Saturday, February 19, 2011

Azara dentata / oka (oxalis tuberosa)

These are some potatos and Oka tubers (oxalis tuberosa) I harvested from my patio planters this month. I chopped and baked them with garlic and olive oil, delicious! The oka is crunchier but otherwise similar to potatos and remains a staple food for Andean peoples.

Azara is in the family Salicaceae, native to temperate to sub-tropical Chile. I believe the 4 trees I have in the community garden are Azara dentata.

They are large evergreen shrubs to small trees growing to 8 m tall. If left un-pruned the trees would have a vase shape, but I like to keep them open and not too tall. They are great trees for pruning. The leaves are alternate, but may look paired in some species, they are simple rounded and short 1-9 cm long and 0.5-5 cm broad. The flowers are small and look like yellow puff balls, reminds me superficially of acacia, they are very fragrant. The flowers has a 4-5-lobed calyx with no petals, but conspicuous long, brightly colored, stamens. It flowers in the San Francisco in late January through February. The fruit is a red to black berry 3-10 mm diameter and sparse.

Monday, February 7, 2011

On my visit to the SF Arboretum today I was able to find four California quail where I had found a pair last spring. These quail are almost locally extinct in San Francisco due to feral cat predation and degradation of suitable habitat. To my knowledge there are only 1-3 hens left in the entire city. I felt very fortunate to see this female with three males in tow. Hopefully they will hatch and raise many young birds this spring.