Posts by Katharine Rudnyk

Over a year ago, I began feeling a little worried after reading renowned Cal Tech semiologist Dr. Lucy Jones’ prediction about the catastrophic earthquake that is bound to strike Southern California one day – or as Angelenos refer to it, “The Big One”. I was specifically concerned about all of the surrounding dams located in the San Gabriel Valley holding back extraordinary amounts of water.

Photo: Big Dalton Dam – Library of Congress, HAER CAL, 19-GLENDO 1-11

When I first moved to California, my uncle and I drove to see the Morris Dam in Azusa. I told him that I had never seen a dam before; in northwest Louisiana water just runs about everywhere, filling up an impressive network of locks and bayous. After our tour of Morris Dam, I realized what an amazing engineering feat it was to build such an impressive structure between the mountains of the San Gabriel Valley.

Big Dalton Dam – Library of Congress, HAER CAL, 19-GLENDO 1-15

But it was the Big Dalton Dam in Glendora that really punched my paranoia button after investigating the dam’s history. Completed on September 11, 1928, Big Dalton Dam was recently seismically reinforced in 2014. The Northridge Earthquake was the catalyst for its repair. And so for a moment my worries were pacified…until I found a Los Angeles Times article online about the 250 acre Puddingstone Reservoir built in 1928. The reservoir needs major reassessment before the next rainy winter season.

Located within the Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park – an impressive 1,957 acre county park located within the city of San Dimas, California – the Puddingstone Dam isn’t as fancy as the Morris Dam, but one of the three dams features a whopping 147 foot high earth and rock-filled structure. The dam system has created a massive artificial lake stocked with bass.

The dam at Puddingstone Reservoir has leaked before, but was repaired. It seems to hold up after periodic storm drain discharges into it from the Live Oak Wash, Walnut Creek Wash, and the San Dimas Wash.

In November 2013, California’s Flood Future was distributed by Flood Safe California and the US Army Corps of Engineers. Puddingstone was listed as a resource with relevant risks, along with ill-fated Oroville Dam. In 2014, geophysical tests were conducted at Puddingstone, but since then it’s been all quiet. After the gravity of Oroville Dam’s partial collapse, I guess it was finally deemed time to take another look at our state’s other dams which have an average age of 70 years old, some with imminent risks.

Three of the ninety-three total dams require “comprehensive” assessment, according to the State of California – Division of Safety of Dams report: Pyramid Dam in Castaic, Cogswell in Devil’s Canyon, and finally, Puddingstone Dam in San Dimas. Local operators of Puddingstone, Bureau of Public Works will be expected to access the following features, per DSOD Supervising Engineer Daniel Meyersohn:

  • Drainage System
  • Retaining Wall
  • Geological Makeup of its Bedrock
  • Other elements (???)

Considering Puddingstone is an earth and rock-filled dam, I began wondering the ways in which landscape architects, horticulturalists, geologists, civil engineers, Los Angeles County of Public Works, and the local area water agencies could approach the redesign of its structure. One idea is to re-energize Walnut Creek, revitalizing the flow instead of maintaining a giant reservoir.

Could we, as a creative team, be the “other elements”?

My curiosity took me into the vaults here at AHBE Landscape Architects where I discovered a thoughtful report that included several additional proposals about what to do with the space and its historic buildings. The report was developed in conjunction with the Water Conservation Authority, Tzu Chi Foundation, Los Angeles County Parks, and the Los Angeles County Flood District (LACFD), as well as other area specialists. This concept plan looked specifically at the surrounding 60 acres within the Walnut Creek Habitat and Open Space in 2011 owned by the City of San Dimas and the Water Conservation Authority. Community, stakeholders, and property owners were acknowledged, while a vision was created for the surrounding area. The top request made by the community was to keep as much natural open space with local native plants, bird walk, and a trail network lined with educational signage.

