In the beginning this blog was centered on San Francisco parks and open space issues with special emphasis on natural areas and natural history. Over time it began to range into other areas and topics. As you can see, it is eclectic, as I interlace it with topics of interest to me.

I welcome feedback: just click this link to reach me.

Monday, June 4, 2012


"Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but nature does not depend on us.  We are not the only experiment."
    Richard Buckminster Fuller

1.   Two important meetings for the Natural Areas Program tomorrow night
1a. Native Orchids of California Thursday June 7
2.   Feedback
3.   Video - off-leash dog harasses denning coyotes
4.   SFSU volunteer opportunities - Mediterranean climate gardens
5.   "Fast Times" class slow in filling
6.   Claremont Canyon Conservancy June activities
7.   The subterranean, a place without and dying taken in without 

8.   Secret Weapons:  Defenses of Insects, Spiders, Scorpions, Other Many-legged Creatures
9.   Rite of passage - the transit of Venus June 5 & 6
10. Splendor by Thomas Centolella

1.   The following meetings tomorrow night will have the Natural Areas Program on the AGENDA.

·         Tuesday June 5 at 7:30 - Greater West Portal Neighborhood Association at West Portal Playground Clubhouse, 139 Lenox Way, San
Check the website: (If you click on the "I-Cal" link, it shows you the start time after clicking on the meeting in the calendar)

·         Tuesday June 5 at 6.30 - Room 278   in City Hall - PROSAC will discuss the Natural Areas Management Plan

Unfortunately, still, voices of cynicism and distortion are attempting to knock this wonderful program off balance.

We need measured, reasonable people to express their experience with the program, and how indispensable it is for our local wildlife and rare plants and for San Franciscans.

Thanks for making the time to support the City's most important environmental program.

"How I wish more could hear the compassionate voice of the land, the cry for greater care.  I look for the listeners in the dark void of politics."    Rosemary Carstens in LTE to High Country News


California Native Plant Society meeting - free and open to the public
Ron Parsons on native orchids of California
Thursday 7 June, 7.30 pm
San Francisco County Fair Bldg
9th Av & Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park

The layman's image of orchids is, perhaps justifiably, tropical, where the greatest proliferation and elaboration of this amazing and infinitely interesting family centers.  But the family's creativity extends into temperate areas, including the summer-dry mediterranean climates.  California has many species and genera that are both beautiful and interesting.  We have three that are indigenous to our chapter area:  rein orchis, Piperia elegans (fairly common in grasslands); Michael's rein orchis, Piperia michaelii; and ladies tresses, Spiranthes romanzoffiana.  We also have the naturalized European helleborine, Epipactis helleborine, that may pop up uninvited in your garden.  Ron may talk about these, but he will also talk about others that help make California a fascinating state.

Ron Parsons is considered by many to be one of the finest flower photographers in the United States. His photography and encyclopedic knowledge of orchids is known both nationally and internationally. He has been photographing orchids, wildflowers, and almost every other kind of plant for over 25 years, and has a slide collection that numbers well over 80,000 slides! He went "digital" just over a year ago, and in this short time has taken thousands of photos orchids, wildflowers and other rare plants. See the orchid photogallery for some of his new digital photographs.  Ron's photos have been featured in journal articles, book covers, and in several books.  Visit his stunning pictures at

If you would like to join Ron for dinner before the meeting, contact Jake Sigg


2.  Feedback

On Jun 2, 2012, at 12:24 PM, Karen Melander Magoon wrote:
We just got back from a conference on the oceans and shores in San Diego---annual H2O conference, sponsored with California Shore and Beach Preservation Association.  The main point many of us took home is that we need legislation to combat sand mining, which is responsible for 70 – 80% of the depletion of our national “sand bank”.  We have legislation on Water Rights, but none on Sediment Rights.  High time that also went to the Supreme Court, but the legislation has to first be in place.
Thanks for all your “heads up” on so many issues.

Thea Selby:
Hello, Jake.

Just read the piece on Terry Tempest Williams. Did we talk about this? Or perhaps it was my husband. An incredible illustration of how Mormons can go by the letter of the law and be outlaws at the same time (my husband's family is oldtime Mormon). I loved Terry's first book. Look forward to reading the next.

Thx for sharing!

On Jun 2, 2012, at 7:36 PM, Benjamin Wheeler wrote:
Hi Jake,
Regarding the quote in (Section 13 of) today's issue: “You are a guest of Nature.  Behave.” attributed to "anon".  I have it in my quote file attributed to Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the amazing Austrian architect/artist. According to the article on him in Wikipedia, his original published quote was: "If man walks in nature's midst, then he is nature's guest and must learn tobehave as a well-brought-up guest." -which has been shortened a bit in popular literature.
Thanks very much, Ben.

I do like the short version better; it's more powerful.  But it's good to have the full quotation, and I don't like "Anon".

