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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Jun 10

Coming to a Head

Posted on June 10, 2016 at 7:39 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Early spring, welcome rains, and lush growth had the hills covered with beautiful verdant grass. The gentle breezes following the rains added their own special effects as the grasslands swayed to the tempo of the winds.

With all balmy spring days, the heat follows close behind. This year was no exception. The magic of those grasses soon morphed into another phase of their growth—one that carries danger on several levels.

Treading in dangerous territory
 Treading in dangerous territory

As you all know, there are several animals here at the ranch in Lassen. Two of my trusty golden retriever side-kicks, Sassy and Misty, frequent the shady, grassy areas while I putter in the garden. This past week I noticed the grasses developing seed heads that raised concern. The seed heads were in the form of a veterinarian's nightmare: foxtails. There are several types of grasses that produce barbed seed heads that, when mature, break into segments called awns. Those awns can and will attach themselves to animal fur, from where they can drive one way into the bodies of our furry friends potentially bringing serious medical repercussions. These awns are not selective! As hikers we, too, must be aware if walking through tall grasses. Oft times I find these awns scratching through my socks and shoe laces. The only way to get them out is pull them straight on through the material to keep their little barbed heads intact. That picture alone can only begin to describe what the veterinarians face.

Another danger with unattended wild grasses is the danger of fire as the once meadow-like surroundings turn golden brown. Dry grasses typically burn fast—especially uphill. A different kind of disaster can occur if those tall grasses come in contact with dead plant material or low-growing limbs of high-pyrophytic (fire-loving) plants such as broom, manzanita, eucalyptus, or bay. To help protect your property, wild grass areas should be cut short. Dead wood should be removed and disposed of properly. Trees should be limbed-up 6 to 10 feet and the tree canopies should be at least 10 feet apart.

Lastly, all grasses are high water users. Water is a precious commodity, especially in California where summers are dry and we are prone to drought. Many of our garden plants depend on irrigation to stay alive. Wild grasses and other weeds will rob them of this water. Make good use of your water by getting rid of unwanted water thieves!

With that, the hula hoe and rake are in hand and the threat of foxtails will soon be eliminated from around the house before those seed heads dry out.
poppies in natural surroundings
California poppies: Enjoy them in their natural surroundings

Poppy Perspective
Last week several readers responded to the blog's open-ended question about picking poppies. It seems several of you had similar experiences in thinking picking poppies was illegal. Upon doing some research before writing last week's blog, I learned there is no special law protecting our state flowers from someone passing by. However, the catch is that the poppies in my neighbor's hands were likely picked on federal lands (in this case, Bureau of Land Management) where it is illegal to remove any item be it rock, plant material, or even a bouquet! This also holds true for state and other public lands such as MMWD's Mt. Tamalpais Watershed. One other note to consider before amassing this nosegay: Poppies have virtually no ability to maintain as a cut flower. They will wilt and drop their petals soon after plucking! Better to leave them there and take in their beauty as you hike or drive by!

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