Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Slender Flowered Thistle (Carduus tenuiflorus)

Article written by Diane

This thistle has been spotted so far on two of the five trails we've been on, Wildwood and Hummingbird. Standing tall above woodland grass and low lying wildflowers this woody stalked thistle is not very attractive but it's delicate bright blooms have amazing 'curb appeal' and add to the beauty of the array of wildflowers.

More commonly known as the winged plumeless thistle, and also known as shore thistle. The thistle plant in general carries quite a tale.

Thistle is an old English name given for a large group of plants with a questionable reputation. According to ancient Greek folklore the thistle was apart part of the original curse put upon the earth and specifically on man. In Grecian history 'Earth' made the thistle in a moment of grief for the loss of Daphnis, shepherd and musician, poet and hunter. In Norse mythology Thor, the thunderer god, protected the plant, known as the 'lightning plant', and all those that wore it was protected from harm.

The common cotton thistle or Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium L.) has quite a noble stature. During the reign of Malcolm I of Scotland, Norsemen attempted to capture the Staines Castle by wading across the moat in their bare feet, only to find the moat dry and overgrown with thistle. The agonized cries of the warriors aroused the castle guards and the Norsemen were defeated. To memorialize this victory, the thistle flower became the emblem of Scotland. In some stories, thistle is also the basis of Hans Christian Anderson's tale The Wild Swans, where eleven princes were freed from their entrapment as swans when their sister made shirts from thistle and placed them on their backs.

Our common noxious thistle weed does not have such a majestic tale. Discovered and identified in 1991 in Thurston County, Washington, this thistle plant like all others are deadly to animals and livestock such as sheep due to it's crown of thorns and spiked stalks. This pretty slender flower thistle is an aggressive exotic weed that invades and infests grazing pastures and open ranges.

The thistle plant is in the asteraceae or compositae family, along with the aster, daisy, and sunflower. Slender flower is not native of America but made it's way here from Europe and Asia.

The delicate cluster of rosette leaves deeply lobed with numerous spines have the appearance of a pineapple and each lobe produces clusters of pink, purple and mauve blooms. Each "flower" is composed of many individual florets.

Many edible products come from 'composites', or thistle plants such as cooking oils, lettuce, sunflower seeds, artichokes, sweetening agents, and teas, but not so with this particular species - look but don't touch!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Santa Susana Monkey Flower (Diplacus rutilus)

Article written by Diane

During our hike through the Santa Susana brush-land at Corriganville, we spotted a rare variety of the Monkey Flower, known as the Santa Susana. Although the monkey flower is not in it's natural habitat in Pasadena, it has been known to grow there quite well when planted in full shade, thus the plant is also known as Pasadena Red Monkey Flower.

The monkey fower is in the Mimulus family. The generic name in Latin, mimus means "mimic actor", from the Greek mimos meaning "imitator."

The Santa Susana monkey flower is primarily found on the hillsides of Santa Susana and has velvety deep brick red flowers, fading to touches of yellow and glossy green foliage. You can look for this delicate flower hiding in shaded areas under the protection of trees, shrubs and large rock outcroppings. When this monkey flower thrives, it is stunning in all colors and varieties and several species produce a musky aroma.

Described as a 'knock your socks off flower' by one botanist. Filled with sweet nectar, the monkey flower is the perfect flower if you are planting a 'hummer garden', this flower attracts hummingbirds. Strange however, this plant does not attract butterflies.

It's a mixed bag as to if this plant is edible. While one source states: "Mimulus species tend to concentrate sodium chloride and other salts absorbed from the soils in which they grow in their leaves and stem tissues. Native Americans and early travelers in the American West used this plant as a 'salt substitute' to flavor wild game. The entire plant is edible, but reported to be very salty and bitter unless well cooked. The juice squeezed from the plant's foliage was used as a soothing poultice for minor burns and skin irritations."

Whereas another source states: "No medicinal properties, not edible and do not self-administer."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tarantula Hawk

Article written by Cindy

This ugly critter is commonly known as a Tarantula Hawk, with the scientific name of Pepsis Formosa. We came across him/her while hiking the north trails at Corriganville in Santa Susana. They are in the spider wasp family.

Measuring up to 2 inches in length, these brightly colored insects are the prey of only a few predators, the roadrunner in particular. They are "nectivorous," meaning they live mosly on nectar, and have been known to become tipsy after feeding on fermented fruit.