On Jun 2, 2012, at 5:19 PM, Stefanie Gandolfi wrote:
Jake, re #16, I think professors must dye their hair gray; I doubt they die just so their hair will turn gray!
Hooooo---eeeee!  Thank you Stefanie.  How embarrassing. 

There's some sort of poetic justice here, as I am the one always jumping on this kind of error.  In fact, I have appointed myself language cop, and I have another batch of bloopers to be posted soon.  After my embarrassment dies [ :-) ] down I will be grateful for the reminder of the dangers of becoming smug.
Thanks for taking it so well  I just couldn't resist.  I'm like you about grammar and such, all superior, so I hate it when anyone catches me in a mistake -- which of course they do!

On May 31, 2012, at 10:16 PM, Juan Kong wrote:
I support the artificial turf and lights at GGP Beach Chalet fields. The fields as they are currently are not safe for any sports.
Juan:  It sounds like your focus is entirely on soccer in this issue.  If that is the case, I would agree with you that this is almost a slam-dunk solution to your concern.  There is a critical need for more soccer in the city.  I am strong on vigorous physical exercise, sport, and recreation, and the square footage, artificial turf, and night lighting will definitely support these.  I am very uncomfortable about opposing something that would work to achieve this goal.

Soccer is only one issue for those of us who oppose this project.  Golden Gate Park, effects on birds, and the washing out of dark skies are the primary issues for many of us.  I hope you don't just dismiss any of these concerns as trivial.  They are not.  Other opponents are concerned about the toxic effects of artificial turf, and what it may do to groundwater.  I am not informed enough on this aspect to be for or against, but it concerns me that there is no definitive information on the subject, which means there is potential for regretting this at a later time.

The people playing here are for the most part not residents of this part of town, yet our urban horticultural masterpiece is being corrupted for their use.  It is the use itself, aggravated by the industrial scale of the project, that is alarming.  It goes directly counter to the founding vision of Wm Hammond Hall and his mentor Frederick Law Olmsted, a beautiful and achievable vision that the world is as much in need of today as it is of soccer.

I hope you can become supportive of these deeper issues, just as we recognize the crucial need for more soccer and other healthy activities.  It is not as though this is the only possible solution--it is the only one RecPark has chosen to offer us.


3.  Off-Leash Dog Harasses Coyotes - YouTube


4.  SFSU Volunteer Opportunities


San Francisco State University's Biology Dept. is creating a set of Mediterranean climate gardens around a new greenhouse structure. The largest will be devoted to California native plants. We wish to have plantings that can be used both in teaching and research, providing researchers with documented plant material and students with a wholistic experience of plants. We also wish to supply plant material/access to other Campus departments such as Chemistry, Anthropology, American Indian Studies, and Art.

Specific needs:

Help with site establishment and planting, including such activities as propagation and growing plants to be featured, weeding, mulching, irrigation, labeling, etc. The Greenhouse Manager is open to help on other levels as well, such as volunteer  recruitment, fund raising events planning, project documentation and publicity, etc. Recently we received a donation of Arctostaphylos species from Dr. Mike Vasey's research and these need to be planted. We also could use help in maintaining established areas for Australian and South African plants, along with the establishment of a new area for Chilean plants.

How to get involved:

If you have the time and interest and want to help spark young people's interest in plants, please contact the SFSU Greenhouse Manager, Martin Grantham,
You can arrange to visit and get a tour of our greenhouses to see what we are doing.
Also check out our student and community support group, Friends of the Greenhouse:
Here we post notices of plants sales (one big one per semester and smaller weekly sales most Tuesday afternoons) as well as volunteer work parties including live music and snacks.


5.  Regional Parks Botanic Garden 2012 Summer/Fall class schedule

Slow Filling - Fast Times on Planet Earth

For the life of me, I don't understand why we have problems filling our "Fast Times" class. Instructor Dan Gluesenkamp brings a different perspective to biological invasions, one that is founded in history and evolution and demonstrates how amateurs like you can make a world of difference.

This is  not a class where you will be cooped up in a classroom all day. Dan will lead a hike through Tilden's Wildcat Gorge, pointing out both common and rare invasives. Along the way, he will show you how to use smartphone cameras and Calflora apps to map both invasive and native plants (Dan will provide smartphones for the class). You will learn how the Bay Area Early Detection Network (BAEDN) works to deal with new outbreaks of invasive plants before they can grown into large and costly environmental threats.

The class is less than a week away. It will meet in the Botanic Garden's Visitor Center from 10 AM until 3 PM next Saturday, June 9, $60 members/$65 nonmembers. Please call me at 510-528-0526 or send a email to I'll rush your registration through.


