Bagging the ‘red menace’

Crystalline ice plant, you can see the 'crystals' on the plant which is how it got it's name
Crystalline ice plant, you can see the ‘crystals’ on the plant which is how it got its name

Last weekend was a busy weekend for me.  We had the regular Stewards on Saturday and then a special work day for the Community United Methodist church on Sunday.  Both days we pulled out crystalline ice plant (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) and slender leaved ice plant (Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum) which turns red as it matures.  These two invasive plant species have spread into the gaps where we have removed the non-native grasses.  It is not uncommon for non-native plants to move in when non-native grass is removed, but we are ready!  Because ice plant will re-sprout from basically any part of the plant we have to bag it up and remove it off the Mesa.  In total, we removed 87 bags of the stuff last weekend!

And we found a relaxed Southern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri) in the coastal sagebrush (Artemisia californica).  It was there both days and we gave it a lot of space.  I always enjoy finding reptiles out on the Mesa; many people focus on the birds, but we have some very cool reptiles too.  Finding healthy snakes means that they have enough food and may suggest that there are plenty of rodents to eat among other things.  If there are a lot of rodents that might also suggest we will see more raptors who hunt rodents at Bolsa Chica too.  Even though the rodents eat my newly planted native plants which can be frustrating, they are an important link in the food chain.

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The prickly pear cactus flowers are also blooming in areas
This snake is an expert at camouflage
This snake is an expert at camouflage (taken with a telephoto lens so I wasn’t actually close to it)

~Erin

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