The Tarantual Hawk preys on, as their name states, Tarantulas. The female of the species is able to find a tarantula through scent, and will then enter its burrow to chase it out. She will now attack the tarantula, stinging it, which causes paralysis. She will then drag her victim back into it's burrow and lay a single egg on its abdomen, seal it up and leave it to hatch. If a male tarantula is attacked the wasp will make a burrow and go through the same egg-laying and sealing procedure.

These wasps are generally mild-mannered towards humans and it is rare they will sting. However, one researcher who has been stung describes it like this... "To me, the pain is like an electric wand that hits you, inducing an immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations. The pain for me lasted only about three minutes, during which time the sting area was insensitive to touch, i.e., a pencil point poked near the sting resulted only in a dull deep pressure pain."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla)

Written by Diane Beauton

We found this specimen on one of the trails at Wildwood Park, Thousand Oaks.

Purple Sage is a sturdy drought resistant plant belonging to the mint family.

This succulent looking plant is actually a shrub and one variety of sage plant native to California. It's woody stem blooms blue/purple flowers. The plant is sweetly aromatic and is a lover of bees, insects, and birds who feed on it's sweet nectar.

Native Americans used this plant during ceremonies for it's hallucinogenic powers to induce visions during healing rituals, much like the shamanic traditions use another well another known variety, Saliva Divinorium. And according to Mazatec legends, they believe the plant is an incarnation of the Virgin Mary. The seeds of this herbal were also a part of the diet of the Chumash Indians.

One source states, "Botanists generally agree that salvia divinorum is low in toxicity and has a pretty low potential for addiction. It is still legal in most states, but we don't recommend you run out and try it." Seeing how Salvia Leucophylla is in the same family I am assuming the toxicity is also low.

The only difference between the two is their strains of power.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Deja Vou - or My, that looks familiar!

Written by Cindy Nunn

While looking through the photos of our blog you might be thinking to yourself..."I'm SURE I've seen this place before!" yet you've never been to Simi Valley or even to California for that matter.

My answer to you is this..."Oh, but you HAVE been here, many times, if only through the magic of Hollywood. You just weren't aware of it!"

With its rugged mountains, gentlly rolling hills, groves of oak trees, pastures of green and gold and sandstone rock formations Simi Valley and Santa Susana have been the backdrop of literally thousands of movies and television shows since at least the 1930's. The Larry Levinson Studios, producers of the Hallmark Channel movies, is located in Santa Susana / Simi Valley, directly across from the former Corriganville Movie Ranch. We are also home to the Big Sky and Paramount movie ranches.

Simi Vally is a small town with lots of BIG country surrounding it, making us an ideal location for everything from an old west setting to more modern suburban ones. Recent movies filmed here have been Transformers, Thor and The Benchwarmers. That "cursed" Poltergeist house? You'll find that right in the middle of one of our average, middle-class neighborhoods.

The location of the photo below will be familiar to any fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder as this is where America's much loved "Little House on the Prairie" television series was filmed dueing the entire run of the show. Sadly, the buildings are now all gone, with most of them going up in a blaze of glory on the last day of filming for the series when the town was blown up. Those few buildings which remained were consumed by the wild fires which raged through Simi Valley and Moorpark in 2003.

Another classic, Gone With the Wind, was also filmed in Simi Valley. Well, okay, not the entire movie, but those famous Tara cotton fields were filmed here. I suspect that some of the footage with the oak trees may have also been filmed here since our valley is full of these grand old trees.

At Corriganville you can still wander through "Robin Hood Forest" and visit the site of the former "Fort Apache." You can also stand in what was at times the lagoon from "The Creature From The Black Lagoon," "Robin Hood Lake," and "Jungle Jim's" swimming hole. In this recent photo, taken by the author, the lagoon/lake is dry.

For the rest of the world Simi Valley's "old west" flavor has been immortalized on film, with actors playing the parts of tough men crossing rugged trails and desert canyons. For those of us who reside here, well, we get to experience the real thing through our hiking adventures. In many ways the Old West is still alive and well in Simi Valley's back hills country and meandering canyons.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis)

Written by Diane Beauton

This plant is a member of the Asteraceae (Aster or Sunflower) family, and is a native to the Mediterranean. The plant is also known as golden starthistle, yellow cockspur.