Image: AHBE Landscape Architects

The 57 North and South Freeway lanes have a slight dip to it around the Via Verde exit, located nearly at the point of where one of the dams is located. That dip has been repaired at least once. Is there a river still running underground? Will the weight of vehicles driving above this section make the pillars slowly sink?

Walnut Creek naturally flows free for two miles without the concrete channels so prominently visible through San Dimas – ironically past the manmade flows of Raging Waters – and travels on through the San Gabriel Valley. What if the stream was reengineered to flow naturally from underneath the 57 Freeway into Walnut Creek Park past the Antonovich Trail? The original stands of Quercus agrifolia (Coast Live Oak) and Platanus racemosa (California Sycamore) are ready for regular irrigation for sure!

All photos: Kathy Rudnyk

As an American citizen, we are periodically called to serve as jurors in a court of law – a civic duty I recently fulfilled. It’s a duty requiring ample patience and a willingness to sit quietly amongst a group of strangers from all walks of life for hours on end. And beyond a few moments on the phone to catch up on news, texts, or work, or to escape out onto the sun-kissed patio of the Los Angeles Superior Courthouse in West Covina, serving jury duty can be quiet and lonely.

During my breaks I would find my way to a leaf-covered patio – complete with a mismatched set of Kmartplastic stacked patio chairs and a table.  The only plants growing in the patio are a Plumbago auriculata (Plumbago) and a bright green groundcover, the succulent Aptenia cordifolia (Red Apple).  The sky blue flowers on the rambling Plumbago look great, even though the only water the evergreen shrub has ever probably captured is the occasional run-off from the roof or a passing rain shower.

None of my fellow thirty-five jurors ever attempted to enter the patio. Why would anyone?

For those who know me, they’d recognize the isolating and difficult challenge of being surrounded by strangers and immersed in quiet for hours on end. My laughter is generally heard at miles distance.  The courtroom is a sanctuary. Yet a court can feel devoid of spirit, a space where criminal and civil court trials unfold under the duress of urgency stretched out for hours, days, weeks, maybe even months by procedure – stressful – and not just for the person(s) charged.

The tension of the courtroom only broke when an elderly juror fell asleep and began to snore loudly inside the jury room.

The long hours of sitting and walking around during jury duty did permit me ample time to imagine the possibilities for integrating more nature around the grounds for jurors, lawyers, clerks, law enforcement, judges, and even the accused, to enjoy. I began imagining a therapy garden.

I also made an effort to observe the public’s behavior in and around the mid-century era courthouse in the mornings.  It was rewarding to smell the sweet fragrant perfume of Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ (Hall’s Honeysuckle) along a brick planter where everyone sat while waiting. Unfortunately, Tulbaghia violacea (Society Garlic) was planted along the entryway sidewalk, perfuming the air and patrons’ clothes with the pungent smell of garlic. Thankfully the bailiff noticed me, and called me to enter from the back of the building just as the combination of bold scents nearly overpowered me.

To enter the courtroom, visitors  walk by a procession of planter boxes facing the West Covina Police Department, each filled with an eclectic collection of houseplants that have clearly outgrown their decorative indoor containers and monuments dedicated to fallen officers.  A warm bench sits underneath a Pyrus sp. (Pear), offering little real shade, resulting in a noticeable amount of early morning grumbling and bad attitude. My theory is that bad attitudes can lead to bad decisions by all.

Also, I noticed the distinctive smell of fresh cut grass pungently perfumed the air, its source initially a mystery. I left my bench to discover the source of the scent.

This large mid-century modern civic complex includes the West Covina Police Department, West Covina Branch Public Library, City Hall, and the West Covina Superior Court of Los Angeles County – the entirety surrounded by turf grass!  Over a mile around when walked, I discovered the unnaturally green lawn was maintained by a riding mower, a gardening tool I had not seen since my dad bought one for our acre lot in Louisiana.

