|Wikipedia Commons – sambucus mexicana|
Last July when we were descending from the lake to the valley, along the road between about 7,000 to 4,000 feet elevation I glimpsed many tall plants with big flower heads resembling the umbrella-shaped blooms of cow-parsnip.
Our driver was of the usual sort who is totally uninterested in suddenly pulling over just because I cry, “Look! Another one of those plants – what do you suppose they are?”
So I just kept straining my eyes and craning my neck as we sped past one after another. And I really wasn’t too disturbed, because I was confident that since I had recently studied various similar plants in the parsley family after our trip to Oregon, I would be able to look in a book or online and find out which species had yellowish blooms of that sort. At home I researched for an hour or more but there was no such plant.
When I drove up this month I guess I was in too big of a hurry to find what I was looking for, but once again, on the way down the hill some tall bushes got my attention, with their big clusters of berries. I realized after a while that those were the same plants I had seen in July, and I stopped twice at turnouts and walked back to take some pictures.
Once I saw the leaves up close, it was obvious they weren’t in the parsley family. Mr. Glad suggested they might be elderberries, and when I plugged that name into Google I found that indeed they are. In the Sierras three species of elderberries grow. The black elderberry is at higher elevations, and the red elderberry is red, so that leaves this one, the blue elderberry, which grows up to 25′ tall and wide.
It’s always satisfying to come back from a trip with at least one new plant in my mental directory. True, sometimes I only keep them in my blog postings, because they disappear from my recallable memory. In any case, knowing some names makes me feel more friendly with the natural world.
That’s the last I’ll see of that part of the country for a good while. Very soon the cabin will be shut up against the snows of winter in the Sierra Nevada. We pray that this year they will be very heavy!