What kind of animals will I find at the Cypress Nature Park? There are many tiny insects that you will see at the Nature Park. A fox inhabits the park but because it is a nocturnal creature no one has seen it. Many other animals visit the park but very few make it their home.
The Pocket Gopher and the Field Mouse have burrowed their way into the Nature Park. You may see heir burrows in the sides of trees and in the dirt but you will probably not see them. Their population is probably kept under control by the fox and the visiting Opossums.
What happened to all of the rabbits?
A few years ago many rabbits inhabited the Cypress Nature Park. The rabbits were tame and had been left there by people who no longer wanted their pets. Rabbits reproduce very rapidly and before to long they were everywhere. The tame rabbits were not used to having to forage for themselves and they started to become very sick and diseased as they did not get the care they needed. There was a lot of concern over what to do with the rabbits and eventually they were removed from the park. You will notice many signs posted at the park that tell people not to release their pets into the park or the Cypress Police will fine them.
The most common reptile that you will see in the park is the Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) which is commonly referred to as "swifts" or "bluebellies". They frequent the walkways surrounding the park and they bask in the sun until they are startled by passers-by. The skin of the lizard is black, gray or brown in a blotched pattern. The sides of it's belly have a blue hue to them. The lizards can be found hunting for insects and spiders both on the ground or running up trees. The lizard is believed to help kill Lyme disease. When an infected tick bites the lizard, a substance in the lizard's blood neutralizes the disease.
At night, you can often hear the Western Toad or the Pacific Tree Frog. They are found by the pumphouse in the park but are rarely seen in the daytime. The Western Toad (Bufo boreas) is gray and green, with warts set in dark blotches and often tinged with rust. The warts on a toad secrete a milky poison that wards off predators.
The Pacific Tree Frog (Hylla regilla) can be brown, gray or green with tiny suction cups on its feet and black eye-stripes. It has adapted such that it can change color in a matter of minutes so that it can blend in with its surroundings.
What are insects?
There are between 750,000 and 1 million species of insects on the planet. About 7,000 new species of insects are described each year and there are many more species that have not even been seen. Insects have adapted to almost every habitat on earth and have survived on the earth for over 200 million years. Insects have six legs, wings and have a hard skeleton that covers their bodies. They have 3 body parts: the head, the thorax (the middle section) and the abdomen.
Why do we need "bugs"?
Insects are responsible for pollination of plants, a process necessary for the propagation of more plants. Because of the multitude of insects they also make a great food source. Some insects are also used to get rid of other harmful insects that damage crops rather than using pesticides that can be potentially harmful to humans and other animals.
Where can I find insects?
The best place to find insects is in the litter (dirt and leaves) on the floor of the park. When it is hot outside, the insects often move to the litter that is in the shade. You can also find insects underground, in the bark of trees and up high in the leaves (in fact you should find insects just about anywhere). In mid-summer there are approximately 10 million insects on one acre of the Nature Park (multiply that by the 5.7 acres in the park and that's a lot of bugs!). In mid to late summer, you will find lots of butterflies in the milkweed grass. Wearing bright clothing and flowery perfume will help attract them.
Cypress Nature Park serves as a wonderful habitat for birds because of the abundance of insects and flowering trees in it. Spotting birds in the trees can be difficult but you should have no problem hearing the birds. You may see such common birds as finches, starlings and sparrows. Hummingbirds can also be spotted in the flowering branches of the Toyon Berry tree and the Red Gum Eucalyptus. during the afternoons there are many Morning Doves on the Park floor looking through the leaf litter. The mobility of birds has led to many different species of birds being spotted in the park but some of the unusual species that you might see are the following:
(Falco spaverius): This bird of prey can be distinguished by its sharp, distinctive call of "killy, killy, killy". It is only 8 1/2 inches high and has a cream back and breast with black speckles. Its wings have black stripes and it has a red-orange crown. It also has very distinctive gold eyes.
Mallards migrate north to south and they've found the Nature Park a nice spot to stop along their migration route. In the summer of 1998 a family of Mallards (with 12 ducklings) stopped in the shelter of the pumphouse on their way to Mexico. They are 16 to 24 inches in length and are easily distinguishable by their green head. Their backs are gray-brown and they have purple chestnut underparts.
Western Bluebird (Sailia mexicana):
The Western Bluebird visits the Nature Park in the winter. It is 5 1/2 inches tall and looks like a sparrow except that it has blue coloring on it's back and wings.
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans):
The Black Phoebe is a small bird only 5 to 7 1/2 inches long. It is a dark sooty bird with a white undertail and breast. Black Phoebes are particularly helpful in controlling the mosquito population as their diet consists almost entirely on flying insects.
Why does the grass grow wild in the basin of the Nature Park?
The sediment in the basin is very fertile and is ideal for growing crops. In the dry season, the sediment absorbs water from street and mountain run-off and the grass can grow abundantly. In the winter when it is raining, the seeds of the grass are not affected by the pooling of water in the basin whereas the stems are typically washed away. As soon as the rain stops the grass can grow rapidly once more.