Looking south from the courthouse, I spied a floating building facing the noisy 10 freeway and invisible to the passerby, cloaked by an apron of conifers. Completed in 1969 by the late architects, Donald Neptune and Joseph Thomas, this space-age structure serves as the West Covina City Hall. Neptune and Thomas designed not only the West Covina City Hall and the Los Angeles Public Library of West Covina, but local landmarks such as the Annandale Country Club and Avon Headquarters in Pasadena, Haugh Performing Arts Center on the Citrus College Campus, and Glendora High School.

The edges blackened by the hallmarks of skateboarders.

The building has a futuristic-brutalist architectural style softened by a white exterior.  The building is raised off the ground, featuring a cool, dark breezeway directing the eyes into a sunlit terraced garden of shrubs and intoxicatingly lush green grass. I sat and ate lunch peacefully alone on the ledge of an abandoned planter box, avoiding tables positioned directly into the sun. I must have seen over a hundred employees within the entire spaceship-like complex, but never anyone coming in or out of the building, a rather disturbing observation.

The Los Angeles County Superior Courthouse in West Covina, CA, and its surrounding campus plan, is a truly fractured site with real potential for desired solace. Designed by celebrity “starchitect”, the late Maurice H. Fleishman, the building’s indoor/outdoor design is timeless, and the campus has the bones to integrate horticulture and the nature it attracts as a functional feature of anyone assigned to be present within court.

Since jurors are not permitted to eat lunch inside the courthouse, I sat awkwardly here. While munching away on my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I noticed the grass being watered with a hose and tiny sprinkler. Do water regulations apply to a civic complex?

Wasting precious clean resources and taxpayer’s monies feeding, manicuring, and watering the grass as if it were a formal living room – complete with white carpet that nobody would dare walk on – was a mystery to me.  For the city workers facing the decorative green space, the sunken terraced landscape must appear as if it were art work that no one could ever deface.

To mitigate the noise and pollution of the 10 freeway, Juniperus chinensis ‘Torulosa’ (Hollywood Juniper), Pinus canariensis (Canary Island Pine), and a signature Cedrus deodara (Deodar Cedar) are surrounded by Hedera canariensis (Algerian Ivy) and a morning glory type of weed that butterflies found rather desirable.  Throughout the entire campus are hedges of Lantana camara ‘Confetti’ (Confetti Lantana) that have been heavily sheared.  Butterflies such as fritillaries, western tiger swallowtails, sulfurs, and monarchs danced around flowers before their eventual hedge clipping.

Sitting there for hours on end, I completed a nature site analysis. How could I enhance a space celebrating the natural world, specifically, West Covina reimagined as a significant butterfly migration and feeding pathway?  These butterflies need all the help they could get!  I inventoried over 30 butterflies during my first day of jury duty. By day two, I included more transient natural wonders, such as hummingbirds, songbirds, and insects like honeybees in my count. With this new assignment, I felt a sense of calm and respite from the pressures of the courtroom. Even though it was clearly over 100 degrees outside, I really didn’t care.  It was rewarding to observe insects and birds moving across the campus without concern, or imagining re-engineering a barren rooftop into a working green roof that would act as a bridge for these traveling natural living jewels.

Deciding a stranger’s future – guilty or not guilty – within a court of law is a serious and difficult responsibility.  Fortunately, the gravity of my situation was counteracted by the great outdoors, its presence offering a calming respite…my very own therapy garden that provided hopeful perspective in an otherwise grim environment.

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The bench in front of the Engelmann Oak at the Los Angeles Arboretum. All photos by Kathy Rudnyk.

Just as my family tree in the San Gabriel Valley has changed over the generations, the various native plant communities within the same area have also been compromised. None more apparent than Southern Oak Woodland.  This community includes principal trees such as the Engelmann Oak (Quercus engelmannii), Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), Black Walnut (Juglans californica).  Of those three, the Engelmann Oak has suffered the greatest impact, but it has the treasured opportunity to be recognized for its beauty and unique distinction to San Gabriel Valley.

