San Francisco – Everyday Insider (TM) Trip 22D

Continuing with the special ecology of San Francisco’s very special central hills, named Twin Peaks — official, endemic home of the severely endangered Mission Blue butterfly.

The strongest populations of lupine and buckwheat, the butterfly’s main food source, grow on the grassy hill just south of the southern peak. Especially look around the area of that road’s hairpin turn for the butterflies.

In February or March, the caterpillars emerge to fatten further on the lupine’s feathery foliage. Next, they spin their cocoons on the stems and flower spikes.

Come in April and May to witness the extraordinary Mission Blues taking wing. They are often spied resting on a lupine, gathering nectar from the flowers of a coast buckwheat (Eriogonum latifolium) or surfing the breeze with whimsical, fluttering color.

Without these larval and mature food plants, the Mission Blue would join the Pheres blue and the Xerxes blue into extinction.

Read more about my article
Mission Blue Butterfly.

Twin Peaks also boasts “type locality” status for Phacelia californica, which is the endangered, low-growing, native perennial that drives local bees into delight. Look for the plant with blue-green leaf blades and tight clusters of lavender flowers; it has an especially vigorous population flourishing in full sun on the south-facing slopes of the north peak.

In the late ’80s, after decades (some would say “centuries” of abuse) the city enlisted the San Francisco Conservation Corps to build meandering footpaths to the top of each peak, with railroad ties for steps, and to install massive timber barriers at the trailheads, putting an end to marauding motorbikes an off-trail vehicles.

The volunteers fortified the surviving population of native plants with seeds and plantings of: bunchgrass, monkeyflower, Douglas iris, silver lupine, coast buckwheat and many others.

Since then, the city’s Natural Areas Program has played a vital role in maintaining this indigenous biodiversity.

Now we find bunchgrasses like: native blue grass (Poa unilateralis), purple needle grass (Nassella pulchra) and red and Idaho fescue (Festuca rubra and F. idahoensis) anchoring ecosystems which are tens of thousands of years old.

On Twin Peaks, the delicate rose-purple flowers of coast rock cress (Arabis blepharophylla) cling to red peaks of wind-ravaged rock, while blue and white lupines, golden poppies and pink checkerblooms (Sidalcea malviflora) also beckon from the grasslands to the pleasure of the hungry butterflies and beauty-struck humans.

Indeed, humans are the only invasive species with the ability to make moral decisions. Therefore we should practice stewardship of the life forms that lived here first, and insure their survival and ability to flourish.

No single species holds more importance than the natural diversity to which it contributes; it should remain in its natural balance and percentage in the biome. The timeless network of connections between living organisms remains most valuable of all. We must protect that, as past generations failed to do, in the few places left for us, especially in urban centers we can make a difference.

This is imperative at the intersection of natural areas and urban ones, where the activities of humankind operate at high concentration and their effects on the surrounding web of life are most severe.

Dog walkers and other humans who do not recognize the rights of plants, need to rethink. Everything in the web of Life is dependent on plants and when they are struggling, mostly because of human activity, then humans have to make it right again.

If you want to help while visiting, volunteer for the Natural Areas Program through San Francisco Parks Conservancy by calling (415) 753-7267.

All of this beauty is only a 15 minute drive from downtown SF. Twin Peaks provides a fantastic and breathtaking view of the city!

The SF Muni number 37 Corbett bus line stops near a path that runs up the hills on Crestline Drive. There is also some car parking at the top of the hills.

Make sure to bring a thick jacket, as the temperature will drop to single digits with strong gusty winds, or be sublime on another part of the peaks. Try to go on a nice day. There are no bathroom facilities.

More about the neighborhood, next time.

San Francisco Archive

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