Every year on February second, focus turns to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where Punxsutawney Phil, media darling of the groundhog world, may or may not see his shadow--indicating that spring has sprung or that winter will drag on for another six weeks.
What has that got to do with us here in San Mateo county? Whether you are rooting for the groundhog to see his shadow so winter will continue and you can strap your skis to your carrier rack and drive for hours to slalom in the snow or you want him to peek out of his burrow and sound the all clear for spring because you have cabin fever and want to get into the garden and spread some compost and get dirt under your fingernails...where was I? What I am trying to say is, a groundhog in a state that gets lots of winter snow is not a good indicator of how close we are to spring here in La Honda.
I have a few local indicators of spring that I have noted over the years. Some winter seasons, especially the cold rainy ones, I am desperately searching, sometimes for weeks. Just one little glimpse and I'll know spring is coming...sooner or later...sometime.
This year I stumbled upon my indicators quite accidentally. Probably because we've been having some unseasonably warm and wonderful weather and I wasn't mouldering away in my rain gear muttering under my breath, sliding down the muddy trail into the canyon where our pump is located. Yesterday was beautiful and I walked down the wooded trail in a short sleeve shirt with no sweater. I looked down and beside the trail I spotted two of my early spring indicators growing close together at my feet: Cardamine californica (commonly known as milkmaids, a native and member of the mustard family). The other is an exotic invader: Myosotis latifolia (commonly known as forget-me-not). Calflora warns in no uncertain terms:
Myosotis latifolia, a dicot, is a perennial herb that is not native to California; it was introduced from elsewhere and naturalized in the wild. See Calflora
(If you look closely at the picture of the milkmaid flower, you will see some fuzzy blue dots behind it. Those are deceptively mild looking foret-me-nots.)
Yes, Myosotis latifolia has aggresivley naturalized but I have forgiven the invader because I love the blue flowers that remind me (at least on those years of never-ending rain) that spring is coming. It really is. I tell myself this later in the season as I comb the forget-me-not burrs out of my dog's coat. I tell myself this as I pull out the forget-me-not plants that are edging into my garden and the flower pots that it has aggresivley invaded.
Still, the forget-me-nots have not yet crowded out the milkmaids in the woods.
And now I'm looking for the hound's tongue, Cynoglossum grande, the next indicator on my list...