WILDFLOWER SEASON HAS BEGUN!

Catalina mariposa lily -Calochortus catalinae

California has been in a drought since 2011.  The 2018-19 rainy season has finally lived up to its name however and the drought is declared over.  There was decent rain in 2017, but a drought is gauged not only by the amount of precipitation, but also the snowpack, soil moisture, stream flow and how full the reservoirs are….
To me it also means a bountiful wildflower season.

This wild mariposa lily was a new find.  A rare native limited to small area in southern California. Yet we found them blooming by the dozens on a little patch in the Santa Ana Range west of Lake Elsinore. They were just waiting for the last 8 years for the rains (I’m not kidding).

Those who live in southern California have heard of the super bloom at Lake Elsinore. Unfortunately 100s of thousands of people from LA and other nearby cities went to see. Thus we didn’t stop-  it doesn’t make for a very wild experience if you are sharing it with crowds.  We could see the California poppies covering the hills above the freeway in the distance, however I didn’t take a photo as it was too hazy.  Here is one of many photos, posted on the internet,  I disapprove of – a couple sitting on the flowers:

So many people trampling the flowers. Over the weekend California officials declared an emergency due to the massive influx of visitors at Lake Elsinore and shut down the parking and freeway access!

But let me leave you  with one more photo of Calochortus catalinae. The male anthers are diagnostically pink – in contrast to other mariposa lilies. (“Mariposa” means butterfly.)

We are in route to the desert of Anza Borrego: my next post.

With Apologies to Georgia O’Keefe

I love to shoot close-ups of flowers – to look right into their centers a la     Georgia O Keefe.

A macro of a cymbidium

A Cymbidium – one of the easier orchids to grow.

 

These are baby-blue eyes – Nemophila menziesii, a cutie with its silvery anthers and delicate petals – the bifurcated stigma  (center) look like Martian eyes to me.

 

 

Calochortus venustus is a wild mariposa lily.

 

C.leichtinii-xcrp pse7-15 024Calochortus leichtlinii or white mariposa lily.  This is a good one to identify the flower parts : the center column is called the style and is topped by the a 3-part stigma ( the unseen ovary is at the bottom of the style), which in these lilies is surrounded by six white anthers – those are the male parts.

 

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Note the same characteristics: three petals, 3-part stigma  and six anthers. You guessed it: another mariposa lily – Calochortus luteus.

 

Calochortus tolmeii

One more wild lily is C. tolmeii – pussy ears. This is one of my favorite little (no more than ¾ inch across) wildflowers with its blue anthers and fuzzy petals  – it’s nickname is pussy ears.

And I’ll close with a close-up of a Christmas cactus flower.

I’ll save some more for another time…..

A TALE OF TWO LILIES

In spring, my blog becomes a forum for my “wildflowering.” On a hillside in northern California grow two rare Mariposa lilies, listed by the Native Plant Society as endangered.  Why are they so rare?  Why do they occur only in limited locales?

This one is Calochortus umbellatus or Oakland star-tulip. The species is found almost exclusively in the San Francisco Bay Area, although there are a few isolated populations to the north.  The flowers are tiny usually less than 2 cm. (about an inch) across.

Oakland star tulip - C. umbellatus

Oakland star tulip – C. umbellatus, CCM

C umbellatus_recm 762 I’ve been trying to get a good photo for years, but enlarging to that size requires perfect focus, no wind and steady hands (or a “ground” tripod).  That assumes I’ve driven to Ring Mountain at the peak time.  Happily this year I found dozens of them.

Ring Mountain lies north of San Francisco, on the Tiburon Peninsula of Marin County and is really more of a large hill than a mountain.

Map of SF Bay showing the location of Ring Mt.

Map of SF Bay showing the location of Ring Mt.

What makes it rather unique is its serpentine soil, derived from ultramafic metamorphosed rocks that have been brought to the surface by mantle driven tectonic activity.  Serpentine soils are chemically harsh and toxic to most plants, so that the plants that evolved there have developed a tolerance – or even a preference – for the minerology (high in metals like magnesium, but low in calcium and nitrogen).

 

Tiburon lily Ring Mt 5-13-08 015-2

Calochortus tiburonensis, Tiburon Lily. CCM

Several species occur ONLY on Ring Mountain and no where else on earth for this reason. Calochortus tiburonensis is an example.  This can be a difficult flower to spot and not only for its small size (little more than a centimeter across). You can be looking at it, and not see it.  (If you visit the mountain be careful not to step or sit on them!)  The gold-greenish-brown colors are camouflaged against grasses and rocks.

Calochortus tiburonensis - Ring Mt 013-2

C. tiburonensis, CCM

Aren’t they unique looking? I love their funny “beards.”  A fire or some other disaster and the whole species could be gone forever.  So I visit them every year and admire their view of the Bay.

C. tiburonensis overlooking SF Bay. Photo@ by Mary Gerritsen

C. tiburonensis overlooking SF Bay. Photo@ Mary Gerritsen