Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the August 28, 2005 Newsletter issued from the Sierra Nevada foothills somewhat east of Placerville, California, USA

The problem with this week's hike in the mountains was that at the lower elevations goldenrods blossomed along the roads. They were knee-high, slender, pretty things, with elegant elliptical leaves spiraling up unbranching stalks, the leaves indented just enough to be elegant, but not ostentatious, and of course at the top of each plant flamed a narrow panicle of small, yellow composite flowers. They were California Goldenrods, SOLIDAGO CALIFORNICA, which you can see at http://www.coestatepark.com/solidago_californica_coe.htm.

The problem with those goldenrods was that they told me how late in the year it's become. I have been able to repress the implications of the rapidly shortening and gradually cooling days, even the ever louder crashes of the ever larger acorns falling on my trailer roof, and keep my mind blissfully in the long-continuing-summer mode, but those goldenrods told me the plain truth: It's so late that goldenrods are blossoming.

Actually I hadn't been sure that I'd see any goldenrods out here at all, for goldenrods are much more an Eastern North America thing than a Western one. The "Vascular Flora of the Southeastern United States," for instance, lists 53 goldenrod species for the US Southeast, but California's Jepson Manual lists only ten for the whole state, and some of those species are restricted to the coast, the high alpine regions, or other such areas of limited extent.

It was amazing how, once the goldenrods had spoken, the whole texture of my hike suddenly changed. From that moment on, the hike mostly concerned itself with recognizing the fallish feeling in the air, the fallish way shadows so sharply defined themselves, the fallishly quiet, subdued manner of the birds...

Thanks to the goldenrods, this last hike was for me a solemn ceremony marking the beginning of the end of summer.