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The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you.  Rain, sun, wind...insects, birds, flowers...meteorites, rocks...seasonal changes...all are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
late April, 2014
Iceberg Point
Salish Sea

Baseline phenology observations at Iceberg for the Bucket today.

Flowers reliably bloom at particular times in the season, but as our climate changes rapidly due to anthropogenic warming, the timing and duration of flowering is changing in subtle and unpredictable ways. Plants, insects, birds and mammals have coevolved making the most efficient use of each other...if blooms (and the fruits that follow) don't coincide with their pollinators and consumers, or in sufficient density, all will suffer. I'm a bit late in beginning to monitor my local native flowers and fruits, but this year is the start of my informal baseline monitoring.

Published studies have demonstrated that the increase in global temperature is having a variety of effects. This one found that annuals or insect-pollinated flowers bloom earlier than perennials or wind-pollinated types. In this metastudy of European flowers, warmer countries showed a greater change in flowering time than in cooler countries, and that fruits also ripen earlier. This study  demonstrated that early-flowering plants are more strongly affected by changing temperatures than the later flowers. Plant responses to warming are not straightforward. I am curious how my local plants will respond.

Iceberg Point is a dry rocky bluff, mostly south-facing, with rain in spring and then dry for the rest of the season. On April 20, the slopes of the bluff looked like this.

yellow path

(flowers and changes below...)

(All photos by me, large pix in to enlarge)

There are two kinds of yellow flowers in that photo, which both grow quite well right next to the path. One is Spring Gold (Lomatium urticulatum):

spring gold

The other is California Buttercup (Ranunculus californicus). This is a state Threatened Species, uncommon in Washington state. Unlike our more common 5-petaled Western Buttercup and the invasive Creeping Buttercup, R. californicus has 10-20 petals. It hybridizes with other buttercups.

cal buttercup closeup

Another yellow flower blooming April 20 and now is Death Camas (Toxicoscordion venenosum), as toxic as it sounds. It occurs with its close relative Common Blue Camas (Cammassia quamash), which was an important food source for Straits Salish Indians. These two species have virtually identical leaves and bulbs, so the women maintained gardens on these bluffs, weeding out the poisonous bulbs and planting more of the edible ones. This is the time of year they can be distinguished.

death common camas

common camas

The very short hairy Two-coloured Lupine (Lupinus bicolor) hides in the grass amid coiled strands of native onions, which have yet to flower.

seaside lupine

The variable topography on the bluff creates spots where water accumulates on bedrock and thin soil long enough to support denser populations of flowers, and also less hardy species.

camas and scale

Here Tomcat Clover (Trifolium tridentatum) attracts a bumblebee, tangling with strands of onion leaves:

white tipped clover

Cheerful pink Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima):

Western Long-spurred Violet (Viola adunca):

viola adunca

Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) anchored in a crack in the bedrock. It's edible and tasty:

miners lettuce

Other native plants flowering April 20: Field Chickweed, Red-Flowering Currant, Wild Strawberry. The Few-flowered Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum) shows only spent flowers...its flowering season is already over. No sign of the Satinflowers that were blooming in mid-March.


I went back to Iceberg today. In the past 10 days there have been some changes. Overall, looking across the wild meadow, it is greening up with grass leaves. Compare these vistas, April 20 (on left, looking SE), April 30 (on right, looking SW).

yellow field
iceberg 4/30
Showy Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium pulcherrimum), is very rare on Lopez Island, found only on this rock so far as I know. It was just starting to bloom on April 20 (left). Today it is in full bloom (right)
jacobs ladder
jacobs ladder in bloom
Other plants newly flowering since 10 days ago are Oregon Sunshine or Common Woolly Sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum):

oregon sunshine

Naked Broomrape (Orobanche uniflora), just at the end of its flowering now:


This Broomrape is naked because it has no parasitizes stonecrops. The yellow blooms of the common Broad-leaved Stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium) have just now started to emerge above the rosy succulent leaves:


Other newly flowering plants are the native Dewberry and the non-native Common Vetch, Black Medic and Sheep Sorrel.

As the season progresses, the flourishing grasses we see as a field of green here will grow taller than some wildflowers. I'll be checking the rocky balds and steep areas closely the next time I go out.

iceberg long view

Updates in the Bucket as spring rolls into summer. Thanks for joining me on my phenology walk today.

(Note: I'm heading off for two weeks tomorrow on my annual dive trip, this year to Turneffe atoll in Belize. No buckets from me for a while. I'm hoping I'll have some sort of internet access to catch up with nature news along the way, and possibly even contribute some from the Caribbean!)


What's blooming or buzzing in your backyard today? All nature news is welcome!


"Spotlight on Green News & Views" will be posted every Saturday and Wednesday at 1:00 pm Pacific Time on the Daily Kos front page.  Be sure to recommend and comment in the diary.

Originally posted to Backyard Science on Thu May 01, 2014 at 07:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Shutterbugs.

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