Cartas- Letters from Home

Plants and Trees Feed

The Majestic Valley Oak - Quercus Lobata

Oak 1

Distinguishing Characteristics: Valley oak, so called because it grows chiefly in open valleys, is the largest of western oaks. A striking characteristic is its scattered occurrence. Massive short-trunked individuals with enormously broad, often symmetrical round-topped crowns, grow naturally far apart, forming picturesque vistas through their open ranks.

Oak 2

The huge trunk with grayish, deeply furrowed bark, gives off very large, rough-barked arching limbs at from 8 to 25 feet from the ground, the drooping lower branches sometimes reaching the ground.

Oak 3

Occasional trees have tall undivided trunks with small spreading or drooping short branches in a narrow dome-like crown; generally, however, there is not more than a single length of clear saw timber in the trunk.

Oak 4

Height: From 60 to 75 feet, sometimes 80 or 100 feet, with a diameter of from 30 to 40 inches or more. As it straggles up narrow valleys into the foothills, it becomes small often under 30 feet in height and 1 foot through. Mature leaves shed in autumn, are variable in size and form on the same tree. They have deep green and minutely hairy star shaped hairs on their top sides, lighter and minutely hairy beneath leaf stems, also.

Oak 5

Acorns: Matured in one season and sometimes produced in very large quantities, are also variable in size; bright chestnut brown when ripe. Wood, pale, dull brown, very brittle, firm, often cross grained and difficult to split or work. On account of its poor timber form, the trees are rarely if ever cut for anything but fuel, for which, however, they are much used.

Oak 6

Longevity: Nothing is known of the extreme age attained, but it is believed to reach at least from 300 to 400 years.

~Forest Trees of the Pacific Slope, by George Bishop Sudworth, 1908

Dahlia Imperialis - The Queen

Tree Dahlias

The queen of the lovely dahlia - Imperialis - charms all eyes.   This stately plant rises eight to twelve feet.   It has no branches below, but the broad, pinnate, compound leaves start directly from the stem and grow all around it.

A few feet from the top,  the slender flower branches appear, bearing spreading panicles of large of a soft, light, porcelain-violet shade, lined outside with old pink....

Tree Dahlias 2

It measures eight inches, from tip-to-tip of the petals. These charming blossoms droop most gracefully on slender stems, and sway with every movement of the air. To one looking up into their heart from below,  or from a distance observing the general effect,  they are indescribably beautiful - and by moonlight, they are most fairy-like.

    ~ Theodora Shepard, Land of Sunshine, 1894

Matilija Poppies - California's Giant White Tree Poppies

Matilija Poppy 13

The Matilija Poppy

 Romneya Coulteri

The most regally handsome poppy in the world is the giant white poppy, the stately Matilija,  Romneya coulteri, which is native to the southern part of the State.  This blossom is a famous one in European gardens where it was early transplanted.   In its native habitat,  it may be found occasionally from Santa Barbara southward into Lower California.  

Matilija Poppy 10

It is acknowledged by those who have studied the flower to be a plant of very catholic tastes,  for while it evidently prefers stream borders and steep,  almost inaccessible canon sides,  it is also found growing on open hillsides,  in dry stream beds,  or even in the fertile valleys.   It is not a common plant,  but is probably more plentiful in the Ojai Valley,  Ventura County,  and in the extreme southern part of the State. While journeying over the Santa Fe lines en route to San Diego about three years ago,  I had my first glimpse of these towering white poppies,  luxuriating in their native surroundings.  It was early morning and we passed a field of these beautiful,  golden-hearted blossoms shaking out their great,  diaphanous petals to the morning breezes.

Matilija Poppy 12

 It was a glorious sight and I have never forgotten it.  I do not remember the locality, but it was several hours before our train reached Los Angeles.  While in San Diego with my friend Miss Kate Sessions,  the widely known and well-beloved botanist,  I examined more closely some exceedingly fine specimens of the Romneya.  It is a smooth, stout,  perennial-rooted plant, somewhat bushy in nature, and grows anywhere from two to ten or twelve feet high, according to the nature of its habitat.

Matilija Poppy 8

It has handsome gray-green foliage, and its wonderful,  fragrant blossoms are from three- to as many as nine-inches in diameter. Its crepelike petals are a pure, glistening white, and the greenish white pistil is surrounded by hundreds of closely packed, bright yellow stamens, forming a huge golden center which sets off proportionately well the enormous blossoms. In Lower California the plant is prized by the Indians for remedial purposes.

~ Bertha Rice, Popular Studies of California Wildflowers, 1920

Matilija Poppies 7

For more information about the legend that accompanies the Matilija Poppy, see a previous post from last poppy season:  Matilija Poppy - Romneya Coulteri - Mythical Beauty

A beautiful stand of poppies (shown in these photographs) appears every year, in late springtime, on a little promintory of land that lies alongside Cabrillo Boulevard, between the Santa Barbara Cemetery, and the Bird Refuge (near Los Patos Way).