Nature in Santa Clarita…it’s not what you look at but what you see
Driving along the I-5 through the Newhall Pass during the weekday morning commute is an example of the good, the bad and the ugly. The bad – traffic is a mess. The ugly – it’s going to get worse, especially if all the proposed new developments are approved, like the 1000 condominiums planned for the Smiser Mule Ranch north of Calgrove. The good – while traffic is stopped I get a chance to practice my plant identification skills. I think of it as the grown-up equivalent of the alphabet game I played with my brother and sister in the backseat of our parent’s station wagon.
An easy plant for me to spot is the Mexican Elderberry, especially right now while it is in blossom. This small tree or shrub can grow to 25 feet high and produces clusters of white flowers, which are easily visible from the road.
Mexican Elderberry is a useful plant. Native Americans used it as medicine, brewing the blossoms into a tea that was used for fevers, upset stomachs and colds. They also used the stems to make arrow shafts, flutes and clapper sticks (a percussion instrument).
Later in the year, the flowers will produce clusters of tiny blue-black berries. Of course, we don’t forage for elderberries in our parklands, because the berries are food for scrub jays other local birds. Even coyotes eat elderberries; I sometimes see the undigested berry pits in coyote scat.
But if you’re curious about the taste of Elderberries, you can purchase Elderberry vinegars, jams and syrups. You can even find wineries that produce Elderberry wine. I’ve ordered wine from Wyldewood Cellars (http://www.wyldewoodcellars.com/) and found the sweet wines make a good aperitif, especially tasty after coping with traffic on the commute home.
And if you’re tired of whining about the traffic, you can start by taking one positive action. My husband and I are homeowners in Santa Clarita and we voted yes on the ballot to create the Santa Clarita Open Space District.
Our next hike is scheduled at Towsley Canyon on Saturday, June 9, from 7:30-9:30 AM. Welcome to the Towsley Shopping Mall: Native Americans use plants to support their everyday needs. Towsley Canyon is located on the Old Road, west of I-5 and about 1/4 mile south of the Calgrove exit.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
For our complete hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, go to www.LAMountains.com.
To see what's playing on radio station KHTS, go to www.hometownstation.com/or tune in to AM 1220.