Rattlesnake Mountain Changed Forever
This Torrey Pine Tree was planted in 1980 on Rattlesnake Mountain in El Cajon California and this photo I took in 2011 on a visit home from Sweden where I presently live. This particular tree was 25' tall.The last thing I expected was to come home and start off on a negative note. Since I haven't had time to post much of anything lately and when I did, it was generally on a subject matter dealing with a negative topic, this trip was going to be different and informative about things I've discovered and appreciated over the last few decades. I wanted to deal with forensic clues in the form of vegetation anomalies I have discovered over a period of decades which defied explanation, which gave clues of a different climate and ecosystem past in Southern California. Well, no such luck. Things have taken a turn for the worse on Rattlesnake Mountain. I suppose my spirits are down a bit as well, but nothing surprises me anymore in this modern day system. The trees I have for so long cherished and spoken about are now gone. I had always considered that some event like wildfire consume them or housing development would bulldoze them, but never in my wildest imagination did I expect this deliberate chain saw massacre which was done for stupid ignorant reasons. When I told friends who had known of the trees I planted over three decades ago, they were sad for me and wanted to console, but the reality wasn't so much sadness as it was disappointment of the average person's stupidity and ignorance. Mostly my reasons for lack of sadness are that I don't regret the experiences I gained and learned in the way of practical application by replicating nature (Biomimicry or Biomimetics) and gaining a much deeper understanding of the value of our native Chaparral as host or nurse plants.
I went up there yesterday to photograph the Torrey Pines and the trees were totally gone. While I was looking around the site where the large Laurel Sumac which provided the means of serving as an excellent Mother Tree still stood, several irritated home owners came out and yelled at me for trespassing on conservation area land and demanded to know what I was photographing. I kept calm and explained I was taking pictures of Coastal Cholla Cactus (Coastal Cholla never was originally native to this location when I was a kid and I established a one acre patch which has since spread on it's own) in bloom and those of Prickly Pear Cactus, plus I was looking for Cactus Wren nests which I noticed the year I left for Sweden in 2006. Actually, all I saw were the old abandoned nests of the pre-housing development construction before I left in 2006. Nothing new of note anywhere. I'm assuming the Wren's were frightened off by the closeness of the development. But documenting the tree slaughter with photographs was mostly what I was seeking after because I could see from the paved road that both Torrey Pines were gone. I asked one of the disturbed neighbours about what had happened to the pine trees and the ignorant unscientific explanation given made it all I could do to hold back keeping my mouth shut and emotions in check. One of the men said to me,
"Those trees are a huge fire hazard, they were producing cones and once those seeds escape, they will spread everywhere and will cause fire and create a bigger fire hazard endangering these houses."Seriously ??? Torrey Pines cause fires ? I thought people caused fires around here ? In the whole history of fire on this mountain every single one was always human caused. No brushfire in my almost 60 years of lifetime were ever started by natural causes. None of what he said was true and a fire starting as a result of more trees would never have happened anyway. I was told I was a trespasser, threatened with police being called and fined $1,000 if I didn't leave their precious conservation area. These trees were nowhere near any of the houses as this photo below of the other smaller tree poking out from the Laurel Sumac clearly shows.
"If the penalty for trespassing on Rattlesnake Mountain Habitat Conservation Area is $1000, could you tell me what the penalty for trespassing and taking a chain saw and removing valuable rare protected wild San Diego County tree species is ?"The headquarters from where this Rattlesnake Mountain conservation area is given oversight is north from here in the city of Escondido. The biologist I spoke with on the telephone was nice enough and seemed to have already known about the removal. He said he was previously tipped off prior to the chain saw massacre and had visited the site himself. I never actually got a straight answer as to why these trees were destroyed, but it appears that there were several complaints to his office after I wrote my first article on the successful planting of trees by utilizing the Laurel Sumac as a nurse plant. Laurel Sumac is really the only shrub up there that stays richly evergreen all year long, aside from one small colony of Lemonade Berry which has also been severely cut back for housing. Those Lemonade Berry are so ancient that they look almost look small oak trees and I thought so when I was a kid. They are located just uphill here from this cactus where the Torrey Pines also were.
I will post a link here below of an album I created of several photos, not just of the dismembered trees, but also the growing Coastal Cholla and Prickly Pear Cactus colonies which are just starting to bloom now. The cactus colony is beautiful. One photos of the ground where Cholla Cactus joints have fallen off and rolled away from the parent plant explain just how the plants are able to spread so easily. I am also fascinated by what appears to be some sort of allelopathic chemical properties of these cacti plants in that none of the invasive weeds seem to grow anywhere around them. Well who knows, maybe it's just good luck. The biologist knew of the Cholla Colony and told me that Coastal Cactus Wrens were his favourite study. The Wrens never were there prior to my planting of both Cholla and Prickly Pear throughout the 1970s. The cactus Coast Cholla joints were rescued from yet another housing project from the 1970s near Santee Lakes across the valley to the west of Rattlesnake Mountain.
Rattlesnake Mountain Photos of Torrey Pines Dismemberment and Coastal Cholla & Prickly Pear Cactus colonies
Some Photo Updates:
|Photo of Saguaro on Rattlesnake Mountain in 2011|
|Photo taken in 2011 on Rattlesnake Mountain in El Cajon California|
|Photo by James Gallagher, Sea and Sage Audubon|
|photo from 2011 - notice how the Chola Colony spreads|
|Another angle of part of the Cholla Colony.|
The photo above almost squarely in the middle you can just make out the gray blue of the Desert Agave and the old dead flowering stalk which still persists. Also take note of some of that invasive African Bunch Grass which are commonly planted along freeway cutouts to supposedly hold the banks together. They are the ones with the fuzzy seed stalk heads. Many other non-natives such as Yellow Star Thistle & Mustard have made their way up here as a result of the Sky Ranch Housing Development..
|Photo taken in 2011|
This is at the top of the hill where the last remnants of the Lemonade Berry Colony still thrive, but they are only a whisper of their former glory. In the 1960s & 70s there were larger trees behind this scene where houses now are. The trucks of these looked f´so very ancient and the bark was identical to that of any Coastal Live Oak. When I was a kid I thought these were oak trees, until one Spring where I saw the sticky flat red berries. As far as I know, these is the eastern most extent of Lemonade Berry in San Diego County because they dislike frost and will easily burn. This location never did freeze even when we had frosts below in the valleys. I do not even recall seeing any over in Lakeside which is on the other side of this hill. Still, I cannot believe they took a chain saw to these special trees.