June in Claremont Canyon

Tuesday June 5, Garber Park Habitat Restoration Meet at 10 AM at the Evergreen Lane entrance. We will continue to pull those invasives with speial attention to our restoration sites to ensure that the new plants make it through the long, dry summer ahead. This also will be a good time to collect seeds. For directions, the nearest address is 144 Evergreen. From Alvarado take Slater Lane and turn right onto Evergreen. We will work until Noon; snacks and drinks will be provided. For more information, contact us at To learn more about Garber Park and the Garber Park Stewards, visit our blog: On the blog you will see photos taken last month showing the progress of the natives planted with Oakland Measure DD funds.

Saturday, June 9, Stewardship in the Upper Canyon Meet at 10 AM at sign post 29, 1.5 miles up Claremont from the intersection with Ashby. Look for our new fence on the right and pull into the area by the gate. Note that the natives we planted along the fence have taken hold, including the Oak tree. We will work until Noon, clearing the Willow and Summit House trails of overgrowth and continuing to install steps along the upper portion of the Willow Trail.

Saturday, June 23, Garber Park Habitat RestorationNote: this is the fourth Saturday of the month this time, not the usual third Saturday. We will continue the activities from June 5 as described above.

For hikes, stewardship and restoration work, please remember to wear long pants, long sleeves, gloves and sturdy boots or shoes.

If you haven't visited our website recently, please do and check out Kay Loughman's report on our bird walk on the home page and in the Nature and Culture blog.


7.  The subterranean is a place without discriminations, where all that we discard in the hustle and bustle of living and dying is taken in without resentment.  It is a place where waste has no meaning.  As we go about our oh-so-important day-to-day surface activities, the thriving community of organisms that inhabit the underground is hard at work, not only recycling and supplying plants and animals with essential nutrients, but also challenging the pathogens and neutralizing the toxins we so thoughtlessly dump into our environment.  David Wolfe, Tales from the Underground, a Natural History of Subterranean Life

If one considers the period for which animals and plants have existed on this planet and the great numbers of disease-producing microbes that must have gained entrance into the soil, one can only wonder that the soil harbors so few bacteria capable of causing infectious diseases in man and in animals.  Selman Waksman (1940)

The Lord created medicines out of the Earth, and he that is wise will not despise them.  Ecclesiasticus 38:4


8.  Secret Weapons:  Defenses of Insects, Spiders, Scorpions, and Other Many-legged Creatures by Thomas Eisner et al.  Harvard University Press

"Defense is at the root of the evolutionary success of arthropods."  And what a panoply of defenses they display.  The authors...present 69 examples.  They range from (the vinegaroon, which ejects a spray with an acetic acid content of 84% when it is physically disturbed) to (the honeybee, whose stinger produces a chemically complex venom made up of about half mellitin, which is largely responsible for the pain associated with a bee sting).  Yet with all that is known on this subject, much must remain to be discovered because millions of the arthropod species are thought to be undiscovered.  "Think of what this means," the authors say, "in terms of biological wonders lying in wait, in terms of new bugs and bug adaptations awaiting discovery."

From Scientific American review, February 2006

Xerces Society:  “We protect the spineless.  We see ourselves as equal opportunity—anything without a backbone.

9.  A transit of Venus

Rite of passage

Jun 2nd 2012 | The Economist
On June 5th and 6th a rare astronomical event will occur—a transit of Venus. Transits are mini-eclipses, in which a planet passes in front of its parent star. This creates a visible shadow if you are close enough, and a perceptible dip in the star’s light if you are not. Such dips are one way of detecting planets going round stars more distant than the sun. Venus’s transits were once scientifically important, too. Measuring the beginning and end of a transit from different places allowed the planet’s distance from Earth, and thus the size of the solar system, to be calculated. This work was so highly valued that, in 1769, France told its forces not to obstruct expeditions mounted by their British rivals. The previous Venusian transit, in 2004, is pictured. The next is in 2117.


One day it's the clouds,
one day the mountains.
One day the latest bloom
of roses - the pure monochromes,
the dazzling hybrids - inspiration
for the cathedral's round windows.
Every now and then
there's the splendor
of thought: the singular
idea and its brilliant retinue -
words, cadence, point of view,
little gold arrows flitting
between the lines.
And too the splendor
of no thought at all:
hands lying calmly
in the lap, or swinging
a six iron with effortless
tempo.  More often than not
splendor is the star we orbit
without a second thought,
especially as it arrives
and departs.  One day
it's the blue glassy bay,
one day the night
and its array of jewels,
visible and invisible.
Sometimes it's the warm clarity
of a face that finds your face
and doesn't turn away.
Sometimes a kindness, unexpected,
that will radiate farther
than you might imagine.
One day it's the entire day
itself, each hour foregoing
its number and name,
its cumbersome clothes, a day
that says come as you are,
large enough for fear and doubt,
with room to spare: the most secret
wish, the deepest, the darkest,
turned inside out.

~ Thomas Centolella ~

(Views from along the Middle Way)

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