As pretty as the pineapple crowned cotton-fuzzy cluster is, the plant itself is a tangled web of stems. This plant is a common weed, so common in California it rules the fields. Threatening the open range of Washington and Idaho, Montana is monitoring the spread and has an infestation alert to keep it from invading it's state. The seeds of this plant are carried away by the drift of the wind and quickly take root where it lands. It's a deep rooted and difficult to uproot.

The Yellow Star Thistle most-likely was imported to California from the Mediterranean during the California Gold Rush, in contaminanted grains such as Alfalfa feed.

The long sharp thorns are the plants 'warning' to four-legged creatures to stay away! This plant is especially toxic to horses; one bite and it paralyzes the horses mouth and can kill them and it's deadly to many other animals as well.

This plant is not like the 'Milk Thistle' used in herbal remedies, stay clear of this one.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hoary-leaved Ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius)

Written by Diane Beauton

Hoary-leaved Ceanaothus is also known as mountain Lilac and is common in the coastal mountain areas of Southern California. This plant is a tall growing shrub/tree and is a native of California. The leaves are thick and rippled with white fuzzy undersides and teeth along the edges. The blooms are white, white Gray, or appear to have yellow or pink hues.

The center surrounding the stigma has five long and thin bright yellow filaments that are fuzzy . It has five petals the shape of a spade giving the overall appearance of 'star' when fully opened.

Hike to Paradise Falls

Written by Diane Beauton

No doubt about it, hiking is a new experience for a sidewalk stroller, but one that is very rewarding. We begin our hike to Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park wearing our newest hiking gear. I graduated from a little black fanny pack to a double holster water waist pack and Cindy to a larger fanny pack to a full on backpack stuffed with trail mix and granola bars. Cindy armed with her knife and I with pepper spray; we were ready for the challenge of another hike.

Wildwood has many trails that lead to Paradise falls and being a newbie hiker I voted for the high trail, the easy trail and Cindy just wanted to hit the trail – any trail. Small problem though, the signposts didn’t point, beginners go this way! So we eeny, meeny, miny, moed it and headed on the east-bound trail. Another small problem; turns out we were on the low trail, the windy, narrow more difficult, look over the edge trail, but it was a breath-taking view.

As I followed behind, Cindy did a great job as scout calling out, “narrow road, rock to the right, poison oak to the left and bee.” She is definitely ready for a job as a “wilderness guide.” The downhill hike into the valley was a little tricky for me but Cindy was in the lead for a very good reason- to break my fall; what are little sisters for?

The scenery looking down into the valley was humbling to say the least and our little point and shoot cameras didn’t do it justice but its there for the capture so we snapped away framing flora along the jagged hillside, wild daisies, flowering cactus and a glimpse of the falls from a birds-eye view.

The canyons are crawling with predators’, the winged kind like the damselfly and the California black gnat (they bite and feed on blood), four-legged lizards, six-legged velvet red ants (flightless wasps) and especially the two-legged variety, known as people. The later being more like stalkers of the wild aspiring to capture that perfect awe-inspiring shot that lands on the cover of National Geographic.

Finally we reached the glistening waterfall and tranquil pond that fed the running creek and the cool shade of the trees. The sound of the waterfall, the gentle breeze and rock formations made the hike worthwhile, somewhat like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. After taking more pictures we headed back ‘up’ the trail in search of the easy way back. What I learn is there is no easy way ‘up’! What else did I learn, bring more water!

All the colorful wildflowers make the wild a haven for bees gathering honey and pollinating – all kinds of bees. It didn’t take long to heed the warning calls – “little bee, big bee, really big bee and SWARM”! Yes, SWARM or "killer bees" as Cindy called the alarm. Midway on the trail is a shaded resting spot and viewing point in the design of a tee-pee; here we stopped to munch and rest. This is where we saw the SWARM of bees, thousands of bees buzzed by over-head. There is nowhere out in the wild to take cover, so reminder: “add Benadryl along with Avon Skin so Soft to keep away Mosquitos and those 'pesky' black gnats) our one casuality after biting Cindy to list of things to bring on hike.” Back on the trail the uphill climb was a bit difficult for me so we moved along at a snails pace and since there were no trees I took cover under the shadow of every bush along the trail. This experience gave me a whole new view of the spirited pioneers and their perilous journey West.

The hike took us about 3 hours, not bad considering I’m out of shape and we stopped to take pictures.

