Friday, June 4, 2010

Field Trip: The Fragrant Path of the Diablo Foothills

Using the holiday weekend to finally paint the kitchen (it looks great!), I realized on Sunday that we hadn't been outside to enjoy the best weather we've had in quite some time.  Everybody in the car!  We're going out!  Impulsively, I grabbed a handful of maps taken from the local regional parks and settled on Castle Rock & Diablo Foothills in Walnut Creek/Pleasant Hill.  Arriving around 5 pm, the crowds had already packed up their picnic baskets and left the park for us to explore.  While a welcoming committee of yellow Calochortus, Brodaiea and Owl Clover lit up the sides of the trail, the bowers of flowering Buckeyes (Aesculus californica) captivated my eyes and nose. 

Sweet yet not syrupy, girlish and not fruity, the scent of a Buckeye blossom will levitate the senses and cause a furious pollen-mustache removal.  We passed by hundreds of these trees, yet every time I couldn't help but stop and relive its fragrance.  Thus began our smell tour of the Diablo Foothills.  We ascended the Shell Ridge Trail along a ballet troupe of yellow butterflies and my first sighting of Clarkia unguiculata in the wild. 

Sambucus mexicana sweetened our way- I had no idea the scent could be so lovely when I had first spotted it growing along the Delta.  Country Mouse highlighted this plant recently in an enlightening post here.   Nothing like seeing a plant in person to make you want one... Now!

To contrast with the heavenly fragrances, Salvia mellifera sunned its leaves on the hillsides with late afternoon sun, sending its musk down the path in fleeting clouds.  While most of the flowering had already finished, gobs of happy Monkeyflowers shone orange and continued the bloom along side them.

Farther along, the persistent buzzing of an insect construction zone led us to investigate.  Bunches of Adenostoma hosted a myriad of bees, from honey to hover, to bumble.  What is it about silently watching bees buzzing frantically that makes me feel so relaxed?  Ok, I want an Adenostoma now, too.  Not to mention another opportunity to explore this park further throughout the seasons.


  1. Embarassed to say I have virtually no sense of smell and seeing a post like this reminds me I need to get the surgery immediately! Beautiful, beautiful photos!

  2. You've been inside painting, when we finally had some lovely warm weather?! Tisk Tisk. Glad you saw the error of your ways :P It seems be all about Aesculus and Mimulus around here at the moment too. Now I want an Adenostoma too...nothing has been buzzing that much around here since our Ceanothus stopped blooming. Anything to keep the bees happy!

  3. Isn't it awful how house projects can steal some spectacular days outside that really should be spent in the garden or on trips like this? Still, enjoy the newly awsomed kitchen--It sounds really worth the effort! I'm glad you made it out to check out these blooming plants and their great scents. The woman who has the desk next to mine at work has a great view of a restored little canyon. The adenostoma has been amazing this year! Thanks for sharing your trip.

  4. Thanks, guys! That weekend was too amazing to spend inside!
    James, can't you somehow switch desks with your coworker? Call it spring cleaning and enjoy the view!