Spiders! EEK!!!

Spiders abound at the Living Coast

jumping spider eating flyIf you know where to look, you can find hundreds of spiders throughout the Living Coast grounds. This being the season of spooky, we wanted to let you in on a little secret: we’re surrounded by ’em!

Like this feller on your left, a jumping spider (Salticidae) that just caught a fly. Oh, and they have four pairs of eyes. Did we mention they can jump? Most jumping spiders can jump several times the length of their bodies but don’t worry, that’s only about 66 millimeters — or two-and-a-half inches.

male and female dew-drop spidersOne of our volunteers, Patricia, sent in photos of our spiders, which love to hide in cactus. One of Patricia’s favorites is the dew-drop (Theridiidae) spider. Here’s what she has to say, “Just learned this about the dew-drop spiders of the genus we saw: Spiders in this genus live in the webs of orb weaver spiders. They may be commensal (feeding on prey or prey remains that have been abandoned by the host) or kleptoparasitic (stealing prey that has been captured and/or stored by the host). They may also feed on the host spider or her eggs.” One word: CREEPY!

House SpiderWe also have very large house spiders. Is this because they are found in houses or as big as houses!? One other word: YIKES!!!

You might be wondering where you can find spiders at the Living Coast and, if you’re so inclined (or just want to give them a wide berth) here’s where they abound. Or in the case of the jumping spider, bound:

  • Most any cactus on the grounds or the many trails (spiders like cactus because it keeps predators away and prey close to the blooms)
  • A lot of the plants along Raptor Row on the way to Eagle Mesa
  • In the plants on Sweetwater Marsh, which you can see from our lunch decks.

Once you start looking for them, it’s almost impossible to stop seeing spiders at the Living Coast… Below, you can see more photos of our eight-legged friends, if you dare! MUUUAHAHAHAHA.

Cool evil laugh, eh?

Agave In Bloom

Shaw’s Agave at the Living Coast about to burst into color

Agave blooming4You will not want to miss the color show that is about to happen at the Living Coast. One of our Shaw’s agave plants is about to burst into color. Why is this so exciting?

Besides the spectacular color, these plants only bloom once in their lifetime after about 30 years. Additionally, Shaw’s agave is an extremely rare, endangered California plant. Watching this plant bloom is a special treat that may not always be available.

Coastal plants that take a long time to mature have difficulty keeping up with development. By some estimates, there might only be a single Shaw’s agave growing in the wild. The plants we have at the Living Coast are clones of that wild specimen, located near Border Field State Park and the Tijuana Estuary. Plants like Shaw’s agave send out identical plant shoots (or clones), known as pups, that can be removed from the host plant and replanted elsewhere.

Before (August 3).
After (August 16).

One of the most spectacular things about this soon-to-bloom agave is how much it has grown in such a short time. We took our first in a series of pictures (to document this momentous blooming event) on August 3rd and, by August 16th, it had grown nearly 20 feet! But there’s more to come!

After reaching this height, the cactus began flowering. It will continue for a number of days and we’re sure the result will be even more spectacular than its twenty-foot growth spurt. If you want to see a once-in-a-lifetime blooming event, we recommend coming to the Living Coast — and soon!

We have taken photos of this blooming cactus every day and put them together in a time-lapse sequence so you can see just how much this plant has grown from August 3-September 9, 2015. The video, which you can see below, offers a preview of the blooms to come. We hope you come to enjoy the finale at the Living Coast very soon!

Mark2Mark Valen, our Facilities and Horticulture Manager, contributed to this blog post. He says if the blooms get pollinated, then fruit will appear, containing seeds. Mark plans to sow the seeds around grounds, to sprout some of them in our greenhouse, and leave many of them to fall naturally and propagate themselves. 

This spectacular blooming event represents the end of this particular agave’s life cycle, but with a little luck and hard work we may be able to help the species’ continued survival. There are many other Shaw’s agave plants at the Living Coast — one of which is also going to bloom soon — so if you ever needed a reason to see some very rare coastal plants doing some very beautiful things, the time is now!