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare):
A member of the sunflower family. It is characterized by its deep green fern-like appearance and its flat, yellow flowers. This plant has been used to preserve both corpses and meats. It is also used in insect-repelling potpourri.
Lamb's Quarters (Chenopodium album):
Also called Pigwee, Fat Hen or Goosefoot. It is easily distinguished by its short, reddish-branched stems and short blue-green leaves that have a white underside. It is very nutritious and has often been used to substitute for spinach. It is most commonly used for animal feed.
Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursapastoris):
A member of the Mustard family. The fruit is shaped like a shepherd's purse in that the seed pods are loose, flat tiny and heart-shaped. That plant itself has a hairy stem and grow tiny flowers. It has proven useful as a drug that will constricts the veins and thereby prevent hemorrhaging.
This plant attracts many butterflies to its white, powder-puff like flowers. There are over 250 types of milkweed. They are characterized by having opposite or whorled (leaves encircle the stem of the plant) leaves and stems that contain a thick, milky juice
The trees planted in the park were chosen because they require very little care and make wonderful windbreaks. They are all very sturdy.
Red Gum Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus camaldulensis):
This tree is easily identified by it's bright red flowers in the summer. It also has very large seed pods hanging all over its' branches. Like most eucalyptus the bark on its trunk looks like it is peeling.
Carrot Wood or Tuckeroo (Cupaniosis anacardioides):
Bright orange fruit distinguish this tree from others in the park. The fruit resemble miniature pumpkins. The leaves on the Carrot Wood are rounded and dark green in color.
Acacia (Acacia longifolio & Acacia pycnantha):
The Acacia trees are characterized by their green slender leaves which are 3 to 6 inches in length. In mid to late summer, the Acacia trees are covered with thin, brown seed pods that hold 6 to 8 tiny black seeds.
Lemon-Scented Gum Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora):
Like all Eucalyptus, it has the peeling bark and the long, slender leaves. If you break the leaves in half on the tree you can smell a very citrus-like smell. FACT: The tallest tree ever measured was an Eucalyptus. It measured 435 feet tall! (87 kids standing on top of each other).
The Camphor tree has rounded green-yellow leaves. It can resemble either a tree or a bush. Breaking open the leaves will cause it to emit a very strong, medicine-like smell. Camphor is used in many medicines such as Vicks Vapo-rub and other decongestants. Warning: Do not touch your eyes after you have touched the leaves because it can cause irritation.
Mexican or Evergreen Ash (Praximus uhdei):
This tree has shorter green leaves that are patterned alternate on the stems. The seeds of this tree are called samaras and look very propeller like. They are 1 1/2 inches long and hang from the tree branches in clusters. The seeds are designed so that they are very easily dispersed by wind.
Plumosa Asparagus Fern:
This vine like plant takes over an entire portion of the park. Its leaf structures are very thin and the overall appearance is delicate and lacy. Its leaves are used frequently in flower arrangements.
King Palm (Archonthophoenix alexandrae):
This palm tree has extremely long fronds that look like a bird's feather. The edges of the frond are very sharp and pointed.
Olive (Olea europea):
The olive tree has short thin leaves. The olive fruits every few years and when this particular one does it fruits black olives.
Toyon Berry (Photina artbuticolia):
From late summer to December, this tree is covered with small white flowers. Like the Carrotwood this tree has berries but they are bright red in color rather than orange. Native Americans used to use the berries from these trees to make cider.
Brazilian Pepper (chimus terebinthifolius):
This tree is native to Brazil and is characterized by its cluster of tiny red berries. Before the berries fruit the tree is covered with tiny white flowers.
Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum):
This is a moderate to fast growing tree that can grow up to 90 feet tall. It has typical maple looking leaves that are characterized by 3-5 lobed leaves. In a mature tree, the leaves can be as much as 6-15 inches across.
Washington Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta):
This palm has radiating fan shaped leaves that sprout out of the top of the tree. When the leaves fall off, a scar is left on the trunk, hardens and protects the tree just as bark does. In the center of the small fan palm, you can often see many small, green round berries.
Carob (Ceratonia siliqua):
This tree is easily identified by its green bean like seed pods that hang off of the branches. The female tree puts out these pods that are between 4-6 inches long during the summer months. After awhile, the pods begin to dry out and turn brown. The ground-up dried seed pods are often used as a substitute for chocolate.
Silk Oak (Albizia julibriasin):
The silk oak has light green feathery looking leaves that can grow 8-16 inches long. The leaves are light sensitive and fold up at night. During the late summer months you will see pink, fluffy power-puff like flowers.
Star Pine (Araucaria Excelsa):
Looking like a Christmas tree, this tree has spikes all over its branches including both the top and the bottom and even on the tree trunk. It is very well protected from parasites and invading insects.
Willow (Salix babyloniea):
This tree thrives best by a lot of water. It has long thin leaves and when mature its branches bend over in an arch so that the tree resembles an umbrella.
California Laurel (Umbelluaraia californica):
This tree has shorter green leaves that curl over at the edge. The leaves are whorled (leaves encircle the stem of the plant) around the stem of the tree. It is a moderate to fast growing tree.