Weeds, Nature, Erosion and Hope. With a Fly, too.

Plants don’t grow in dirt. Well, maybe snow buckwheat.

The old glacial river eddy (above) high above Priest Valley had its gravel bed stripped away fifteen years ago. So far, nothing has grown there except the snow buckwheat you see above (and below).

Note the wasp.

A similar gouged clay slope to the west was planted at the same time into (non-local) bunchgrass. Year by year, the bunchgrass has dwindled. You can see in the image below how weeds are moving in, most notably at this time of year wild (white) morning glory.

I think it goes to show that life comes from life, not dirt. Here’s a road cut below the original image above. It is such a hostile environment for life that despite being showered annually with seeds it only gained a few shreds of lichen (upper image, right of middle) this spring, and no other life at all. Even the wild bees, which have tunnelled through all the living slopes in this area of Bella Vista…

Bee city!

… won’t touch it.

It’s not nature if you don’t plant it. The regenerative powers of the planet do not extend universally, everywhere. The act of destruction that bared this ancient slope has proven stronger than life itself. But don’t be glum. This is actually good news. Below, for example, is a slope (a park, actually, and the slope of a vineyard bulldozed out of this same clay)…

… that was also seeded into non- native bunchgrass and (also non-native) crested wheat grass.

Both are largely gone now, but the rest of the slope is saturated with weeds. That is actually nature, working with what neglect and care have given. The care was in the sowing of an adaptable, sturdy grassland cover. The neglect was in the failure to sow the native plants that sustain grasslands over the long term, things like snow buckwheat, balsam root, mariposa lily, desert parsley, yellow bells, death camas, water leaf, and so many more, based on the belief that the land will randomly develop a healthy ecosystem, because that is how ecosystems were originally established. Indeed, but we have a choice. We can either have a mess of weeds that support few, if any, creatures and do not appreciably add to the enrichment of the valley, or we can have anything else we help establish. It really is up to you and I.

And I’m including this fly sheltering from a summer rainstorm in our group. These are principles that have sustained the syilx in this valley since the last ice age.

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