Friday, May 12, 2006

Shrubs for All Seasons

Two colorful native shrubs today offer different approaches to survival here in the foothills. Unlike the foreign ashes, they both came through our recent snows unharmed.

Here, Golden Currant (Ribes aureum) shows the strategy of a plant with northern affinities. Like its fellows in the Currant Family, its leaves start early, sometimes even in March, and resist frost. Flowers follow the leaves.

An alternative method is shown here by Skunkbush, or Three-leaved, Sumac (Rhus trilobata, once R. aromatica), which flowers well before the leaves begin to appear. You can almost see a leaf, just getting started, in the lower right of this photo. The flowers, by the way, are tiny, maybe 3 mm across. The Sumac Family has southern leanings, and our sumacs are cousins of cashews and pistachios.

Both these plants are volunteers in my backyard, planted by birds. Both produce small round juicy fruits that birds apparently enjoy and then deposit in likely places. Landscaping made easy!

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