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BIOTA ALONG OAK PASS ROAD DURING THE 1940's1950's
(A) LOCAL BOTANICAL HIGHLIGHTS
[See McF.& Colburn (1968), Munz (1974), McAuley (1985), Dale (1986), Huffman (1998)]
Up until the 1950's (and for all of the preceding decades, of course), the hillsides, ravines, and ridges around Oak Pass Rd., Marion Way, N. Beverly Dr., and all along Summitridge, were a springtime kaleidoscope of color, from the incredible array of herbacious annual wildflowers and flowering native shrubs (mostly evergreen sclerophylls), that covered the entire district from one end to the other. This annual show reached its peak from March through May, and continued into June, as the grasses dried off. Totally immersed in the midst of this beautiful, fragrant world, I spent the first 20 years of my life. Needless to say it made an impression!.... The descriptions below attempt to re-capture some of the floral highlights as I remember them, and furthermore, to document with photos a small sampling of what has been lost (see the habitat slide-series, A-E).
One highlight of the spring wildflower show, along upper Oak Pass Rd., was a compact “colony” of the annual, Lupinus succulentus Dougl. ex Koch, which always occupied a particular bank, on the inside of a sharp curve, opposite (just to the north of) the 9626 driveway-entry, which was originally the Colburn property. This was on heavy clay soil, of a SW.-facing grassy bank, in full sun. Just to the ENE. of this location were some huge old oaks (at that time all in excellent health); these can be seen in the photo on p.17 of McF. & Colburn (1968), where they are being viewed at a distance from the east (near the 9601 driveway-entry). [Click here] In sunlit grassy openings amongst these oaks, and in many other similar locations, were “colonies” of “wild hyacinth” Dichelostemma pulchellum (formerly, Brodiaea capitata) a favored nectaring flower of the earliest-emerging orange-tip butterflies (Anthocharis sara). Continuing west down Oak Pass Rd., and around to the right (just beyond the last oak in the photo) would have led to the sharp (north-tending) curve where the annual lupines always thrived....Bristly, slow-crawling, dark brown caterpillars of a local tiger-moth, Arachnis picta, could sometimes to be found feeding (or hiding) amongst the lupines (Feb.-May); see also McFarland (1965: 55). These larvae are “somewhat general feeders”, using an array of various low-growing herbaceous plants and weeds (clovers, etc.), and also feeding on some of the smaller native shrubs, such as wild buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) and deerweed, etc.. Below the house at 9601 (on a steep downslope facing to the NE), the typically nocturnal A. picta larvae consistently favored deerweed (Lotus scoparius), and could sometimes be found conspicuously up and feeding (or at rest) on these small sub-shrubs, even during the daytime (on overcast days). Typically, these larvae were primarily nocturnal feeders, hiding under litter by day. [Click here for views of this location: Slide-series A]
Lupinus hirsutissimus Benth. (stinging lupine) was also present here and there, usually on distrubed ground (roadside edges or banks, typically of decomposed granite), but never in large numbers. The flowers were reddish-purple or magenta; no mistaking this unique sp. for any other annual lupine, due to the stinging hairs on its lvs., stems, and seedpods! A large, semi-woody perennial bush lupine (Lupinus longifolius) was common throughout the area, usually growing as scattered single individuals or in small groups, in the heavier clay soils. Other (smaller) annual lupines were also present.
The “sticky monkey” or bush monkey flower (Diplacus longiflorus) was a major element of the yearly spring floral show throughout the district, in many differing locations and exposures. The color form with pale creamy-orange (to deeper orange) flowers was the only one present here. Vast displays of this prolific bloomer, with its wonderfully fragrant (viscid) foliage, were growing to the north of the house at 9601, and on many of the north-facing slopes of lower Oak Pass, in openings amongst the oaks and just above the road. Similar luxuriant displays occupied stretches of roadside along N. Beverly Dr., north of the Marion Way intersection (there typically mingled with Salvia mellifera). Examples of the latter (extinct) location are thoroughly documented in the slide-series “D” of the photo presentation [click here]. Other abundant and colorful winter/spring flowers were two species of shrubby currants: Ribes malvaceum (with pink & white fls. and superbly fragrant, viscid/sticky lvs.), and the very spiny fuchsia-flowered gooseberry, Ribes speciosum (deep red fls., smooth/shiny lvs.). The former sheds its leaves early in the summer dry season, leafing out again several months later (Nov./Dec.), and then blooming from about late November to March, during the winter wet season of this Mediterranean climate.