The wilderness trails are dusty and cracked and steep and windy but its landscape is dotted with multicolored blooms and lush foliage where birds nest and critters roam. Back in the concrete jungle of highway road rage and parking lot crazies; I think I'll continue the occasional wilderness hike with the company of creepy crawlers and things that go buzz.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Aztec Dancer

Written by Diane Beauton

Wildwood Park, Thousand Oaks, Ca. is the natural habitat for all kinds of insects that crawl and fly! On our way back down the trail we spotted a dragonfly and snapped a shot of him. Yes him...we know it's a him because of his bright neon blue color. The males, especially, are brightly colored in blue, green, yellow, orange, red and bronze neons.

What we didn't know is this was not a dragonfly but a damselfly. Now one might think 'damsel' refers to female but it does not, it refers to a smaller insect in the dragonfly family.

Since we didn't know that, we thought others might not know either and our readers might find a little information about this guy interesting.

There are approximately 450 varieties of this species but the size of the torso, color, wing placement and distance between the eyes helps to identify this one as an Argia nahuana also known as Aztec Dancer. Notice the eyes on our damselfly are set apart; whereas most dragonflies eyes touch.

Being predators, these little guys have their important place in the balancing of the ecosystem by feasting on other insects including harmful ones. They eat mosquitoes, gnats, ants, termites, spiders, bees and even butterflies. So again we learn something new about the world we share with things that crawlers and fly!

Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus)

Written by Diane Beauton

Corriganville Movie Ranch, Simi Valley 'past' provided us with the settings for Robin Hood, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Jungle Girl and Rin-Tin-Tin to name a few. Fort Appache, The town Saloon and Trading Post and County Church are all memories now but present-day Corriganville remains a showcase surrounded by majestic moutains, golden fields and some of natures most colorful flora.

Belonging to the Plantaginaceae family this gorgeous iridescent blue-lavender/electric blue bloom is Native to America, thriveing in the Sierras and throughout California. It's also Native to Asia.

This pretty is also called Mountain blue penstemon, Margarita BOP, Blue Springs or Gay Penstemon.

The Foothill Penstemon is a herbaceous perennial with blooms like snapdragons.

If you like the sight of butterflies, birds and bees frequenting your garden this is the plant for you.

Small Town - Big Country

Di and I hope you are all enjoying our blog so far. I know we are finding a lot of satisfaction in being able to share our adventures with you, as well as some history about the town we live in.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Simiopolis – Simi’s First Tract Home Neighborhood

Written by Cindy Nunn

During the 1800’s there were three distinct areas in what is now known as Simi Valley, with ranches dotted throughout the area from one end of the valley to the next. The land near the hills to the north, in what is now the Tapo Canyon and Tapo Street areas was called Rancho Tapo, the south east area was called Santa Susana and the rest of the valley was known as El Rancho Simi, Simi Valley or simply ‘The Simi.’

In the year 1888 a group of land investors, called the California Mutual Benefit Colony of Chicago, was formed with the intention of bringing new settlers to Rancho Simi from Illinois. These investors bought land in Simi for the town site, as well as acreage for farming. The area was advertised as a place for those seeking a more healthful environment, even going so far as to portray a paddle-wheel boat in the arroyo, making the small body of water appear far larger than it was. Soon, about one-hundred brave and hardy souls signed on to become the new settlers of what became known as Simiopolis, a name which lasted for no more than six months before reverting back to the more simple Simi.

Twelve ready-made homes, none of which came with in-door plumbing, were purchased from the T.W. Harvey Lumber Company of Chicago, who also specialized in cottage style house plans, which could be chosen from a small catalog of designs and sold for about $300. These houses were partially assembled in Chicago and sent by rail to Saticoy, California, where they were then picked up and hauled to Simiopolis by horse and wagon. In November 1888 the first group of new settlers left Chicago and arrived in Simi Valley on 15 November. However, the houses had not arrived yet, forcing them to camp out in tents at the Simi Hotel. They were no doubt shocked and surprised to find that they had come to a settlement that had neither church nor school, or much of anything else in the way of amenities for that matter!

Soon, the homes were up and the new “Simi Colony” came to life. This area, bounded between current-day First and Fifth Streets and Los Angeles and Ventura Avenues, became Simi Valley’s first tract housing neighborhood. Sadly, only two of the original homes exist, one of which is located at the Strathern Historical Park. The other, however, remains in the same location at which it was first erected, at 2nd Street and Pacific Avenue, and is owned by Larry Powell, who has been lovingly restoring this Lovely Lady of Simi Valley for well over twenty years.

