By Fred Roberts, Rare Plant Botanist
You’ve probably noticed this. It is a dry year, a very dry year. According to the National Weather Service, the rainfall between October 1, 2017 and July 6, 2017 at Oceanside, my hometown, was 5.54 inches (141 mm), only about 55 percent of the yearly average of 9.90 inches (250 mm). Nearly three inches (75 mm) of that fell in a single day in January. Other places in Southern California saw even lower totals during the season. Alpine, for example has only seen 45 percent of normal rainfall. So yes, indeed, this is a dry year.
There are only two ways to deal with a year like this. Stay home and hope for better next year or look harder. Job necessity required I do the later for project surveying rare plants over the 8,600-acre Canyon and Canyon 2 burn. The two fires swept through the Anaheim Hills and northwestern Santa Ana Mountains last September.
Typically following fire, we see a spectacular bloom. Hillsides dressed in color: orange, magenta, blue, and white. Not so in 2018. The steep hillsides were largely open blackened earth with charred branches reaching for the sky. Color was scattered and patchy at best. At the north end of this, a place called Coal Canyon, we saw only rare shrubs and perennials. Rare annuals were largely absent. By mid-April conditions were so dry we thought our surveys would be over in a month.