It can be all too deceiving. Everywhere you look in Southern California, from the deserts to the sea, spring began early and it looks like a green one. But don’t be fooled.
What little rain has swept across the land has come at just the right intervals and at just the right rates. The storms have been spaced so that just as the soil surface dries up another storm arrives. And, the rain has been gentle, allowing it to infiltrate the soil rather than run off to the ocean.
As a result, the grasses have come alive. And, even some of the forbs like lupine and poppies have done well. But, they arrived early and will be gone early if we don’t get any more rain, which is the expectation.
These annual plants are just taking advantage of the surface moisture in the soil. There is still a major deficit in the soil moisture reservoir that usually gets replenished when enough seasonal rain soaks deep into the soil beyond where these surface plants root.
Hopefully, the native trees and shrubs of Southern California can survive through another year, or more, of bone dry conditions. What can be worse is the impression such greenery makes on the humans of Southern California.
Hopefully, we don’t see the green hills and think we can start using more water than we need again.
Yes, strangely the color of this drought has been green. First, last summer the hills turned green in July and August with a proliferation of tumbleweeds that have long since dislodged and rolled on to their demise on fencelines and flood control channels.
Now it’s the veneer of green grasses and forbs on the landscape.
Don’t let it lull you into thinking that the drought is over or just another media conspiracy. Do what you can now to prepare for a long, dry summer.
Oh, and it’s okay to enjoy the greenery while it’s here, even if it is only skin deep.