Nature in Santa Clarita - not what you look at but what you see.
“What’s that red flower over there?” The youngster was pointing to a plant on the other side of the canyon, about 100 yards away.
“Oh yeah, that red color catches your eye, doesn’t it?” I was stalling for time as I went through my mental checklist. It’s been too dry for flowers and besides, it’s too early in the season for scarlet larkspur. Ah, of course! It’s a berry, not a flower.
“I’d need to get closer to be sure, but I suspect we’re looking at a berry. “Probably toyon”, I said. “Remember when we saw some coyote scat with seed pits earlier on the hike?” All sorts of animals eat toyon berries, birds as well as coyotes and bears.
Humans eat toyon berries too. According to a National Park Service website, http://www.nps.gov/archive/whis/exp/sitebuls/shrub.htm 
“California Native Americans ground the berries as a source of meal. Tea made from the bark and leaves was used as a cure for stomach aches. The Spanish Californians put the fruit in a bag, sprinkled it with sugar, and then cooked it in a slow oven.”
In the 1920’s a law was passed in California forbidding the collection of toyon on public lands. But I don’t tell the kids that. I just ask them how they would feel if someone rummaged through their backpack and ate their lunch.
And for you gardeners out there, who are looking to replace shrubs that froze earlier this year – check out our native toyon. It is drought and freeze resistant.
Our next bird hike is scheduled at Towsley Canyon on Saturday, February 17 from 8 -10 AM. Towsley Canyon is located on the Old Road, west of I-5 and about 1/4 mile south of the Calgrove exit.
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.
For our complete hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, go to www.LAMountains.com 
To see what's playing on radio station KHTS, go to www.hometownstation.com/  or tune in to AM 1220.