Before Mr. Powell purchased the property it was owned by Rose Arabella ROWE Printz, and then by her daughter, Bessie Printz. Ownership of the home pre-Printz is not positive, but I believe it may have been the William H. and Mary Gardner family.

Rose Arabella was born Sept. 1861 in Fayette County, Ohio, where her parents, Levi ROWE and Eliza DAVIS owned at farm at Sugar Land. On census records for 1870 and 1880 Rose was actually enumerated as Arabella R. Rowe. Her siblings were Oliver, Martha ( aka Mattie) and Wesley. On 9 June 1886 Rose married Charles Albert Printz in Fayette County, Ohio. Charles was born in Miamisburg, Montgomery County, Ohio in the year 1860.

Soon after, this newlywed couple moved to Cook County, Illinois, settling in Hyde Park. Charles was a wholesale grocer at this time. In 1888 they were living at Jefferson Avenue and 57th Street, where daughter Anna Francis Printz was born on 27 May 1888 at in the evening. It was in this year that the partially assembled houses for the Simi Colony were being loaded on the trains at Chicago for their trip to California and daughter Bessie recalled that her parents talked about watching these houses being loaded on to the train cars.

Apparently Charles was a land agent in Los Angeles for the Simi Land and Water Company for a short time. He must have had itchy feet because by 1890 we find him living in Pleasant Valley (current day Camarillo), Ventura County, California, where he became a Registered Voter on 19 July 1890. He lists his occupation as farmer. Then, in September 1891 it was reported that he was almost finished building “a comfortable little house on his ranch,” which was located in Simi Valley. This is where daughter Gertrude Lillian was born in December 1891. Daughter Bessie was born in October 1893, probably in San Jacinto, Riverside County, where the family were living at the time of Charles’ death on 3 October 1894. Land records show that Charles and Rose granted land to the Simi Land & Water Company on 17 January 1892, quite possibly where they had built their little house.

In 1900 we find ‘A. Rose PRINTZ’ and daughters living in Fairfield, Highland County, Ohio, according to the census for that year. Sometime after 1901 Rose and her daughters returned to Simi Valley, where they lived in one of the Colony Houses from 1903 to 1905. At this time Rosa was the postmistress of Simi Valley. In 1905 the family home caught on fire and burned to the ground, forcing a move to the house next door, which is the one still standing at 2nd and Pacific. From here, Rosa not only retained her position as postmistress, a job she held from 1903 until 1941, but she also ran the telephone exchange for Simi from this house. After many years of moving from one state to another, and than from town to town, Rose finally returned to Simi and stayed, forever immortalizing the part she played in the history of the little Simi Colony. Later, daughter Bessie took over the position of postmistress and the eveidence is still there. If you happen to stop by to see this beautiful little house, don’t forget to take note of the respectful tribute paid on the mailbox by current owner Larry Powell, which still reads “B.M. Printz.”

Please note: Research into the history of this colony house will continue as new information comes to light.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Woodland Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata)

Written by Diane Beauton

As beginner hikers we are discovering the hidden beauty of the back roads in our own community. What's most exciting is when you stumble across and are rewarded with a bit of nature that has a little more history behind it than most, such is the case with the Woodland Clarkia.

But keeping the reader in suspense let me tell you about the this needle in a haystack first.

This variety of Clarkia is cataloged as an annual herbaceous plant (simply put, it's an herb) that is native only to California. It is also known as Elegant Clarkia and Elegant Fairyfan for it's delicate and wispy petals.

This particular species name unguiculata means "little red claw or nail" and refers to the narrowing shape of the petals where they connect to the flower head.

Belonging to the Onagraceae (Evening Primrose Family), this plant is toxic,

so although this plant is cataloged as an herb, medical uses are unknown as is the possible hazards to your health. Naturalist consume at your own risk!

Its colorful, spidery-looking flowers showcase as a variety of colors, ranging from white to vibrant purple to soft pink to bold crimson. This wildflower would be a compliment in any garden.

