Butterfly visitor

During our frequent bayland visits we become aware of the subtle variations in its appearance throughout the year.  Some changes are easy to see like the blooming flowers and the butterflies that come and go.  But take, for instance, the parasitic plant called rhe salt marsh dodder that lives among the pickleweed.  It slowly turns color in the summer heat and dies leaving a subtle carpet of orange among the plants.  By June the colorful orange patches are conspicuous in the marshes, and if you look closely you can see hundreds of tiny blue flowers that produce seeds that'll survive for years before germinating.

Marsh dodder

Pickleweed

The green host plant is the pickleweed, a marsh succulent that survives in saline waters.  This plant filters salt by sending it to the tip of its leaves which slowly turn red and eventually drop as fresh new leaves develop beneath.  Summer marsh color comes also from the gumplant, a bushy shrub with bright yellow flowers that grows around the murky water -- but not in it -- because the gumplant can't filter out the salts.  Late summer blooms attract many insects, bugs, and birds. The Ohlone Indians used the sap as medicine for burns and rashes, and some believe the leaves smell sweet like chewing gum.  I sniffed around but my nose doesn’t agree.  

Gumplant flower

The marsh beauty is enhanced throughout the year by flocks of white pelicans foraging for the food harvest beneath the water.  Rather than diving like their brown pelican cousins, they feed in groups floating along the shore and scooping up food around the plant roots.

White pelicans

Posted
AuthorRich Monroe