Once found throughout the San Gabriel Valley, the Engelmann Oak has most recently suffered greatly from insect and fungal pathogen damage, followed by poor cultural practices like overwatering. Urbanization and stress caused by drought and fires have also posed a greater threat to these legacy trees. The population has also been afflicted by a lack of availability in the trade until now. I was so inspired by seeing beautiful Engelmann Oaks at The Huntington Botanical Garden, Los Angeles County Arboretum, and this year’s Theodore Payne Annual Native Plant Tour, that I wanted to learn even more about its roots within the Southern Oak Woodland native plant community.

On the right: A young Engelmann Oak at the Huntington Library Botanical Garden.

For some unknown reason, my family and I have always enjoyed learning about our ancestors. Maybe it’s because we are all scientifically and oddly inquisitive – a family of nerds right at home in the land of JPL, CalTech and SpaceX. And we are all also surprisingly of sturdy stock like an oak tree.

My late grandfather respected the oak so much that he asked that the California Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) be etched onto his tombstone. He also planted a White Oak (Quercus robur) close to his home. Exploring the genealogy of the Genus – Quercus and its relationships has helped me learn more about my own roots within Southern California.

Sadly, you can’t just go to Ancestors.com for answers about the roots of an actual tree. You need to go to a library of natural history. So off I went on a Saturday to the Los Angeles Arboretum. I culled the stacks and found a manuscript written by Bruce M. Pavlik titled, A Natural History of Southern California Oaks, with Emphasis on Those Occurring within the District.  After reading it, I hiked around the park for further inspiration about the Southern Oak Woodland native plant community.

Published in 1976, Pavlik’s manuscript shared many of the same concerns about the California native oaks within the Los Angeles district that are threatened today. Most significantly, he called for the protection of Engelmannn Oaks in response to the rapid urbanization of the San Gabriel Valley in the 1970s.  Prior to development, Engelmann Oaks were only threatened by horse and cattle grazing, which destroyed any opportunity for seedlings to flourish into trees around the valley floor. The young trees survived only along the ridge lines, because it was too dangerous for cattle and horses to graze upon their foliage.

Within its family tree/taxonomy, the Genus amongst California native oaks resides in the order of Fagales, consisting of the families Betulaceae and Fagaceae.  Birch (Betula), Alders (Alnus), and Hazelnut (Corylus) reside in the family of Betulaceae, and they are the closest of relatives of California native oaks.  Within the family Fagaceae are the Genus of oaks and their relatives, such as Chrysolepis, Quercus, and Lithocarpus.

The mid-sized, evergreen Engelmann Oak has the distinct characteristics of a California Live Oak, yet, instead of green leaves that are slightly serrated, it has vibrant blue-grayish-green leaves that are rather long in length and relatively unserrated edges.  The tree’s acorns have a slightly hairy underside on the cap. The acorns of this particular tree were harvested last by the native peoples for food, as acorns from other species like the Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) and Coastal Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) tasted better or offered more nutrients.  Unfortunately for the Engelmann Oak, it was most preferred by the locals as firewood, as its wood seemed to burn the longest of all local hardwood trees.

An Engelmann Oak finds a few admirers during the 2017 Theodore Payne Native Plant Tour.

These impressive trees are rarely found north of Pasadena, and only along the northern side of a foothill, generally in thick stands within shallow soil supporting aromatic plants White Sage (Salvia apiana), California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), and California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica).  Along the valley floors and around mesas, Engelmann Oaks were surrounded by California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and Purple Needle Grass (Stipa pulchra) growing around the base of these majestic trees. I bet this was a very beautiful sight my ancestors enjoyed living in San Marino, Sierra Madre, and Monrovia prior to the mid-1850s. Engelmann Oaks were once spotted along a 50 mile wide beltway from Pasadena, all the way to Mexico, always at least 15 to 20 feet from the nearest coastline.