Now for the 'needle in the haystack' of history. Its variety name Clarkia is named after Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The following excerpt is taken from one of there journals (original spelling) after making it to the Pacific Coast in 1805:

"I met with a singular plant today in blume," wrote Meriwether Lewis on June 1, 1806, "of which I preserved a specemine. It grows on the steep sides of the fertile hills near this place." He described the root, stem, branches and leaves, and finally the parts of the delicate flower:

...The corolla superior consists of four pale perple petals which are tripartite, the central lobe the largest and all terminate obtusely; they are inserted with a long and narrow claw on the top of the germ, are long, smooth & deciduous. There are two distinct sets of stamens the 1st or principal consists of four, the filaments of which are capillary, erect, inserted on the top of the germ alternately with the petals, equal short, membranous; the anthers are also four each being elivated with it's fillament, they are linear and reather flat, erect sessile, cohering at the base, membranous, longitudinally furrowed, twise as long as the fillament [and] naked, and of a pale perple color. the second set of stamens are very minute, are also four, and placed within and opposite to the petals. These are scarcely persceptable while the 1st are large and conspicuous; the filaments are capillary equal, very short, white and smooth. the anthers are four, oblong, beaked, erect, cohering at the base, membranous, shorter than the fillaments, white, naked and appear not to form pollen....This has the appearance of a monopetallous flower growing from the center of a four petalled corollar."

Above is the dried specimen of the "singular plant" that Lewis collected and was named in 1814 by botanist Frederick Pursh. named Clarkia pulchella.

We had a difficult time identifying this one so we requested the help from another plant lover who identified it for us. We want to thank Sharon Nixon a.k.a. 'Birdmom' for her assistance.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bush Monkey Flower (Mimulus aurantiacus var. aurantiacus)

Written by Cindy Nunn

This little beauty was photographed while hiking the Corriganville Trails, located in Simi Valley, Ventura County, California. It is commonly called the Bush Monkey Plant, or Mimulus aurantiacus, and is considered a honey plant pollinated by bees and hummingbirds. Certain native American Indian tribes, like the Miwok and Pomo, used the flowers and roots of this plant for its medicinal purposes and it was particularly good for healing minor scrapes and burns.

Deerweed (Lotus scoparius)

Written by Diane Beauton

Deerweed is a perennial shrub in the family Fabaceae (pea family). It is also known as California Broom or Western Bird's-Foot Trefoil. Deerweed is very similar in appearance to the garden variety many of us have in our gardens, known as Witches Broom (Cytisus scoparius).

The plant thrives in dry areas of California, Arizona, and Mexico, but it is commonly found in many coastal sand roadsides.
This common stringy bush of green, yellow and reddish-orange has been sighted on every trail we have traveled, and made it's colorful show in most of our photographs.
The stems are erect and somewhat fork-like, with small leaves consisting of three to six leaflets. The yellow clustered blossoms appear between March and August. The fruit pods are curved and have two seeds.

Notice the bright array of colors of the Deerweed mingling with the other natural flora ~ it's beautiful in every appearing.

Click to enlarge to see all the radiant color.

Milk Thistle
 (Silybum marianum)

Written by Diane Beauton

Milk Thistle is also known as Holy Thistle, Silybum, Blessed Milk Thistle, Carduus Marianum, Our Lady's Thistle, Wild Artichoke, Lady's Thistle, Marian Thistle, Shui Fei Ji, Mediterranean Thistle, St. Marys Thistle, just to name a few.

This plant was spotted during the Mothers Day hike in Las Llajas Canyon, Simi Valley, Ca. Characterized by sharp needle like leaves, it's best to admire from a distance or the lens of a camera. The leaves are very distinctive, with white marbling on the shiny green leaves. Botanists beware... Look but don't touch!

Although found in some gardens, it is illegal to sell or buy milk thistle in many states such as Washington State because it is highly toxic to livestock when consumed in large quantities. California reports up to 4 tons per acre in heavily infested areas.

Milk Thistle is also used as an herbal remedy for cleansing the liver and used to treat the effects of ingesting poisonous mushrooms.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Leaping Lizards! - Corriganville Hike

My sister and I chose Corriganville Trail for our hike this morning. This particular area has been a favorite location for filming movies since the 1920's. While heading back down the trail towards the trailhead we spied these two lizards on a fallen log. At first it looked like they were either preparing to fight or mate, but they are two different types of lizard. It soon became evident that the larger of the two was trying to avoid the smaller one and he began to HOP and JUMP to avoid him. Finally, he jumped completely over the little guy. It was the strangest thing we have ever seen a lizard do! Fortunately my camera also has a video feature. If anyone can identify this lizard we would be grateful.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

California Mutual Benefit Colony of Chicago

Written by Diane Beauton

Cindy and I have started a new chapter in the book of our lives. What started out as a walk for health three times a week has metaporphosed into a new hobby for fun and fitness.