Chocolate lilies (Fritillaria biflora) grew in a few grassy openings amongst scrub oaks (Q. dumosa), just west of 9720 Oak Pass. Mariposa lilies (Calochortus catalinae) were scattered throughout, in various sunny locations. Blue-eyed grass or wild iris (Sisyrinchium bellum, Fam. Iridaceae) colonized many grassy glades in heavy clay soils throughout the whole district. An abundant member of the lily family was the “soap-plant” (Chlorogalum pomeridianum), widely scattered throughout the oak woodland and sage scrub habitats around 9601 Oak Pass. Also common in the district, mostly in clay soils, were the “golden stars” (Bloomeria crocea), flowering from late spring into early summer.
Paeonia californica was generally distributed throughout the district, here and there in the chaparral, especially on our ridge (a winter-grower). A small colony of buttercups (Ranunculus californicus) flourished on a damp, north-facing road-bank at the entry to 9540 (winter/spring perennial, present every year). Further west, along the same bank, was a showy and vigorous colony of (annual) “farwell-to-spring” (Clarkia sp.) [click here]. The "Fiesta Flower" (Pholistoma auritum) was an abundant spring annual along the roadside, on the north-facing slopes of lower Oak Pass Rd., in heavy clay soils under the oaks. A colony of the blue-flowered annual, Nemophila menziesii, re-appeared every spring in certain grassy openings beneath the oaks, on a west-facing slope near the garden entry-gate at 9601. Also present, in some of the same locations, were colonies of Chinese houses (Collinsia heterophylla).
There was a small colony of owl clover (Orthocarpus purpurascens), on the pale-colored limestone-clay soil near 9626 Oak Pass, just to the west of the driveway-entry; also, near the same place (but further to the west), small clumps of the bluish-purple flowered Penstemon heterophyllus grew out of a limestone cut-bank above the driveway leading into 9626 (west facing, in full sun). In early summer, colonies of the tall scarlet larkspur (Delphinium cardinale) were a striking feature (blooming in June-July), mostly scattered in openings within the stands of chamise (Adentostoma), on dry ridges and west-facing slopes (decomposed granite and clay soils), particularly above upper Oak Pass Rd. near its terminus at Summitridge Road. Clumps of native four-o'clocks (Mirabilis californica), and the showy (red-flowered) Calif. “Fuchsia” (Epilobium canum; formerly Zauschneria), grew from the pale sandstone cut-banks around our driveway-entry, and elsewhere nearby. The latter [click here for drawing] was unique for coming into profuse bloom in Sep.-Oct., toward the end of the long summer drought, but well before the arrival of the earliest autumn rains (late Oct./Nov.), when essentially nothing else was in bloom in this habitat, but for the yellow-flowered semi-woody sclerophyll composite, Hazardia squarrosa....
In mid to late winter (Jan.-Feb.), the earliest woody shrubs to bloom in this locality were always Ceanothus megacarpus, (“wild lilacs”), turning the hills white where they predominated in almost pure stands, particularly on the steep west-facing slopes below the intersection of upper Oak Pass with Summitridge Rd., as well as south along the latter. The much larger (almost tree-like) Ceanothus spinosus (greenbark or redheart) were abundant on north-facing slopes, and down in the ravines, throughout (often in association with oaks). A pure white-flowered form predominated everywhere in this district, with just the occasional (very pale) blue-flowered individual here and there. This species was a major element of the Oak Woodland/Chaparral interface, in the vicinity of 9601. Holly-leaf redberry (Rhamnus ilicifolia) was abundant throughout the oak/chaparral associations here, but R. californica (coffeeberry) was a rarity only one large individual was present, on a north-facing road bank just below 9540 Oak Pass.
The toyon, Calif. "holly", or Christmas berry (Heteromeles arbutifolia Fam. Rosaceae) was a spectacular large shrub that grew as scattered individuals throughout the district, including on our ridge; it was particularly abundant on the steep north- and west-facing slopes of decomposed granite below upper Oak Pass Rd., to the east and north of 9540, and along parts of Summitridge Road. During the 1940's, truckloads of branches (heavy with the vivid red-orange “berries”), were hacked from these plants every winter, to be sold in the nearby city for decorations during the holiday season.... HOLLYWOOD got its name, I was told, from the abundance of toyon that once grew in the hills and ravines of that district, which was only a few miles to the east of our location.
Grass-&-Walnut "Meadows" or Hillslopes: Typically, walnuts (Juglans californica) were located higher up the slopes, at (or near) the tops of certain hills or ridges, and only occupied the heavier clay soils never seen on decomposed granites. Exposures, when sloping down from hilltops, were always either to the east or to the west.... I knew of 3 major locations fitting this description, that were visible from our ridge-top location at 9601 Oak Pass one far to the west (sloping eastward), one to the northeast (located just west of 2500 Summitridge and sloping steeply downhill to the west), and the other to the southeast of 9601 (at 9540, gently sloping westward).
