Spring is Springing in Idlewild Park

March 4, 2016

As I’m sure you’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks, it has become a bit warmer outside: the grass is a little greener, the flowers are making their grand entrances, and more birds are singing outside your bedroom window at 5 in the morning. Yep, spring is definitely upon us.

 

This became abundantly apparent as the TMPF team took a lil’ walk through Idlewild Park earlier this week.

 

We spotted a few common goldeneye on the river, as well as some common mergansers, and a few more Canada geese than usual. We spotted some wild violets blossoming along the path. We were lucky enough to see the water that has graced the Truckee River this year, too. We even caught the rattle of a belted kingfisher as he flew down the river.

 

We found some lovely but invasive Erodium cicutarium (Stork’s bill or pinweed) along the river as well. This particular little plant is probably one you’ve seen before, mostly because it is everywhere. It is not meant to be everywhere, though.

 

Stork’s bill is originally from the Mediterranean region, and was introduced to North American in the early 1700s. Since then, it has been fearless spreading itself wherever it can. And it can be most anywhere: its lil’ roots are well-adapted for bare, sandy, or grassy places, which allow it to grow all across the country. It flowers very early, and grows all over. Since it is taking habitat away from other native plants and negatively affecting the environment, it is designated as an ‘invasive species.’

 

But! It has a very neat seed dispersal method, too, dear readers. No, it’s not dispersed on the wind like dandelions, nor is it dispersed by sticking to things like the troublesome puncture vine. Instead, a spring mechanism from within the plant practically explodes, and the seeds launch off into the world! Then, the seed buries itself by winding and unwinding a spiral-shaped awn (kind of like a tail, but used for digging) in response to changes in humidity. Or, when the weather is just right, this plant will plant its own seeds and, ultimately (probably), take over the world.

 

Yes, it’s pretty neat. But it’s not pretty neat for the native plants that live around here. And now that you know, be on the lookout for tiny spiral-shaped seeds in the soil around these plants—if you hold them in your hand long enough, you can observed the furling/unfurling of the awns!

 

Enjoy the springtime, dear readers, and keep an eye out for some Stork’s Bill—I promise it won’t be too hard to find. ‘Til next time, happy trails ‘n’ quails!

 

PS: To watch a super cool video of the stork's bill seeds doin' their thing, click here

 

 

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