemen, and their wives, of whom they each have one, and to whom they cleave.  I cannot speak for others in this august chamber, but for myself, I would rather consort with polygamists who don’t polyg than with monogamists who don’t monog.”

They were seated without further discussion.

But what if they’d been accused of cleistogamy?

3-12-10 Red Delphinium in the rain along the Yolanda Trail

When I worked at College of Marin, I ran nearly every day, and a long loop that included the Yolanda Trail from Phoenix Lake was among my favorites. Around this time of year, I ran it often, in large part ot try to catch the first Red Delphiniums as they opened on one particular beetle-browed, sun-soaked cliff. The Yolanda was also one of my favorite places for the Douglas Iris show. Alas, that’s rapidly being lost as invasive broom overgrows the entire ridge that was one a splendor of multicolored iris blossoms. (There are still surviving iris, and I’ll be back to shoot them when they’re at their peak, for my promised second gallery of native iris.)

Tina perched hobbit-like in the lap of a stately Ent.

And now for our second trillium species, Trillium ovatum, Wake Robin, demurely showing some of its lovely variation to hikers near the Natalie Coffin Greene Picnic Area in Ross:

3-14-10 And finally, just because they're lovely and familiar, and because they give us some of our best close-to-home wildflower displays, the California Buttercup, here on Thorner Ridge Open Space Preserve.



  1. slpmartin said,

    March 16, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Enjoyed the photos and the poem…they seemed to be a nice match for one another….thanks!

    • Dorothy Cox said,

      March 19, 2010 at 1:55 pm

      Thanks Bill: I fell drenched in trillium. the pic of Tina “hobbit-like” didn’t come through

      • billnoble said,

        March 19, 2010 at 4:06 pm

        Fascinating that a picture didn’t come through. All the pics are in exactly the same format. Were there any others that you couldn’t see?

  2. Wren Noble said,

    March 26, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    The picture of Mom is delightful. And the bluebird 🙂

    • billnoble said,

      March 26, 2010 at 2:47 pm

      Thanks, Jen. For me it captures something essential about the state Mom is in right now. At her best times, she has a magic all her own, and a magical relationship to the world. It’s a blessing, for her and for all of us.

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