May 16, 2023 News No Comments

The grasses are drying out quickly in the foothills and turning brown as summer approaches. However, in Lower Bidwell Park it is still green and lush thanks to the bountiful rain we’ve had this past rainy season. The ground vegetation is high and thick and while the City mowed some of the trails they missed others so be prepared to get foxtails in your socks and poison oak on your legs.

When I walk in the Park, I typically enter Lower Bidwell Park at the Bryant Ave. entrance on Vallombrosa. One of the biggest Valley Oaks (Quercus lobata) in the Park greets me as I enter the Park. It’s one of my favorite Valley Oaks in the Park and won’t be standing long.

The Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) at the Bryant Avenue access to Lower Park. (May 2023)

This beautiful tree is on its way out. While it is hard to see in this picture, almost half of the bark on the tree has fallen off and it loses more and more every year. The picture below, taken two years ago shows the damage. Trees don’t last forever but was there something that could have been done before it got this bad?

Bryant Avenue Valley Oak (May 2023}

What’s in bloom this week? 

California Buckeyes (Aesculus californica) are in the blooming process and some flowers are starting to break out. They should be out in full bloom before Memorial Day.

California Buckeye florescence (May 2023)

Soaproot (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) plants will be blooming soon. These plants tend to blossom out in the evening and at night. There are a number of populations of soapwort in the Park.

Soapwort (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) in Lower Park. (May 2023)
Soaproot flower stalks in the high ground cover. (May 2023)

One of my favorite plants in Bidwell Park (and Northern California) is in bloom, Spice Bush (Calycanthus occidentalis). Their red, woody flowers and fragrant leaves are found in the foothill zones around streams and other sources of water. They can be found throughout Bidwell Park in riparian zones where they are shade and water tolerant.

Spice Bush (Calycanthus occidentalis) blossom. (May 2023)

Elderberry (Sambucus sp.) is just starting to bloom in the Lower Park.

Elderberry (Sambucus sp.) next to Nature Center. (May 2023)
Elderberry (Sambucus sp.) flower head. (May 2023)

Park maintenance workers have hacked up a number of elderberries over the past few years in their misplaced efforts to “raise sightline” (a preferred method of vegetation management by the Chico Police Department). Elderberry plants are protected under Federal regulations yet the City ignores the requirements and aggressively trims them to “raise” them for some reason. They are not a fire issue any more than the invasive weedy trees the City ignores in Lower Park. Over twenty elderberries were pruned along the roadways in the Park by a CCC crew and most of them were not encroaching into the roadway.

Hacked Elderberry two years after aggressive pruning. (May 2023)

Things are changing fast in the Park. Get out there and experience this phase of Bidwell Park.

Written by Tom Barrett