The Engelmann Oak shares the growth rate of the Coastal Live Oak, growing about 8’ in 5 years.  Of all the oaks, the Valley Oak grows the fastest at 15’ in 5 years. Lucky for us, the Engelmann Oak is now available to purchase from a local tree nursery, and it can still be found around growing within neighborhoods of Duarte, Pasadena, Azusa, and Glendora. The Los Angeles Arboretum and the Huntington Botanical Garden have a few that you can see, touch, study, and enjoy.  I really found walking through the tree’s dense pillow of foliage debris lining the way toward a bench underneath the massive tree at the LA Arboretum unlike anything I have ever done in Los Angeles.

Two Engelmann Oaks discovered in Pasadena using Google Earth.

I went onto Google Earth to continue searching for more EEngelmann Oaks within the area, looking out for a particular hue that helps identify the trees from others.  The Engelmann Oaks are fairly easy to spot based upon their color of foliage depicted on Google Earth.  It was like finding members of your family tree that you did not know existed. The activity made me want to look for even more Engelmann Oaks and determine how to enable further protection of them or build more colonies of these special trees unique to San Gabriel Valley.

Engelmann Oaks can help make the San Gabriel Valley a better and more beautiful community, while strengthening the native plant community of the Southern Oak Woodland. So hopefully everything I’ve shared above will compel others to appreciate and plant some of these wondrous native oaks.

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Driving along the 134 to the 210 Freeway, then south on the 57 through the flurry of cities situated across the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley, you cannot miss the oversized mountain monograms neatly resting across the foothills. Each letter represents the name of a city or place nearby (like a university, such as Cal Poly Pomona).

When flying over the foothills from LAX, heading toward Midwestern cities like Minneapolis, Chicago or Detroit, one can spy the very tall profiles of Canary Island Pines (Pinus canariensis) from above.  Traveling so high and fast, even the tall pine trees blend together into green blobs, intersected by spider web patterns of concrete, and dotted with tiny gray and brown rooftops with the occasional flash of sparkling blue swimming pools.  The one thing that clearly stands out while comfortably seated in a plane is the letter on the hillside!  Once I spot the letter “A”, I know where to geolocate my home.

These oversized hillside letters are a type of geoglyph – large, land designs made with stones, trees and shrubs, earth or other elements. Some geoglyphs have been traced back to 2,000 years ago, with various meanings and purposes associated to them: way-finding markers for earthlings, spiritual symbols, or perhaps – if you are into theories a bit more otherworldly – something related to the extraterrestrial.

 photo IMGP4533.jpg

Australian Andrew Rogers designs and installs geoglyphs all over the world. Built in 2008, it was his first installation in America. Whether they’re  still maintained in Yucca Valley, CA isn’t unknown.

Last week, my husband Adrian and I got our hair cut at the Covina salon where my stylist and friend Liz works. I saw on the Azusa City News Facebook page that her husband Patrick and friends recently volunteered to repair the “A” in Azusa on the steep, rattlesnake infested foothills.  I really appreciate that he and others like him are trying to keep our communities looking good and giving back through the “Big ‘A’ Project”!

Volunteers replace the tarp that keep the “A” in Azusa looking good. Photos via the Azusa City News Facebook page.

Recently, they went up the ridge and entered with permission onto private property so they could access the “A” that lies on hillside property managed by Joint Powers Authority, on behalf of the City of Azusa.  I always wondered what the “A” was made of.

“Tarps,” was the simple and short reply.

They are currently raising money through YouCaring to redesign the temporary “A” design into a more permanent one, as well as collect funds for regular maintenance around the site. In hearing about their plans, it was impossible for me not to think about which materials could create a more permanent design, especially when factoring in the limitations of a site where material could not be delivered via truck or crane. Plants would be cool. I could think of a few wonderful options, but there would be regular maintenance needed to keep the “A” looking neat and tidy, and it is not an easy location to reach, unfortunately.

