The hills are alive…

Winter rains bring the California oak woodland back to life, with the greenest of green grass and herbs carpeting the oak understory.

Oak woodland in hills along I-680, east bay region of Northern California

Oak woodland makes up the landscape along I-680, in the east bay region of Northern California.  

The hillsides are a mosaic of coastal live oak, an evergreen species that retains its leathery leaves, and the deciduous valley and blue oaks whose bare limbs reflect the gold light of the setting sun.

Deciduous oaks at lake Sonoma park, California

Drought-tolerant Blue Oaks are often found on hill tops, whereas Live Oaks populate more mesic north-facing slopes and lower hillsides near water.

The winter rains seems to have arrived a little earlier this year.  Early rainy weather usually doesn’t fool these deciduous species; they won’t leaf out again until late February, after they have flowered.  At least that’s the way it is supposed to work.

However, unpredictable climate changes can disrupt normal patterns, leading to insect blooms before avian migrants return, or plants flowering before pollinators are present.

California oak woodland

The long-term effects of aseasonal rain/drought on the oak woodland ecosystem here are unknown, but it’s been nice to hike in the cool weather and gorgeous scenery of the rain-soaked hills of the east bay region of Northern California.

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