By Wendy Langhans
“Let me be by myself in the evenin’ breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees”
“Don’t Fence Me In” by Robert Fletcher and Cole Porter.
This time of year, the Fremont Cottonwoods put on a vivid show of color. Right now you can find them along the Santa Clara River, glowing bright yellow in the morning sunshine. Soon the leaves will fall and the tree will go dormant, waiting until the early spring to flower again and produce those cottony catkins.
In order to thrive, these trees need a steady supply of water. Their root systems can go 10-16 feet deep in search of water. That’s why we find them growing in wash of the Santa Clara River. Even when the wash looks dry, there is water available beneath the surface.
On a hot day, the shade from these trees provides a cool and restful oasis. And the leaves flutter in even the gentlest breeze. That’s because their “petiole“, the stalk that attaches the leaf to the stem, is flattened rather than cylindrical. To visualize this, imagine flapping a pencil. It remains rigid and does not bend. Now imagine flapping a piece of paper. It’s much more flexible.
A closer view of the leaves. Note the long petioles (leafstems).
If you listen carefully, you may hear more than just the murmuring of leaves. These 100-foot tall trees provide nesting sites for red-tailed hawks. And because the wood is relatively soft and weak, the heavy branches often break off, providing cavities for cavity-nesting birds like woodpeckers. So you may hear also hear the scree of a hawk or the rat-a-tat pecking of an acorn woodpecker.
But here’s where I disagree with the songwriter – beauty like this was meant to be shared. So I encourage you to invite a friend and take a walk along the paseos bordering the Santa Clara River.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, December 5, 10 AM – 3 PM. Craft Fair at Placerita Canyon. Come to the craft fair – make a Christmas wreath using all natural items such as berries, greens, rosemary, pine cones and embellish it with ribbon. Bring the children for children’s crafts such as pine cone bird feeders and candle dipping. Family fun and very affordable. Free parking and free entry. For more information, click here.
Saturday, December 5, 8 – 11 AM. Bird Walk at Castaic Lake. For information, contact the staff at LA County Parks at 661-257-4050.
Saturday, December 19, 8 – 10 AM. Bird Walk at Towsley Canyon. It takes some unique birds to stick around in our winters. Meet at the front entrance to the park. Beginners are welcome. For map, click here.
Saturday, December 27, 9-11 AM. Take a look at Mentryville’s Past. Come share a bit of California history with your out-of-town guests as we explore historic Mentryville. Meet at the first parking lot after the entrance to Pico Canyon. For a map, click here.
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.