Friday, February 1, 2019

Madrona Marsh: Refreshed by rain

Earlier this week, I paid my second visit to Madrona Marsh, a 43-acre natural wetlands sandwiched between stores, business offices, gas stations, and condos in Torrance, California, about 9 miles from my home. 

This map is provided near the entrance to guide visitors


When I last visited just shy of one year ago, it was so dry the vernal pools (shown in pink in the map above) were empty despite the fact that it was the middle of our rainy season. 

This time, instead of dried mud, I saw this pool as I walked in.  It's depth measured just over a foot and a half.


Last year was the driest I can remember.  We recorded just 3.88 inches of rain here between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018.*  This year's rain total is already 276% of last year's total, albeit still short of our annual average.

I could hear birdsong from the moment I stepped inside the gate.  And frogs!  I haven't heard frogs croaking in years.  I didn't have binoculars so I didn't do any proper birding but ducks, geese and herons were readily visible throughout the preserve.








A path my husband and I walked last year was submerged and impassable.



A friend of mine had visited the marsh several days before I did to take photos as inspiration for future paintings.  Wild and unmanicured, I could see what impressed her about the landscape.  The color contrasts and the reflections in the water created picturesque scenes.

Tule, or wetland sedge, is visible throughout the areas with deeper water
 


Sometimes it was hard to tell what was solid and what was a reflection

I did my best to crop out neighboring buildings from my photographs but trust me: they ring the preserve on all sides.  Nonetheless, within the preserve you can almost forget that you're surrounded by traffic and all the usual vestiges of life in an urban environment.


After leaving the preserve, I made a brief spin through the Nature Center's native garden across the street.  There wasn't a lot in bloom - even landscapes in Southern California are muted during the winter months - but there was some floral color.

Once again, signs weren't helpful in identifying species by their botanical names

Clockwise from the upper left, my best guess on plant IDs are Calliandra eriophylla (aka fairy duster), Ceanothus, Eriogonum (aka buckwheat), Encelia californica, Verbena lilacina, and I haven't a clue

Along with Encelia californica, Peritoma arborea (aka bladderpod, shown here) was the most common flowering plant in the preserve


We got another three-quarters of an inch of rain yesterday and there are two more storms lined up to pelt us over the next few days.  Spring at the marsh may be very lively this year.  I hope to check it out again in April or May.  According to Wikipedia, after the rain stops, the water level in the marsh drops about one-quarter of an inch (6mm) a day, drying it out entirely by the end of August until the rains return the following winter.

Have a wonderful weekend!


*"Rain years" in California are calculated from October 1st through September 30th of the following calendar year.  Rain in SoCal is almost exclusively a winter/early spring phenomenon.


All material © 2012-2019 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

30 comments:

  1. What a beautiful place! Nice to see how quickly things rebound when the rains come.

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    1. If only the rains came on a more regular schedule!

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  2. What lovely landscapes and how nice to see all that water!

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    1. My heart swelled when I saw all that water in the marsh, Linda. Another, reportedly big, storm is on its way too. News reports mentioned up to 6 inches for some areas but my local forecast projects just over 3 inches here between tonight and Tuesday.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this wonderful place! I love the beauty of a wetland wedged between buildings and the idea of preserving our natural habitats. We have a similar area near where I live that I enjoy visiting.

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    1. So many people pass this fenced marshland without ever seeing it. Until last year, I was one of those people but now I at least give it a glance every time I pass by. I did so this morning and saw a female heron staring out at the traffic from behind the protection of the fence.

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  4. Ah, it's so wonderful to see all the water-loving wildlife.

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    1. I look forward to seeing the restoration of my local botanic garden's lake. I've been told that, since that man-made lake was drained, the garden's avian population declined by 40 species.

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  5. Wetlands are special habitats. I am so glad that your area is getting it's regular rains. Amazing how alive this area plopped down in the middle of an urban area has become. I can't imagine even trying to build there. Your photos are go good. I love the reflections.

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    1. What's even more amazing, Lisa, is that that plot of land used to be an oil well field! I'm glad the city of Torrance had the foresight and will to maintain it as a wildlife preserve.

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  6. I love wetlands for their diversity and this one is all the more precious for its location in an urban area. Good photos!

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    1. I can't decide whether advertising its attractions is a service or a disservice. It doesn't attract large numbers of people but I think those that visit value and respect the property.

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  7. Huh. Had no idea that existed. Amazed. There's a wetland in Gardena, too. We got here too late to understand what Southern California really was before all the Europeans arrived. It was that, then farmland for a few decades, now it is covered with roads and buildings. Thanks for the amazement, the glimpse of what a forgotten part of it once was.

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    1. An oil company operated drilling operations on the site from 1924 until 2003. The company deeded the wetland to the city of Torrance in 1987 as part of a deal in which the city approved the oil company's sale of a larger adjacent parcel to a developer of high-density housing. More details and photos showing the marsh's development (restoration) can be found here: https://friendsofmadronamarsh.com/madronamarshpreserve-history.shtml

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  8. I remember your previous visit, it’s wonderful to see things are truly “marshy” again.

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    1. As there have been 2 more storms since my visit (the ongoing one is particularly intense), I suspect I might have to swim through the marsh if I visited it now.

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  9. What a testament to the crucial impact of water!

    Thank you for the picture noting tule, which I hadn't realized was the name of a plant. The word is inextricably associated for me with the internment/concentration camp for Japanese-Americans at Tule Lake.

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    1. The Latin name for tule grass is Schoenoplectus acutus but I can't get that name to stick in my memory back. I wasn't familiar with the Tule Lake camp but just read an overview - a refresher on our shameful past.

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  10. What a great place - I'm glad the city preserved it. And glad that the rain is bringing it back to life.

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    1. It's certainly an unexpected space in an area as built up as Torrance.

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  11. Good to see a marsh as it should be, with water, and birds.

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  12. It looks a beautiful spot! So good to see it can grow and harbor all that life even in its urban location. Encelia californica looks much greener and lusher than the ubiquitous Arizona native E. farinosa. ;-)

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    1. Encelia californica appears to be very robust here, at least during the cool season. I need to find the plant or seeds I think. I hope your move is going smoothly, Amy.

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  13. I would have guessed that marsh to be in Alabama rather than California! It looks very familiar. I measured exactly 9 inches of rain in the month of January from our rain gauge, well above our average January rainfall of 5.5 inches. But January is always wet here; only March is traditionally a wetter month.

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    1. If you could see the area outside the marsh's gate, I'm sure the differences would be much more apparent, Deb. There's no natural transition between the marsh area and the very urban area that surrounds it. We got a LOT of rain here last month ourselves, at least by our standards. Our current total for the rain year to date is 12.16 inches, more than 3x what we accumulated during 12 months last year! We might even make our "old normal" average of 15 inches before our rainy season ends in April.

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  14. Who would have believed that there was such a wildlife area in Torrance. We had friend who lived there but never knew about it.

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    1. The land wasn't deeded to the city until 1987 and restoration of the marsh (formerly the site of an oil field!) took time. The nature center across the street wasn't built until 2001 so, until this century, I suspect the marsh didn't have the presence it now does, Jenny. I lived in a nearby beach city for 20 years and was only vaguely aware it was there and I didn't tour it for the first time until last year.

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  15. A precious bit of wilderness in the midst of the city. So nice to see the marsh with water in it. I remember you post from last year when it was so dry.

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    1. It's looking as though we're going to have a good rain year for a change, Peter. Today's LA Times says we're at 167% of our "old normal" for this time of year and conditions are good to see still more.

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