Back in 1928, during high school, my late grandfather Martin set the rocks that make up the “M” in Monrovia .  The “M” was constructed with lots of rocks, each painted white, but likely reset years later. Whenever Monrovia High School wins a football game, the “M” is magically transformed by lights into a “V” for “Victory.” It made me think of all the materials that make up other letters on the hillsides of California, how it all started, and whether there is a future for these letters and hillside designs.

There are at least 80 hillside monograms set into the hillsides of California.  The oldest known letter is the “C” in UC Berkeley. The collegiate geoglyph rests neatly between a clearing of trees and turf.  A number of other mountain monograms reside right here in Los Angeles County:

 Monogram    City
 A  Agoura Hills, CA
 A  Azusa, CA
 B  Burbank, CA
 CLU  Thousand Oaks, CA (California Lutheran University)
 CPP  Pomona, CA (Cal Poly Pomona)
 D  Duarte, CA
 H  Glendale, CA (Hoover High School)
 LA  Hacienda Heights, CA (Los Altos High School)
 LMU  Los Angeles, CA (Loyola Marymount University)
 M  Monrovia, CA
 W  Whittier, CA

The 2009 Toyota Prius Harmony Floralscapes. Photo: Toyota

My favorite modern geoglyph was created in 2009 using what looked like an arrangement of 20,000 4” Petunias within a 30’ x 60’ display by the now defunct marketing firm Greenroad Media with advertising firm, M&C Saatchi Los Angeles. One of the seven floral displays was created along the 110 Freeway in promotion of the Toyota Prius brand. Unable to safely pull over to investigate, I drove in circles to just see how it was set up on the side of the freeway (Note: it isn’t uncommon while traveling with a horticulturalist that they may insist driving back in circles to investigate a particular plant or tree over and over again until their curiosity is satiated).  The floral installation appeared overnight, like a Banksy mural – a colorful, rising sun with what looked like a car around it, but it really had no connection to the Prius.

Photo: Toyota

After its installation, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa remarked, “The commute for Angelenos will now be brightened by floral murals that embody the city’s progressive approach to solving environmental issues by merging beautification, sustainable design and reducing our carbon footprint.” Early into the region’s serious drought, the planting design with annuals may not have been as sustainable as the mayor proclaimed. It was a great start to something bigger, an interest in horticulture around the freeways – a living, beautiful branding opportunity paid for by a private venture. Nothing has happened since then on the slopes of the freeway, but it does not mean that something beautiful cannot bloom to feed hungry pollinators on the side of our motorways in the near future. There remains opportunities to further explore sustainable design in similar fashion.

As more people use Google Maps to virtually fly over hillsides and rooftops to way-find or seek out interesting points of interest, I can’t help believe we’ll see new geoglyphs come to life. Colorful, living, and sustainable designs may arise in relation to maximizing property use for commercial purposes. For example, the increasing use of drones could create a demand for marketing messages designed to be seen high above from a property. Just as cities brand their identity on a hillside, so will private property owners using their rooftops. Finding those arid-loving plants capable of tolerating reclaimed water and a small amount of substrate or soil on the rooftop will make the project even more complex. I am definitely interested in offering plants as a solution to the urban heat island in tight spaces or along steep slopes, as well as providing an opportunity to share a relevant message or colors through amazing sustainable planting design.

Photo: Brian Garrett/Creative Commons License

Shadowy blurs fly overhead, looping in acrobatic treble clefs across the dusk sky. Occasionally an audible sound is heard coming from these winged hunters as they gobble up thousands of insects during this aerial evening feast. That’s the dinner show I get to witness during the summer months from my Glendora backyard when the local bats return to our local skies.

But it’s not summer yet and the bats are already here!