Exploring off the beaten paths, dirt trails and historical points of interest has led us to a more exciting journey down the corridors of history and a growing interest to capture it in the view of our lens.

Our first venture was the oldest cemetery in Simi Valley, where the last remnant of the 1889 settlement also know as 'Simiapolis' are laid to rest. A small graveyard with a portion of it fenced off to cradle some of the oldest citizens of Simi Valley. This group of adventurous pioneers headed West across prairie, mountains and desert to reach a promised paradise filled with honey, wild tobacco, wheat fields, lush farm land and artesian springs; a place in 1889 known by some as The Simi and The Tapo.

A group of business men and Doctors who called themselves the California Mutual Benefit Colony of Chicago was responsible for painting the picture of this western utopia into a promise land to which some heeded the call. The California Mutual Benefit Colony of Chicago moved 12 prefab houses by train to the Simiapolis. To this date one house has been restored, historically known as the Strathern House and another is still occupied bya local resident.
Back at the cemetery we found a lone Civil War Veteran belonging to the NYHA (New York Heavy Artillary Regime), who fought in the War of the Great Rebellion. But for now our interest was awakened for two women in the Old Pioneer part of the cemetery. While many families are scattered about, Jamima Vose and her daughter Hester lay side by side. Cindy being the awesome genealogist and relentless snope has already begun to dig up little to unknown morsels of information on mother and daughter.

Their story begins as a puzzle of a few pieces, yet we already have enough to give us a glimpse into the past lives of these two courages pioneer women.

Hester Sophia Vose and her daughter Edith left Pennsylvania and settled in the new Simiapolis circ. 1893, 4 years after the first settlers arrived. It appears Hester was a widow when she ventured out to make the treacherous journey West with her daughter. It's not yet known how she arrived here, but if anyone can find out it will be my sister.

We do know that Hester served as The Simi's postmistress and telephone operator in the little community from 1893 until 1903 in one of the oringal 'Colony Houses' railed in from Chicago in 1888.

As for Jamima, it looks as if she joined her daughter sometime circ. 1897 to 1900 after her husband F.D. Vose, high constable in the city of Wilkes-Barre, died.

As more information unfolds on Jamima Vose this article will up edited and updated.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Camp Trail - Honey Bees and Mustard Flowers

Written by Cindy Nunn

On Friday our plans to hike the Brea Canyon area were stymied due to difficult access, so we changed plans and headed for the Happy Camp Trail, located in the hills about 3 miles north east of the little town of Moorpark, which is bordered by Simi Valley. Although not a particularly strenuous hike it was n enjoyable one. Unlike other canyons and trails in the area Happy Camp is fairly tame and level, with only a few gentle rising grades. The area is alive with Western Fence lizards, birds, squirrels and bees, LOTS of bees! Most of the flora consists of various types of sage, like white, button and blackball, as well as sumac, greasewood and wild buckwheat. The most prolific plant is the bright yellow flowered mustard plant. All of these plants together display a gorgeous riot of color to the wild landscape.

In 1890 Ninetta Eames visited the area and wrote an article about her impressions in Overland monthly and Out West magazine, entitling it Autumn Days in Ventura. She specifically mentions the thirteen hundred stands of bees at Happy Camp, and also shares with us the fact that the honey from the Simi Valley apiaries was considerest "the clearest and best honey in the world."

Is it any wonder that our hike on this trail was accompanied by the constant drone of bees busily working away at collecting honey? These, no doubt, are the descendants of those original bees mentioned in the article more than 120 years ago.

I called this rendezvous because I see a meeting halfway.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Western Fence Lizard

Behold...a thing of beauty! Well, maybe not to some but I have a special fondness for these little critters. The Western Fence lizard, also known as Blue-Bellies due to the vibrant blue coloration found on the belly and sometimes throat of the males, are as common as muck in the Simi Valley and throughout California. They rely on fast reflexes to avoid becoming prey to snakes, birds and some shrews. These little guys are thought to diminish the danger of transmission of Lyme disease. They seldom bite, and if they do it is hardly noticeable and they will often remain docile if held gently.