Chaparral Clematis (3 photos)

Last Sunday I joined a docent-led hike at the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve (SMER) – an open space that is normally closed to the public. Volunteers who lead hikes make it possible to see and experience this wonderful place. The hike went from the reserve’s south entrance down into Temecula Canyon, where Santa Margarita River flows nicely at the moment.

I’m always amazed what a lovely bunch of people these hikers and naturalists are – there’s an instant connection. And because of that, I’m even more astonished by the pace and how people seem to “rush” through the landscape while hiking*. Even while making photos, I felt like I hardly had the time to truly appreciate all that I saw – maybe that’s just because I hiked at the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve for the first time, while many others seemed to be returning participants. But also, knowing many of the plants in the chaparral makes each encounter like a meeting with old friends to me – I’d like to spend some time with them! :-)

And this time, I met a new friend: Clematis lasiantha, commonly known as Pipestem Clematis and Chaparral Clematis. Such a pretty little plant! I had no idea that Southern California had a wild clematis in the chaparral.

And that was only one of them. The other one was Tetracoccus dioicus, a rare, threatened and endangered plant commonly known as Parry’s tetracoccus or Red-shrubby spurge that I had never even heard about. I’ve added two photos of it to my Chaparral Plant Portraits gallery… and wish I would’ve had more time, and a tripod, and a macro lens, to photograph it better…

Behind the scenes

I decided to split the photos into separate blog posts with smaller galleries because I’ve made so many photos, and in such a hurry that they are an extremely mixed bag of images – combined with “normal” hikers, the photographer will always have to play catch-up with the rest of the group… I brought only the camera with one lens, and made only hand-held photos, and still managed to fall behind considerably.

Thankfully, two of the docents whose job was to “mop up” ;-) and keep the group together were patient enough and encouraged me to make photos as I expressed my excitement about Ceanothus in bloom, beautiful oaks, lovely hillsides with a thick carpet of soft-looking chaparral, and whatnot. Thanks, Bill and PJ! Needless to say, heartfelt thanks also to the other docents who volunteered their time to lead this hike (most notably Beth, who was kind enough to laugh about my silly puns:-)

*) the other thing that astonishes me is the lack of diversity. We hikers were men and women of all ages (it seemed), but we were all pretty darn white people. No Indians, no Asians, no Latinos and no African-Americans were part of the group. I’m not going to draw any conclusions from one single hike here, but still – in a state as diverse and inclusive as California, I found it notable.

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