By Wendy Langhans
This story has all the earmarks of a classic Harlequin romance. A story of consuming passion, condemned by society, between a Bladderpod, a colorful boxer with "issues", and a Harlequin bug, a zombie mother who, when threatened, feigns her own death and abandons her offspring.
Oh, and did I mention she's an immigrant too? And best of all, this story has a happy ending. For you see, a Harlequin bug can live all her life on one Bladderpod shrub. The story certainly sounds like a page-turner, doesn't it? But is this a true story or is it the product of my overactive imagination? Let's take a closer look at the details and find out.
Bladderpods  (Isomeris arborea) get their name from their inflated seedpods, which resemble punching bags. They can be found throughout Southern California, from the coast to the deserts. This hardy and colorful shrub with bright yellow flowers is a member of the mustard family. Hardy and colorful, yes, but with "issues". Bladderpods have one characteristic that makes them unsuitable for the home garden - they have a disagreeable smell .
Harlequin bugs  are immigrants, originally from Central America, they arrived in the US shortly after the Civil war. For years, the USDA  has been telling farmers how to get rid of these Harlequin bugs (Murgantia histrionica ), because they (the bugs, not the USDA) have a consuming passion for plants in the mustard (cruciferae) family. Like zombies, Harlequin bugs pierce these unsuspecting cabbages and broccoli with their needle-like mouthparts and extract their juices. Harlequin bugs also lay their eggs on the underside of the Bladderpod's leaves. But she's not an "overly protective" mother; when threatened, the Harlequin beetle will abandon her offspring by feigning her own death and dropping off the plant.
Still don't believe my story? Well, here's the compromising photo:
Harlequin Bug and Bladderpod hanging out together
So you see, truth CAN be stranger than fiction. Or not. Because, while the details are true, the relationship is strictly platonic.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
For Facebook Users: 90 Days of Santa Clarita Valley Wildflowers.
Here's a new way to familiarize yourself with our local wildflowers. Become a fan of the page, "90 Days of Santa Clarita Valley Wildflowers" and from now through April, each day you'll receive a photo of a local wildflower and a link to a website where you can learn more.
Saturday, March 20, 8-10 AM. Early morning bird hike at Towsley Canyon. March is a special time to glimpse unique migratory birds as they travel North. Enjoy another wonderful walk with our in-house birder, Volunteer Naturalist Roger. Beginners are welcome. Bring binoculars. Heavy rains cancel. For map, click here .
Saturday, March 27, 1-3 PM. Wildflowers Galore at Towsley Canyon. It's that time of year! Join Wendy on a hunt for the colorful wildflowers. Heavy rains cancel. For map, click here .
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.