Oak Catkins - Volcan Mountain
Early March in the mountains above Julian is cold and much of the plant life is still dormant. As I hiked up the beautiful 5 Oaks Trail on Volcan Mountain I rounded a switchback and was stopped in my tracks. Above me was a dome of 6 to 10 inch tassels swaying in the breeze. Delicate strings of brilliant spring green puff balls (a technical term) were dotted with bright red seeds. Lush groupings of these opulent tassels sprang from the ends of all the branches, and each was topped with small scarlet leaves, sporting tender white peach fuzz. The effect was dazzling in the still largely brown and grey environment.
I have since read that these beautiful displays are called Catkins and are the male flowers of the Oak. They produce pollen abundantly that is spread by the wind to the much smaller, harder to detect female flowers. Clouds of pollen are released blanketing anything beneath the tree. If any finds its way to it's target, the female flowers begin their development of acorns, and the spent catkins dry up and drop from the tree.
The endless varieties of beautiful excess that procreation stimulates are awe inspiring!