Thirty years living in the same Glendora house and I’ve never seen so many bats this early in the year. Was this early arrival attributable to the glowing effects of a very wet winter? Or perhaps I’m just noticing a specific bat species most active during the spring within the San Gabriel Valley. Lots of questions to ponder while watching the evolving night sky. Nevertheless, I’m pleased with the idea that their early arrival may coincide with a decline in mosquito and beetle populations. Maybe…just maybe… I won’t stress as much about getting West Nile Virus. According to Bat Rescue, a single bat can consume up to 1,000 mosquitoes an hour, so imagine the damage 20 bats flying around like I saw last night could do!

Currently, seven species of bats have been identified in Glendora alone. Biologist Lauren Dorough determined in the greater range of Orange County that there are 16 species of bats from amongst the 25 species currently found in California.  A few species have adapted to the urban environment by roosting under bridges and inside abandoned buildings, environments very different from the natural environments that their bat-cestors once enjoyed. What a new, rich habitat for bats!

Even with such adaptations, it’s important to note the population of bats as a whole has been impacted significantly by disease. Bat Rescue notes 40% of American bat species are in serious decline or listed as endangered or threatened. Bat Conservation International reports in North America alone, 5.7 million bats have died from White-nose Syndrome, a disease that strikes bats while they’re hibernating. Sourced back to a New York cave, the deadly disease has caused 100% mortality rates throughout the U.S.

Besides diseases, bats have been impacted by wind turbines. The winged mammals have a propensity to collide into the fast moving blades while migrating to hunt or return to their nests. My family and I once toyed with the idea of producing electric energy and installing wind turbines within our Texas property, but we only considered its impact on birds, ignorant then of the hazard it presents to bats. I would hope others interested in wind turbines will consider bat populations nearby.

Besides controlling mosquito populations, bats also produce beneficial bat guano. Guano is the waste product produced by bats and is gathered from their caves to embellish fertilizer, create antibiotics, and detoxify wastes. Like many natural resource, bat guano has been overharvested, harming precious ecosystems that revolve around its existence. Guano itself can also contain serious diseases easily transmitted to humans. Thus, extracting bat guano without the care of trained professionals is not recommended. Bats within the San Gabriel Valley have been found with the rabies virus within the past 10 years. If you do find a bat in or around your home or property where it is unwanted, it’s highly recommended to contact a bat specialist or your local vector control for safe removal.

A lesser long-nosed bat pollinates a cross section of a saguaro cactus flower. Creative Commons photo by Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International.

Guano may be dangerous, but bats themselves are highly beneficial. They are an important crop pollinator, spreading the pollen of peaches, almonds, dates, mangoes, and figs.  They also are exceptional at dispersing seeds that may attach to their fur or carried within their tiny mouths. Unlike bees that are daytime pollinators, bats are nighttime pollinators, and enjoy agave flowers and other twilight blooming funnel/tube-shaped flowers like Lonicera, Yucca, Nicotiana, or Datura. You may even see a bat pollinating your backyard peach tree or the native Erigeron!

Those with a concern and affinity for these important nocturnal animals can help populations by buying bat boxes and posting them high up to create a colony of bats. Planting an evening blooming garden for night time pollination can be enjoyed with the aid of a webcam equipped with night vision.

There are so many amazing things that bats do humans. Did you know that vampire bat saliva is used to produces an anticoagulant that aids stroke victims and heart patients?  Next time you’re hanging out in your backyard or a ¼ of a mile near the closest water source, pull up a chair and look into the night sky like I did. Who knows, maybe a bat will fly by, and you will know it is hard at work.

Feel free to share your bat stories…I am all ears! All joking aside, bats really do have amazing hearing. Their echolocation abilities are so sensitive they can detect targets nearly a yardstick away within a 6/1,000th of a second, so perhaps they heard and appreciated my joke. I look forward to going batty for bats right along with you.

Resources:
Field Guide to Bats in the San Gabriel Mountains
Mapping the Bat Population in Southern California
Here’s to the Bats of California!
Bats In The Desert And The Southwest