Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Year of Edgewood Park

A year ago I started a fling with a county park. We had flirted on casual hikes before, but I'd always gone home and carried on with my life, only occasionally bringing home a snapshot or two of our fine times together.

Then last year a bit flipped, and I decided to really try and learn the amazing California flora & fauna I'd spent my life enjoying, yet barely knowing. I mean - I knew more than the average California bear - I grew up with a woodsman father, did yearly camping trips, took bio-science courses at uni, and could name most native trees & mammals, and a number of flowers & birds. And herps - well, they were like a religion for me as a kid, so I knew them best of all.

But, I wanted to go the next level - to eleven - and learn their scientific names, histories, behaviors, interactions, dependencies... Basically, pursue my life-long passion for the natural sciences and use California as a university to learn biology, botany, geology, zoology, and any other ology that captured my wonder and interest along the way.

Which brings us back to the park - Edgewood Park. It has become a fave haunt and muse in this endeavor. The hilly oak woodlands, seasonal creek gullies, chaparral mazes, rolling grasslands and serpentine outcrops of this wildflower refuge have inspired & taught me much.

Btw - it's no small thing to be a fave in the SF Bay Area - there's over 50 parks around the peninsula and south bay alone. Include the north and east bay, and there's hundreds - some of them 10,000+ acres, and many much wilder than Edgewood.

But to me, and many others, Edgewood is special. An oasis in the asphaltum. Small, intimate & knowable - yet never boring. So much so, that a solar cycle, four seasons, and many hikes later - I still thoroughly enjoy the park, and look forward to seeing what secrets it reveals this year.

Here's some of the beautiful reasons why Edgewood is an affair to remember:

indian warriors guard the hill
Indian warrior leads the early spring show

quite the native mix
Then a classic California wildflower mix carpets the fields

bay view
Hillside trails give views of the San Francisco Bay

checkerblooms reaching for sky
Fringed checker blooms take over as grasses fade

a hearty farewell-to-spring
But are ultimately replaced by a hearty Clarkia farewell-to-spring


Some of the photogenic characters of Edgewood:

coast silk tassel - garrya ellipticadirca almost out
Coast silk tassel and endangered leatherwood

fremont's star lilies loaded with nectarfairy lantern - calochortus albus
Fremont's star lilies and fairy lanterns

purple mouse-ears - mimulus douglasiiwestern columbine
Purple mouse ears and western columbine

mission bellsan orchid - striped coralroot
Mission bells and striped coralroot orchids

calochortus mugshotscalochortus mugshots
Mariposa lilies and gold nuggets

male anna's flirting with mecheeky boy...
Male Anna's hummer and western skink - both in mating colors

fledgling cooper's hawkjack striking a pose
Fledgling Cooper's hawk and curious black-tailed jackrabbit

male woodland cicadaturret spider
Woodland cicada and turret spider lair

"common" buckeyeanother ring-necked snake!
Buckeye butterfly and ring-necked snake

is that a friendly grin or what?frozen bunny
Western fence lizard couple and a brush rabbit

ruby-crowned kingletmaster of his domain
Ruby-crowned kinglet and western bluebird


Beauty by Season

Spring - Summer
Edgewood's spring starts early. Look for the first shooting stars, buttercups, sun cups, indian warrior, hound's tongue, leatherwood, bush lupine and star lilies in February. The blooming picks up from there with fragrant fritillaries, purple mouse-ears and mission bells in late March, and by mid-April the fields are thick with color, as poppies, paintbrush, checker blooms, tidy tips, cream cups, lupines, goldfields, blue dicks and blue-eyed grass all vie for pollinator appreciation. Fairy lanterns become common along the shaded trails. Then the spring closers come, as brodiaeas, prettyface, clarkias, gold nuggets and mariposa lilies take the fields in May/June.

Birds start getting frisky early in the year as well - overwintering male anna's hummers squelch from the branch tips, and mating western bluebirds glow like neon. Courting skinks and fence lizards also glow brilliant blue, and young hawks and hummers fledge their nests in May and June. The first summer cicadas also emerge in May.

By late June the grasses go brown, manzanita & madrone go red, and the farther foraging jackrabbits and brush bunnies are on the constant run from relentless redtails, kites, harriers & kestrels. Snakes & lizards bask on trails (sometimes rattlers - be careful!). The scent of sage fills the air. The lovely summer tarweeds now reign.

Deer are seen year round, and occasionally a coyote or bobcat will fade into the grasses like a ghost. Woodrat middens are scattered throughout the wooded areas.

