Thursday, August 25, 2016

What's Growing in the Lake?

Our once perennial Baldwin Lake has been extreamely low for more than several months due to the current drought. Walking by the lake the other day I couldn't help but notice the plants newly colonizing the lake bed. What are these plants and how did they get there?

Newly established plants colonizing the Baldwin lakebed. Birds carry the seeds. 

Persicaria lapathifolia, commonly known as 'Smartweed' has a history of use as a grain and a medicine by Native Americans in the in the East, Southwest and Midwest parts of this country. It is a North American native  plant that likes disturbed places and wast land and has become a noxious weed in Europe. 

Persicaria lapathifolia

Catharanthus roseus; this is the garden annual known as 'Vinca' or 'Periwinkle' The seeds are small and can be carried by birds that eat insects that are feeding on the periwinkles. 


Salix laevigata the native Red willow. The seeds of this plant are dispersed by the wind and may have come from established plants located near the upper part of the lake. 

A Chenopodium sp., commonly called "Goosefoot". Chenopodiums are common weeds of waste areas. Birds and humans can disperse the seed. 

Portulaca oleracea. Portulaca is a common lawn weed that is quite edible.Seeds are small and can hitch a ride on birds, animals and humans.  

Portulaca oleracea closeup

Epilobium possibly E. ciliatum. Epilobiums are known as 'Fireweeds' because of their affinity for burned or disturbed areas. Seeds are dispersed via the wind and can blow for miles. 

Dysphania ambrosiodes, is also known as the "Epizote" and is one of the ingredients in the hangover cure Menudo. The seeds of this plant are very small and can be dispersed via dirt in the tread on shoe soles. 


Ubiquitous palm seedlings, probably Washingtonia robusta, the Mexican fan palm. These seedlings are no doubt the result of the copious fruits that drop from the dozens of trees surrounding the lake. 

Possible Lactuca sp., spread by the wind. 

Looks like a sunflower but most probably Paulownia tomentosa seedlings.  Paulownia seeds are winged and easily dispersed by the wind. They germinate immediately upon being dispersed (usually in the summertime). 

Prickly lettuce, Lactuca serriola. Lactuca is spread mainly by the wind, having seeds somewhat like dandelions. These plants may have come from nearby ones growing in the adobe excavation area. 

Either a walnut seedling or Ailanthus altissima, the 'Tree of Heaven'. Sniff test confirms -the leaves smell like rancid peanut butter. 

Ailanthus altissima seeds are contained in a wing-like membrane and can travel almost 300 feet from the parent plant. 

Most probably 'Barnyard grass' a common weed of cultivated areas. The seeds are buoyant, and are able to float great distances in water. 

Cyperus involucratus. An accesioned plant, however this one is a volunteer. 

Cyperus papyrus, the Papyrus plant. This too is a volunteer from an accessioned plant. Animals eating the tubers of this plant may have been responsible for spreading, or it could have hitchhiked on gardener's tools. 

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