Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fire? What fire? ...uh, where'd everybody go?

So sayeth the Yucca whipplei at the Station Fire, which burned last year. It was the giant fire near Los Angeles that burned and burned and burned. Huge.

It's very clear from driving in the area that this was one of those just-get-out-of-its-way fires. SO steep out there, SO dry (even in April after a wet winter).

However, the vegetation is very much coming back--at least some of it, in some areas.

Check out all the tiny rivulets formed by the rain washing down the hillside. I'm guessing that's because of the over- and understory being pretty much gone, and the hydrophobic nature of crispy hillsides. It's a cool visual effect, although it indicates erosion. Plants are busily re-sprouting (puff of green at the base).

The yucca, like charred pineapples, dot the spare hillsides. And many were blooming, sending up what look like the biggest asparagus spears you've ever seen.

Is this where pink elephants get their trunks?

Possibly my favorite photo of the day. Y. whipplei firing on all cylinders:

Here's a close up of the Y. whipplei flowers, amazing photo courtesy of Noah Elhardt who generously gave it to the public at large.

And can you guess what area did burn, and which did not?

For some plants, there's nothing they love more than a good blaze. Some require it to reproduce. Some just benefit from the additional light, decreased competition (cleared over and understory), the fresh deposit of ash, etc.

There were several species out there this weekend doing GREAT, thank you very much. STUNNING display in places.

This, I believe, is Phacelia minor, a.k.a. wild Canterbury bells. Thanks to the friendly stranger who was there, for pointing me in the right direction, and thanks to the Regional Flora of Santa Monica Mountains (they're nearby) for getting it down to species.

One picture of this Phacelia that I found on the web had a conspicuously charred shrub branch right next to it, dated 1996. Guess it's followed fire before? =)

This looks to me like Mimulus brevipes, wide-throated yellow monkey flower. Screaming color, especially piercing over the purple Phacelia.

These scenes, versus the wildflowers, were a larger percentage of the landscape. Being a minimalist, I loved it.

So much spare, striking beauty after an inferno.

Reminds me of a friend who's house burned to the ground a few summers ago when Mariposa county had a serious conflagration. Her animals were rescued, but she basically ended up with the clothes on her back. There had been a stout tree in their front yard, and even the stump was gone. Just ash.

She told me, months later, whispering like a criminal, it was kind of a good thing. No baggage. No huge weight of THINGS that you own and lug with you wherever you move (if all the stuff didn't mentally prevent you from moving!). No mortgage. Of course, everything she was wearing had been donated (and sort of looked it), but she didn't care.

The fire-induced spareness brought a lightness to her being.* She was really grateful, and felt freed.

Just like the post-fire plants. Basking in the elbow room, the uninhibited sunshine, and the crinkly soil.

They are all the better for it.


*Thank you Milan Kundera


  1. Nice post! Hope you don't mind, but I added a ps linking to this post on one of my Los Padres Dam entries from last year (http://tinyurl.com/26jo2rg).

  2. Sure! Not a problem. =) Thanks for sharing. =)


Cool people write inside rectangles....