By Bob Difley
As long time snowbirds know, Spring brings the most exuberant display of color to the monotone desert. Wildflowers wake up from their long hibernation, stretch their spindly stems, and unfold their vivid petals to flutter in a shameless and lurid sexual display. The colorful petals are designed to lure passing insects, birds, bees, and bats, that will then rapturously rub their bodies against the pollen saturated anther at the end of the flower’s stamen (the male part of the flower).
Covered with pollen these passing strangers, without which the wildflowers would be unable to produce offspring, fly off to share the fruits of their encounter in a sexual tryst with random fertile female stigmas, on which the pollen must be carefully placed for the act of pollination, thus completing the sexual act. I’m assuming it must be fun for all those insects, birds, bees, and bats.
But this year may be different. At Anza Borrego State Park, California’s largest state park and the location of one of the most vivid Spring desert wildflower displays in the Southwest, heavier than normal fall and winter rain have provided perfect Spring growing conditions, not just for desirable wildflowers, but also for an invasive attack plant called the Sahara Mustard weed (in photo left crowding out sand verbena and prickly poppy). This alien invader is now growing profusely throughout the Borrego Valley and up the canyons threatening indigenous plants and especially the Spring wildflower display.
Park rangers are currently mobilizing a defensive fighting force of volunteers to eradicate these invaders–by ruthlessly hand pulling them out by their alien roots–before they are able to decimate the annual flower show. This is your chance to be botanically and aggressively destructive to outsider plants and still feel good about yourself. And volunteering with like-minded others is fun, as well as providing good exercise and earning volunteer brownie points.
Campers, boondockers, and passing RVers in the park are urged to attend a training session taught by California State Parks’ Larry Hendrickson (photo, left) on Tuesday, February 8 from 9 AM to Noon.
Volunteers are asked to meet at the demonstration plot on the north side of Henderson Canyon Road, 1/2 mile east of the intersection with Borrego Valley Road.
Wear sturdy hiking boots, sunscreen, and bring water and snacks/lunch. Bring gloves and a hoe (preferably a “hula hoe” or stirrup hoe) or other weeding tools if you have them.
SCHEDULED WEEDING SESSIONS FOR PARK VOLUNTEERS
Larry Hendrickson will also provide a brief training for new volunteers at the following weeding sessions:
Saturday, February 12
Saturday, February 26
All sessions will take place from 9 am until 12 and from 1 – 3 pm. Rain cancels.