Some of the native flora of spring & summer:

hound's tongueshooting starsgreat old oakcommon trillium - trillium chloropetalumtidy tipscream cupschecker bloom - sidalcea diploscyphapurple owl's cloverchaparral peamore mule's ears...ithuriel's spearindian paintbrushzigzag larkspurpipestems - clematis lasianthapretty face - triteleia ixioidesclarkia rubicundafalse solomon's sealspice bush - calycanthus occidentalisnarrowleaf milkweed - asclepias fasciculariswild calochortus familycalochortus mugshotsground brodiaeapicture perfect poppymadrone peelinghayfield tarweed starting


Fall - Winter
The transition from summer to fall sees flower replaced by fruit, as seeds and berries of all kinds start coming ripe for the many critters that live in the park or travel from afar to forage. Elderberry leads a feast that includes toyon, madrone, manzanita, poison oak and honeysuckle. And then there's the acorns from the many coast live, blue, valley and leather oaks. Needless to say, gray squirrels, woodpeckers, scrub & steller's jays are in constant disputes. A few summer wildflowers hang on - cheerful poppies and madia dot the fields into October.

With the rains come the ferns, fungi, lichens, mosses and slime molds - many as bright and beautiful as their counterpart spring wildflowers. The seasonal creeks flow, and the smell of the fallen bay leaves is divine. Many migrating birds stop in to forage, including chickadees, kinglets, cedar waxwings, sparrows and wrens.

Some of the native flora & fungi of fall & winter:

pretty poison oakmadia - it just goes and goesbay leaf littershiny happy lichenscoast live oak acornspretty poison oakbeautiful but don't touch!green death cap - amanita phalloidesfresh, bright amethyst laccariamaidenhair ferns explodingpleated marasmius - marasmius plicatulusfluted black elfin saddle - helvella lacunosawhite elfin saddle - helvella lacteayellow parasol - lepiota luteaclub coral - clavariadelphus occidentalisrussula emetica?toyon ripegem-studded puffball - lycoperdon perlatumgrisette mushroom - amanita vaginatafungi bloomingsatan's mushroom - boletus satanas


The Nuts & Bolts of Edgewood County Park & Preserve
  • 10 Old Stagecoach Road, Redwood City, California, 94062. San Mateo County. Parking and access is just east of hwy 280 at Edgewood Road Exit (4 miles south of hwy 92)
  • Good parking, lawn and picnic areas with bathrooms
  • Hiking, trail running and horses only - no dogs or bikes
  • 467 acres of intertwining trails allows you to create loops of many sizes, from 2 to 8 miles
  • Oak woodland, grassland, chaparral and seasonal creeks
  • Native wildflower preserve - over 400 species of vascular plants from 75 families and 8 plant communities, including multiple endangered species and serpentine-loving rarities
  • Coyotes and bobcats occasionally seen, mountain lions rarely (but they do visit)
  • Docent led wildflower tours March to June by Friends of Edgewood (who also run the heroic weed warriors teams that work to clear the park of invasive non-native weeds)
  • Well maintained trails - downed trees and trail washouts are gone next day
  • Traffic on trails is light - especially on weekdays
  • Bit noisy - between hwy 280 and suburban mowers & blowers



  1. Great piece, and exceptional photographs, your post gets me to thinking about how much (or little as the case really is!) that I now about the flora and fauna whilst I’m ‘out there’ and I really must do a lot more to increase my knowledge and hence enjoyment. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and pictures.

  2. An amazing piece on a beautiful place. It brings back fond memories of my not-long-enough 5-year stint in California.

    Your photographs are outstanding. Mind if I ask about your setup and whether you use flash?


  3. Thanks John, thanks Ted.

    John - I'm having a blast by learning with a camera. I just take pics of everything new I see on hikes, and then look it up on the web and in books back at home. If you have the time, it really helps the learning process.

    Ted - I'm actually a novice photographer. I can't use a viewfinder well because of a poke to my dominant eye I got in bball (eye can't dilate enough), so have always stuck to point & shoots w/ fast LCD screens. All the pics in the post are w/o flash, and almost all taken with a Canon SX1 super-zoom. It's 28mm to 560mm (35mm equiv), and can shoot "super macros" with the object almost touching the lens. It can take fine shots, but you gotta have steady hands. I would recommend the equiv Panasonic model over it though - the Canon really struggles to focus in low light, and reviews of the Panny suggest it's better. I was gonna shift to the Panny but decided to take a deeper plunge and try the new Panny GF1 - a hybrid p&s/dSLR with no viewfinder, but changeable lenses and SLR-like speed and manual controls. So far it's great, but I don't know it it'll prove to be worth the major jump up in price (for my style of naturalist photography).


  4. Edgewood Park has been a long-time favorite of mine as well. I happened to read about it when I first moved to SF in 1988.

    Twenty years later I moved to Washington state in 2008. It's great to see this lovely tribute to such a special place.



  5. I was searching for ring-necked snake on your blog and found this post. Whoa! This is incredible, Ken. Do you think Edgewood would be a good place to visit come May 10?


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