Glen Park: Home to the Red-back Jumping Spider

By Murray Schneider, Glen Park News

High above Alms Road on April 27th, with the Miraloma Improvement Club behind him, Dylan Hayes, Recreation and Parks gardener, demonstrated to six Friends of Glen Canyon Park volunteers the art of pulling invasive Italian thistle, wild radish and poison hemlock that threaten native Douglas iris and aromatic yarrow.

Red-backed Jumping Spider

Hayes’s tutorial took place in Fox Meadow, a sequestered part of Glen Canyon Park that recreational walkers rarely see. Strewn with bushy coastal brush, hydra-coiled Cape ivy, and thorny blackberry, Fox meadow, home to wild coyotes, is one of the few pristine natural areas in San Francisco, according to Hayes.

“This habitat marks the beginning of time,” Hayes pointed out to a volunteer. “It is priceless and deserves generational understanding and respect.”

Hayes leaned down, observing a spider that crawled along his yellow pop-up bag.

“It’s a Red-back Jumping Spider, the largest jumping spider in North America,” Hayes said.

The largest jumping spider in North America!

In Glen Canyon?

As Hayes pointed to the swath of red skin on the arachnid’s dorsal side, the spider vaulted from his fingers and burrowed beneath a stand of poison oak, a sanctuary from pursuing hands.

“What do they eat?” quizzed the volunteer, incredulity writ large on his face.

“Anything smaller than it is,” said Hayes, a City gardener for 14 years, six with the Natural Areas Program. “They’re predators!”

The volunteer’s eyes widened.

Taking the bait, Hayes opined, “They’re ferocious.”

Replacing the high stepping spider wasn’t difficult for Hayes, his head shaded with a wide-brimmed gardener’s hat and his hands protected by a tight-fitting blue rubber gloves. He next nabbed a Box Elder beetle camouflaged among coyote brush. The insect crawled along his extended finger, a more benign resident of one of the most naturally wild places within San Francisco’s 49 square miles.

A red tailed hawk sailed above, eyeing a gopher Hayes had earlier pointed out.

Hayes’ colleague, gardener Randy Zebell, said, “It’s amazing that 800,000 people live in a place and share it with such nature.”

Under Hayes and Zebell’s supervision, the volunteers collected their tools: mattocks and rakes. They stuffed the extricated hemlock, radish and thistle into three separate pop-up bags and then headed down the slope that would eventually wend its way past Silver Tree Day Camp. Below them the songs of sparrows combined with the laughter of Glenridge Nursery school children.

Hayes led the way, then momentarily stopped. He turned around, looking puzzled.

“You know,” he said, “There should be a place such as this where a person can get lost.”

Try Fox Meadow.

But watch out for the jumping spider of San Francisco County.

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