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By Blog Master
Posted: 05/01/2021

On an unusually cool spring day, in the warmth of our homes, members of the Pasadena Village were treated to a virtual tour of Cottonwood Canyon, located right off of Linda Vista Avenue, by Tim Martinez, Land and Program Administrator for the Arroyos Foothills Conservancy. 

The Arroyos Foothills Conservancy is a land trust baseClick hered in Pasadena established to preserve natural open spaces.  In particular they work to save open space for wildlife and to connect fragmented land segments to create wildlife corridors that can support a healthy and diverse population of wildlife.  Some of us were surprised to learn that we are living in a very special ecosystem.  Tim explained that Southern California has more plant and animal diversity than anywhere else in the continental US.   

Cottonwood Canyon is of particular importance because it is the only open land that connects the San Gabriel Mountains through the Arroyo Seco to the San Rafael Hills.  It is the “gateway” for animals to move from one natural area to another.  A few years ago the Cottonwood Canyon land was threatened by development.  The Arroyos Foothills Conservancy purchased the land as part of its regional goal to create a wildlife corridor from Hahamonga to Tujunga.  

With an assistant guiding the cellphone camera, Tim walked us through a small section of the San Rafael Hills, pointing out important native plants and features along the way. Tim packed a lot of information into his short walk.  He pointed out a number of plants and explained how many of them have medicinal uses and help boost immunity.  The “walk” ended in a live oak grove where Tim explained that the coastal live oak, symbolic of Pasadena, is known as a “keystone” species.  As Tim told us, “the live oaks provide shelter and food for hundreds of species that depend on the oaks to survive.  If we lose these trees the entire ecosystem would be endangered.”  Now we know why Pasadena is so protective of its oak trees!

My personal favorite was his demonstration of the many uses of the prickly pear cactus which grows naturally throughout the area.  All parts of the plant (except the spines of course) are edible and healthy, lowering blood sugar to prevent diabetes.  Tim encouraged us to try ordering “nopales” tacos next time we go to a Mexican restaurant.  And the fruits of the cactus, known as “tuna” can be used to make delicious jams and smoothies.  But the most amazing thing about the cactus is what results from the beetle larvae that creates a white crust on the cactus.  The white stuff is cochineal and Tim showed how it turns a brilliant red when it is crushed between your fingers.  After the 1521 conquest of the Americas by Spain, cochineal was introduced to Europe where it revolutionized the color of red used in paintings and tapestries.

To watch the video recording of this educational and entertaining presentation, Click here .

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