Tiny Wonders

“Look!  Look!  Look deep into nature and you will understand everything.”  –Albert Einstein

Springtime is here on the trails! The canyon has transformed to hues of green, the flower petals have begun to reveal their bright colors, the birds sing in the shrubs and trees. An exciting time of year to be on the trails in our wilderness parks.

Of course, the overall portrait of spring is spectacular here, but this season I encourage you to slow down on the trail and keep your eyes open for the small, yet mighty, lifeforms that begin to show up this time of year. Many of them camouflage and are no bigger than a dime!

Deerweed (Acmispon glaber) is an incredible native commonly seen along the trails. In the spring, its broom-like shape begins to green after its long winter slumber. Its flowers paint the stems with a fiery palette of red, orange and yellow. At first glance, you may notice the glorious details of the flowers and their harmonious ombre colors. You may see the European honeybee pollinating joyously – in fact, deerweed is an essential food source for many of our native bees and butterflies.

But if you stay a little longer, look a little closer, you may see what you thought was a leaf wiggle its wings! This is the lotus hairstreak (Callophrys dumetorum), a tiny butterfly with iridescent green wings that calls deerweed its host plant. If you stay still and quiet, this small butterfly will let you hang around for a bit!

The delights of deerweed don’t end here. You saw a leaf come to life, maybe now it’s a flower! Introducing the yellow crab spider, also known as a flower spider (Mecaphesa californica). They can change their color to blend in with the plant or flower they are living on. Their exceptional camouflage is their main survival technique. However, it also helps with catching food, usually in the form of an unsuspecting pollinator. The spider is quick to catch its prey, using its slender fangs to deliver paralytic venom. Note: these spiders are not poisonous to humans, but can bite when provoked. This amazing spider is a sight to see!

There’s so much to see here in our diverse coastal sage scrub community. But this is just a friendly reminder to take it slow on the trail – even on the tiniest of flowers, a whole world awaits you!

Share your camouflage finds with us on social media! Tag @lagunacanyonfoundation to be featured on our page!

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