This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Two small areas in my yard covered with Ero-dium moschatum, the musky Filaria (or Fil-a-ree) of the natives, are now being cut by the scythe-man. The yield is heavy, when the fact is considered that until about a month since the plant had been kept low by frequent mowings with the lawn machine. Before being touched by the scythe the plants stood densely from eighteen inches to two feet in height; the top surface being a mass of leaves, pale purple flowers, and umbels of light green, upwardly pointing, stork's bills.
The individual seed vessels, which give the plant one of its common names, are about two inches in length - there are from eight to twelve of them to the umbel - and are conspicuously noticeable by reason of their parallel bearing to each other, their color, number, uprightness and apparent sharpness of point.
The Filaria is not a cultivated plant, notwithstanding its seemingly abundant yield and the relish with which it is eaten by cattle. The strong musky flavor which it gives to milk and butter, when eaten largely of in the spring, is agreeable, rather than otherwise, to the taste, like garlic at the East, suggesting freshness and the opening season of the year.
A plant, almost as well liked by cattle, though not eaten so closely by them, nor growing so densely, is the Californian Malva - M. borealis. This and M. rotundifolia, the introduced species, grow much together, the latter however appearing to prefer the pathways where it will be trodden upon, and ditch banks, whilst the former abounds upon the open and enclosed and cultivated lots. Where grass and the native grains acquire a footing the Malvas and Erodiums would, I think, be quite crowded out.
A second Erodium, found growing in this vicinity - E. cicutarium, or pin clover - has taken advantage of an exceedingly damp season and freely spread itself. E. cicutarium is easily distinguished by its distinct trailing habit, darker green and more finely divided leaves, and its deeper purple flowers.
A fifth so-called weed - which name it well deserves when it invades the lawn - is the bur-clover, Medicago denticulata. This plant is, like the coarser Erodium, a luxuriant grower, and is perhaps quite as satisfactory as the latter to the palate of cattle and horses.
The Erodiums, Malvas and the one species of Medicago are not what might be called common plants here, or generally prevalent, as will be understood when I say that I know of no two fields in this vicinity which duplicate each other, or in which the chief two or three weeds are the same - Rumex acetosella alone to be excepted, as it is found in nearly all. One field that I have in mind's eye has a salmon and green crop of Ana-gallis arvensis; another has a covering in part of wild forget-me-nots, a species of Eritrichium, the flowers very pretty and pure white; a third is dashed over with the lovely Orthocarpus flori-bundus and the blue and white-flowered Lupinus micranthus and its variety bicolor; still, a fourth has a gay intermingling of the pale-colored racemes of wild radish with the lemon-colored starlike masses of the field mustard; whilst a fifth is a carpet delicately lined and touched over with an infinite number of the deep red flowers of Calen-drina Menziesii, to be soon followed by the less conspicuous Silene Gallica and a variety of grasses.
The collared and collarless clovers with such small things as the lower Hosackias; the stemless evening primrose, CE. ovata; that universally spread and humblest of grasses, Poa annua; the catch-fly mentioned above, Silene Gallica, an eight to ten inch high plant and one of the liveliest of weeds; the common chick-weed, Stellaria media; the succulent-leaved and fresh-looking Claytonia perfoliata, and many others, fill up below and between the larger plants, but with several exceptions give but little color to catch the eye. It must not, however, be thought that these diminutives are unattractive, because not loud or froward in leaf or color - many will be found quite the reverse of this on a close examination, notably the Trifoliums and Hosackias. Santa Cruz, Cal.