There are five apparently "unknown" range-extensions that need to be reiterated here, since the publication of Raven, Thompson, & Prigge (2nd ed.) 1986). We (McFarland & Colburn, 1968) long ago documented the following plants from the eastern part of the range, all of which were “missed” (or intentionally "overlooked"?) in the 1986 publication (see also Ferris, 1986): (1) Acourtia (Perezia microcephala DC. was fairly common around the house at 9601 Oak Pass, in sunny openings of the Oak Woodland and Chaparral. It was the favored foodplant of a locally common green katydid (nymphal stages only); they conspicuously damaged the foliage, and could often be found sitting quietly at rest on the leaves. [R.& T., 1986, refer to this plant as ONLY occurring “from Sepulveda Cyn. westward”.] (2) *Tragopogon porrifolius L. (lavendar fls., not yellow) for many years there was a small “colony” of these established in heavy clay, along the roadside near 9540 Oak Pass a “grassy walnut-slope” situation. [R.& T., 1986, refer to it ONLY as “a rare weed near the coast”.] (3) Amorpha californica Nutt. grew in a small “group” (about half a dozen individuals), in sunlit openings amongst the oaks, on a north-facing slope above the road (heavy clay), just ESE. of 9720 Oak Pass. These were large old shrubs, which had been present there for many years. [R.& T., 1986, ONLY refer to this plant as occurring “on the north side of the western half of the range”.] The Calif. dogface butterfly (Colias eurydice) was also present in the district a rather infallible clue to the certain presence of Amorpha (see also Forbes, 1958)! (4) Cordylanthus filifolius Nutt. ex Benth. in DC was abundant on our ridge, along a pathway through the Chaparral and Coastal Sage Scrub, which connected our house at 9601 Oak Pass Rd. to the garage (a distance of several hundred feet); extensive “colonies” of this annual were very much in evidence there, every year. [R.& T., 1986, refer to this sp. ONLY as being found from “north Topanga Cyn. west to Boney Ridge, on the north side of the mts.”.] (5) Trichostema lanatum Benth. was always present (a few large individuals) along Summitridge Rd., above (south of) its intersection with upper Oak Pass Rd., and also near the east end of the Peavine Ridge fire-break (same area), growing on gritty, decomposed granite and rocky soils. [R.& T., 1986, refer to this sp. ONLY as occurring “from Mandeville Cyn. westward”.]
Growing Up Wild in Beverly Hills!
EARLY DAYS on OAK PASS Rd. (1937-1945) and HOW the ROAD GOT ITS NAME
- (A) Botanical Highlights
-- Historical Remarks on Oaks
-- EARLY EVOLUTIONARY STAGES of the "SMOG-DENIAL SYNDROME"!
-- OAK PASS NATIVE PLANTS TODAY (??)
-- Echos From the Past!
-- A Bit of SUMMERTIME FOGBANK-BOTANY
- (B) LOCAL BUTTERFLY HIGHLIGHTS
- (C) LOCAL BIRDS REMEMBERED
- (D) LOCAL MAMMALS REMEMBERED
- (E) REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS REMEMBERED
DESSERT (Purely for Amusement!)
THE HONEY-SNOB'S CORNER
A five-year study (1953-1957) documenting the occurrence of 283 macro-moth species on one acre of woodland habitat at 9601 Oak Pass Rd., 5 road-miles north of Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills (a mixture of undisturbed Southern Oak Woodland / Chaparral / Coastal Sage Scrub habitat, at 1100 ft. elevation).
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THIS CALIFORNIA SITE
ABOUT THE BACKYARD CONCEPT
BACKGROUND & INTRODUCTION
About the Moth Studies at 9601 Oak Pass Road
BEATING or SWEEPING for LARVAE - A MOST PRODUCTIVE COLLECTING TECHNIQUE
The OLD BEVERLY HILLS (OAK PASS ROAD) MOTH STUDY COMPARED WITH THREE OTHER (MORE RECENT) SURVEYS IN COASTAL SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
OBSERVED DIFFERENCES IN THE MACRO-MOTH FAUNAS OF THE ABOVE THREE OTHER SURVEYED COASTAL CALIFORNIAN LOCALITIES
HISTORICAL PHOTOS and A PLEA for FUTURE STUDIES in the SAME REGION
FRANK SALA'S CORNER
FRANK HOVORE'S CORNER
1C - HABITAT PHOTOS (1957-1964)
Copyright ©2005-2011 Noel McFarland. All Rights Reserved.