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Residents find serenity in nature

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Alondra Campos
Staff Writer

Local residents became one with nature as they strolled through California’s largest botanical gardens with their flashlights and water bottles under a full moon at the Full Moon Walk inside the California Botanic Gardens.

The California Botanic Gardens hosted its ninth Full Moon Walk on Monday.

Lisa Pritchard, the garden’s education coordinator, and Marty Purdy, a Claremont University graduate student, led a 20 person group on the moonlit walk.

“I try to educate kids and adults about our native plant life and wildlife through events like these and many people enjoy the nightly walks since the garden is usually only open during the day,” Pritchard said.

Pritchard handed out red cellophane paper to place over the flashlights to prevent any damage from the light to the wildlife before the trek began.

The walk started at the Alluvian Gardens and continued through the Plant Communities and all the way to the Indian Hill Mesa.

“Tonight’s full moon is also called the worm moon,” Pritchard said.

“It’s supposed to rain tonight and that’s when the worms come out of the mud,” she added.

The silhouettes of about 6,000 different plant species all native to California pressed against the cloudy sky as the group began to walk through the Alluvian Gardens where a pack rat was spotted.

Pritchard pointed at a gray rat curled up between cacti for the guests to take a look at.

“These rats like to pack everything and you’ll sometimes see their nests filled with shiny objects,” Pritchard said.

As the group ventured deeper into the garden a wonderland of green shrubbery surrounded them with the occasional pop of red, white or yellow colors on the flowers growing out of the bushes.

About a quarter of the way into the walk, the group stopped in front of a large agave plant that resembled the shape of a large asparagus with red and yellow flowers blooming upwards.

Pritchard also prepared some activities for the group that required various senses such as smell, hearing and sight.

For the first activity, each group member received a can with a specific scent and had to match the same scent with another group member by only smelling each other’s can.

After the activity, the group resumed their hike as Pritchard and Purdy continued to point out the various wildlife inhabiting the garden.

“Nocturnal wildlife do not have the best night vision so they have to rely on other senses to hunt for food or survive,” Purdy said. “In this activity we’re taking the roles of those animals and adapting ourselves to our surroundings.”

Anita Smith, Rancho Cucamonga resident, said she enjoyed the activities Pritchard planned and had a great first experience at the garden.

“It’s a very interactive walk, especially for the little ones,” Smith said.

“There are a lot of pretty plants one can look at all around. My favorite was the white agave,” she added.

As the sky grew darker and dusk quickly approached, rabbits and squirrels began to come out of their burrows, scattering through the trail looking for their dinner.

Larger plant life also became more evident as Pritchard led the group to the oldest plant in the garden.

An outstretched oak tree with a thick trunk hovered over the group as everyone stood under its massive, arm-like branches.

Standing at more than 250 years old, the oak tree has been part of the surrounding plant life since before the California Botanic Garden was created.

Along with the native oak tree, the group also observed palm trees, whose skirts are known homes to home barn owls, rattlesnakes, rats and yellow bladder pods.

Once the group arrived at the dwindling path of the plant communities, another sensory activity involving hearing and sight began.

Each group member stood two feet apart from one another in a circle and closed their eyes for one minute.

In silence, the group listened fully to all the surrounding noises including the crickets chirping, the train, the freeway and birds chirping in the distance.

“I chose to stop at this spot because you could feel the light breeze coming in on your face if you just stand still,” Pritchard said.

“I recommend to anyone who comes to stop at the plant communities, before continuing, and take in all the sounds one easily ignores.”

Throughout the trail, Purdy stopped at numerous different plants, such as the bladder pod, and described the different mechanisms plants use to survive.

“The bladder pod has tiny seeds that are filled with air, which resemble an actual bladder,” Purdy said.

“This plant has a very aromatic foliage that you can smell with a simple brush of your fingers. The strong smell serves as a guard to predators,” she added.

It was not until 7:50 p.m. that the full moon made its stellar appearance in the starry night sky minutes before the walk ended.

Group members huddled close to take pictures of the moon as the coyotes howled in the background and the frogs croaked in the nearby pond.

Summer Bayhart, Rancho Cucamonga resident, said she liked the different plant species and the unique shapes and sizes.

“The white agave was definitely my favorite part of the whole walk,” Bayhart said.

“The buds were beautiful and it was eye catching even in the dark,” she added.

Upcoming Full Moon walks will be in April and June. The California Botanical Garden is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

Admission costs $10 for adults, $6 for children and free for members.

Alondra Campos can be reached at alondra.campos@laverne.edu.

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