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SCV Outdoor Report: Lemonade Berry

By: Wendy Langhans

Imagine a warm spring afternoon, a comfy chair, and a tall, cool glass of lemonade.  Now throw in a twist.  Imagine it’s 1711, not 2011, and   your drink was not made from lemons but from local berries.

Sugar bush (Rhus ovata) and Lemonade berry (Rhus integrifolia) are two shrubs that grow in Southern California.  You can tell them apart by the shape of their leaves:  SHugar Bush leaves have SHarp pointy ends (they also fold along the center vein), while Lemonade berry leaves are round (and sometimes the edges are toothed).


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Lemonade berry is found in coastal areas and on the cooler, moister, north and east-facing slopes of the our local canyons.  Sugar bush is more drought tolerant, so it is found further inland and on south and west-facing slopes.

Both plants produce small, velvety, red berries. Native Americans and early settlers used the berries to produce a pink, lemonade-like beverage.  First they soaked the berries in water and strained them to remove the plant hairs.  Then they dried the berries.  Later, they soaked the berries in hot water to produce the pink lemonade.   I suppose they doctored it up a bit by adding honey for sweetness, since the berries are a bit sour.

I wonder if they ever had the lemonade equivalent of “wine tastings”?  You know, comparing lemonade from berries grown in different canyons.  Or maybe a 60/40 blend of ovata/integrifolia?  Probably not; most likely they were simply thankful to have it.  We should be so wise.

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Upcoming Outdoor Events:

Saturday, March 12 - Sunday, May 29, SCV Search & Rescue Trail Challenge 2011: 12 Weeks/12 Hikes.  Click here for more information.

Saturday, April 16, 8 - 10 AM, Early Morning Bird Hike at Towsley Canyon.  Spring is in full bloom and is the perfect time to discover which birds live and feed in our local mountains.  Beginning birders are welcome.  Meet at the front parking lot.  For directions and trail maps, click here.

Trail Maintenance Schedule.  Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails.  Contact Steve at machiamist@aol.com for time and place.

Wednesday mornings, April 6, 13, 20, 27.

Saturday mornings, April 9, 23.

For a glimpse of our local flowering plants, check out the Facebook page, “90 Days of Santa Clarita Valley Wildflowers”.

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You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The SCV Outdoor Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, click here or go to www.LAMountains.com.

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