Growing up in Northern California, I always had a special fondness for the eucalyptus; various species have been planted there, mostly as windbreaks. They grow fast, are evergreen, and haqve fragrant leaves and varicolored bark that peels away in great strips.
So last week as we headed home from Sacramento, up I-5 to Southern Oregon, I wanted to stop and get close to some eucalyptus again. We left it a little late, and settled for a planting at a rest stop, on the northern edge of where eucalyptus flourish. These were not as densely planted as many groves, but then you can appreciate the individual trees more.
These trees were afflicted with scale, which you can see as small white spots on the narrow leaves.
Bark patterns are always fascinating; like the madrones of Southern Oregon, eucalyptus trees present masterpieces of natural form wherever you look.
You can’t expect to see much in 20 minutes, during the hottest part of the day, among trees next to a freeway rest stop, but we found a bit.
In the picture below, a woodpecker’s work can be seen at the top.
We found traces of some sort of beetles under peeling areas of thick bark, and these are probably what the bird was hunting.
At night, other insect hunters emerge; at mid-day they were sleeping high in the trees invisible to us, but one who had died lay beneath a roost tree. (Traces of droppings, along twenty feet of the tree’s trunk, indicated the presence of multiple individuals.)
We did not examine him or her, and I’m not sure what the species may be.
A good guess would be the little brown bat, Myotis lucifugus: it’s very common, it is the right size and color, and has small dark ears as this one does. Or maybe California Myotis (or “California Bat”), Myotis californicus. I am really just guessing––one source says there are 24 species of bats in the state of California. The small ears and lack of a “leaf-nose” structure do rule out a few candidates.
The butterfly we saw and photographed we do have an identification for, though: the Common Buckeye, Junonia coenia:
I didn’t recognize it, and located a useful list of California butterflies with links to photos and information on each species. Then it turned out that Dan knew what it was all along, but it was fun to look through butterfly photos and have the Eureka! of seeing it. Maybe I will remember it better that way. The Common Buckeye probably isn’t resident where we saw it; the Butterfly Site says it lives along the coasts as far north as Central California in the West and North Carolina in the East and that:
Adults from the south’s first brood migrate north in late spring and summer to temporarily colonize most of the United States and parts of southern Canada.
That’s a lot of traveling for this tiny seemingly fragile creature.
I wanted to collect some seeds to grow at home, and had in mind the seed pods that are up to an inch long and look like this (source of drawing), though the ones I wanted are silvery-grey in color.
But the trees at the rest stop were a different species, with very different seed pods.
I’ll give them a try and maybe in ten years I’ll have my own eucalyptus grove.