December 5, 2005

Newsletter No. 13: Louis Rose Society for the Preservation of Jewish History

Rose Canyon Walk—A photo essay

Exploring the history of the Rose Canyon and the biography of the man for whom it was named—Louis Rose—on
Sunday afternoon, December 4, 2005, were from left: Donald H. Harrison, Peter Levine, Fred Gerson, Gerry Greber, Roben Gerson, Miyo Reff, Mitch Reff,
our guide and LRS member Rick Kamen, Ruth Kaplan, Susan Buxbaum, Marti O'Hara and Judith Newman.  We entered  the canyon from Genesee Avenue,
across the street from University City High School. {Nancy E. Harrison photo)

Rick Kamen, a writer of "Heirloom Stories" who volunteers as a docent at Torrey Pines State Park and at the Museum of 
Man, says the toyon berries—often called Christmas berries because they come out in profusion during the winter—like most fruits are  edible.  He 
explained that nature intends fruit to be eaten by animals, which in turn distribute the seeds in their manure. The toyon is part of the rose family of plants—characterized by having five petals on its flowers and many stamens within the center of the flower.  Cultivated roses have more petals but it's
due to a genetic mistake. Nature would correct that in a few generations if we gave her a chance.  Apples and strawberries also are part of the rose family
—which is one of the largest families in the plant world., Kamen said. At right, he pointed out the chaparral broom, which, when a wind came up, made it 
seem as if our group was walking through a snow flurry.  The light white seeds were blown from the bush to the ground where those that landed near a
 proper water source could germinate. An oddity about this particular species, according to Kamen is that  male and female chaparral brooms are separate
 plants, both of which produce flowers to attract pollinating insects to serve as their go-betweens. Only the female variety, shown at right, produces
 seeds however.
{Donald H. Harrison photos}

EASY TRAIL—As guide Rick Kamen studies a prickly pear cactus, hikers queued behind him were Marti O'Hare, Susan Buxbaum, Peter Levine, Gerry
Greber, Ruth Kaplan, Judy Newman, Miyo Reff, Nancy Harrison, Mitch Reff, Roben Gerson and Fred Gerson. Kamen lectured that every plant needs
to do things: gather resources (water, nutrients, sunlight) and protect itself.  Spines are the way the cactus defends its pads—necessary to produce
chlorophyll—from being eaten by animals, Kamen explained.  The pear or fruit of the cactus, like other fruit, is edible.  Kamen says he wears heavy
gloves to pick the pears, then puts them into the freezer, which breaks the cells. He brushes off the spines with a brush under running water,  then lets
 the cactus pearsthaw in his refrigerator.  They produce a syrup, which is as sweet as candy, he said.  {Donald H. Harrison photo}

POISON OAK, MISTLETOE— Toxicity within the leaves is another defense mechanism employed by such plants as the poison oak, pictured at
left.  Whether the leaves are green or red, as shown, Kamen said, they are easy to recognize because they grow in threesomes in which "two are
kissing and one is running away."  The leaves start green, but lose their green-ness in the fall as chlorophyll is reduced, thus showing the
underlying red color.  At right, the green mistletoe is a parasite plant which gains its nourishment from the cells of the host tree.  Kamen explained
that after eating a mistletoe berry from another plant,  a bird flew to this tree and defecated the seeds into a nook, where they were able to push roots
 into the host tree.  {Donald H. Harrison photos}

Buckwheat, birdwatchers—Two stories of rattlesnakes were told during the Rose Canyon walk.  Reading selections from his book, Louis Rose: San Diego's
First Jewish Settler and Entrepreneur,
Society co-founder Donald H. Harrison told how Sophia Fisher—a neighbor of Rose's in Rose Canyon—died from a rattlesnake bite, presumably in a part of  the canyon close to where our group was walking.  Kamen commented that the Fishers, like Rose, were Europeans (Germans) and didn't appreciate the snakes  in the way that local Native Americans (Kumeyaay) did. Holding a buckwheat in his hand, Kamen explained how the Native Americans appreciated  rattlesnakes near their grain baskets to guard against mice, which otherwise would eat the food stores. They wove pictures of 
rattlesnakes into their baskets to show their appreciation—perhaps hoping the images  would have an effect similar to that of a scarecrow.
Rattlesnakes rattle to 
warn humans to stay away, Kamen said.  The snakes  really don't want to use their poison on animals they can't swallow whole, and only strike people to defend themselves, Kamen explained. In the course of the discussion, Debby Knight, who had been  watching the interactions of  red-tail hawks, a red-shoulder hawk, ravens and kites, stopped to listen; introducing herself as president of the Friends of Rose Canyon,  a group organized to protect the nature preserve.  Behind her are her husband, Charlie Pratt, in the Williams sweatshirt, and LRS member Fred Gerson.  {Donald H. Harrison photos}