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By on July 18, 2022 in Featured, News, Newsletter

WESTERN POND TURTLE (Actinemys marmorata)

Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata) climbing out of a pool in Wills Canyon at the Ventura River Preserve

This spring, we received several reports of western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata) sightings on the trails at the Ventura River Preserve. While western pond turtles are typically found in a variety of freshwater resources, they also rely on suitable terrestrial habitat to search for food, find a mate, lay their eggs, and find a better place to live. The western pond turtle spends upwards of 200 days out of water, and recent studies have even found that they can live out of water for almost 400 days. This is a remarkable feat, but troubling when considering that the western pond turtle is fasting when out of water. This is due to the fact that the western pond turtle must ingest its prey in water because it cannot swallow air. As the climate changes, and prolonged drought coupled with rising temperatures becomes the norm, western pond turtle populations in Ojai are likely to decline.

The western pond turtle is the only remaining freshwater turtle species native to California, which is one of the many reasons why we need to protect riparian habitats. 


Red maids in bloom at the Ojai Meadows Preserve. Image taken in 2015

OVLC nursery staff and interns collected red maid (Calandrinia menziesii) seeds at the Ojai Meadows Preserve this spring to use for future restoration projects. Harvesting the seeds was laborious, and in the process our team gained a greater appreciation and understanding of the indigenous people’s connection to the land. The Chumash name for red maids is khutash and the seeds are highly valued in their culture. Prior to European arrival and the introduction of invasive plant species, red maids used to grow much more abundantly on Chumash land, coloring the hills with a vibrant magenta hue. Red maids are a common fire follower and the Chumash once managed the land with fire specifically to encourage the growth of red maids for harvest. The seeds were one of the most expensive commodities in Chumash trade and so highly sought after that people from the islands would come to the mainland just to trade for them. Twelve quarts (3 gallons) of red maid seeds were found associated with a burial site on one of the Channel Islands. The fruit capsule of each red maid flower produces roughly 10-20 seeds, so you can imagine how much work went into filling 12 quarts with seeds the size of a pen tip. There is no doubt red maids used to grow much more extensively prior to European contact, and our restoration efforts will purposefully include red maids, as they are naturally a first succession plant. 

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