Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring in the Valley

Downpour this weekend....  we received almost 2 inches of rain in a day.
After a relatively dry February, March has brought an abundance of rain, torrential at times, and warm, very springlike weather.

Spring has come to the valley.

Winter is the rainy season here and the drab brown hills that are the hallmark of summer and fall are now a lovely verdant green. El nino has indeed brought rain although not in the amounts that we both feared and needed.  Still, by all accounts, we are ahead of the game in terms of average annual totals, the Sierra snow pack remains healthy, and the reservoirs are all boasting near normal to above average levels.  And the rains are still coming.  Whereas things are usually winding down in March in terms of rainfall here in the valley, we are still experiencing above average rain fall -- nearly 5 inches so far this month,  twice the historical average for March and the month is barely half over.

The trees are in bloom, but the surest sign of spring are the meadows covered with the yellow  blooms of the wild mustard.

Steve and I took a ride out Jameson Canyon Road where we saw the most amazing meadows and fields full of wild mustard and other flowers, many of which I was unable to identify. As I was searching through my references, I discovered that "California wild mustard" is not only not a native wildflower, it's considered a highly invasive weed.  Hailing from the Mediterranean, it has found the perfect home with our Mediterranean climate but in fact, it can found everywhere on the continent, from Mexico and Central America all the way to Hudson Bay.

The meadows and hills in Early February.  January rains brought the first signs of spring greening.
By early March, the hills were dusted with fresh green growth.
Mid-March, the hills, trees and meadows are a beautiful, lush green.
Mid-March, the grapes are barely starting to send out leaf buds but the vineyards are full of wildflowers.
Around our apartment, the trees and shrubs are all in bloom.
Although it's found everywhere throughout the valley and is synonymous with spring here in California, Wild Mustard, Sinapis arvensis, is a native of the Mediterranean basin and is an invasive weed throughout much of North America.  An annual that produces an abundance of seeds, the climate is perfect for self-propagation and birds are likely a big reason for its wide-spread distribution. 

Wild mustard, Sinapis arvensis, covering an open field, mid-March.

Wild mustard, spread across the fields as far as the eye can see.

A river of yellow flows through the valley.


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