Aroused by rain

The appearance of this mushroom after a much-needed rain in the Los Angeles foothills demanded that I Find The Camera. In the interim between putting the photo on Facebook this morning with a request for an ID and getting a response to an e-mailed query from Los Angeles County Natural History Museum mycologist Florence Nishida this evening, speculation as to its genus involved unbridled merriment. Southern California resident treasure, memoirist Erika Schickel, ventured that it was a Micropenisula shlongaeria. My own suspicion had been a Phallus anthonyweinerii. After more ribald speculation and some genuine mycological story-telling on the social network, Nishida’s response by e-mail in early evening had a “eureka” quality.

You are a lucky girl,” she wrote, “nature has gifted you with a stinkhorn, aka phalloid fungus. It’s probably Lysurus borealis, though another species is very common in southern California, Lysurus mokusin. Just looking at your

Water quality beneath the asphalt

Those wondering why so much of the recent rain across Los Angeles was flushed out to the Pacific through a storm drain system instead of socked into the local aquifer will find part of a complicated answer in a fact sheet issued last week by the US Geological Survey. Run-off from the Transverse Ranges into the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys hits land that the USGS classes as 83% urban, which means largely paved and impermeable. (For how a combination of arrogance and greed led to over-building of the Los Angeles flood plain, there is no better source than historian Jared Orsi’s “Hazardous Metropolis.”) Another  limit on our ability to store mountain run-off  in these valleys is groundwater pollution brought by that urbanization. The map below shows solvent hot spots. 

Hat tip to the Water Education Foundation’s Aquafornia for signalling the sheet’s publication.

Nevada State Engineer refills Vegas pipeline

Click on the scoreboard to be taken to a Las Vegas Review-Journal report of yesterday's pipeline decision.

It was never supposed to be a fight. When 22 years ago Las Vegas water manager Pat Mulroy first filed claims on all the theoretically unappropriated water in five rural valleys in eastern Nevada, opponents were supposed to roll over or be crushed. In Mulroy’s corner were all the money and influence that Vegas could bring to bear. A remark reportedly made early in 2007 by Mulroy during a Las Vegas Sun editorial board meeting summed up the odds. In it, when asked what she would do if the State Engineer denied her claims, Mulroy allegedly replied that she would have the Governor of Nevada replace him.

The story may or may not be true*, however, the point is that it could be. It sounds like Pat. No one familiar with what

Pulsing jewels: Edward St Aubyn’s ‘At Last’

First, what a lovely painting of roses by British surgeon and artist Sir Roy Calne decorates the dust jacket of Edward St Aubyn’s new novel “At Last.”

Second, what fine filling there is between the covers.

Others have written about the desolation, wit and clawed progress toward hope that makes the final installment of  St Aubyn’s  “Melrose novels” proof, as if proof were needed, that high-end English ennui is not dead, not embalmed and sole territory for the period costume department of the BBC. “At Last” was so powerfully admired by New Yorker critic James Wood that his review amounted to placing an encyclopedia on a daisy. What I haven’t seen remarked on, which is not to say that it hasn’t been noticed — even all over the place, is that the core of St Aubyn’s solace in this strange and beautiful book isn’t in the wit of

Rubus ursinus: A beary good berry

Click on the 1924 Royal G. Steadman rendering of a youngberry (Source: USDA) to be taken to tomorrow's LA Weekly article on Rubus ursinus, the Pacific blackberry still native to rare, undeveloped pockets of Los Angeles. Its fragrance and intense flavor gave rise to the caviar of summer: boysenberries, youngberries, marionberries and loganberries. Then, if you can, plant one of these brambles, either the straight-up species or a hybrid whose native Western progenitor was named for the bears who love them. The plants are disappearing from commerce as tougher specimens from Eastern and South American stock increasingly dominate the nursery and fresh fruit trades.

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