Wildflowers in the Gold Country

Recently my husband and I visited the South fork of the Yuba River, just northwest of Grass Valley, California. It is only 500’ elevation, but features a whole different assemblage of flowers from where we live at ~ 300’ above sea level. I’d been waiting for the weather to warm up and it did – overnight – it was sunny and a bit hot.

Yuba River

`

There is a wonderful flower trail that follows the river. These white globe lilies or fairy lanterns were everywhere: Calochortus albus (click above to view more).

`

I don’t see this one often: Elegant Clarkia, C. unguiculata (which is hard to tell from C. rhomboidea, but I think I have id-ed correctly)

Elegant clarkia

.

Another prolific flower in the area was this spider lupin, so named for the leggy form of the leaves. Lupinus benthamii occurs between the  Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada foothills , and is not seen in the lower elevations. 

Spider lupin

.

Surprisingly ubiquitous was the endemic snakelily, also called twinning brodiaea (Dichelostemma volubile.) Note how the stems intertwine, almost like a vine.

Twinning Brodiaea

.

The aptly named Pretty Face or Golden brodiaea (Triteleia ixioides) is not uncommon in these foothills of the Gold Country. I find the dark brown marks on the buds appealing.

Pretty Face

~~~

The next day we ventured farther south down a dirt road to the north fork American River.  We discovered the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic but not to pedestrians.

N. fork American River

Pacific Asters – Symphyotrichum chilense – even though they are not found in Chile. A favorite of butterflies.

The temperature was at least 10 degree warmer here. Walking down to the river to dip our toes in the cold water, we came upon a lone prospector. Yes, they still pan for gold, mostly unsuccessfully, but this man was digging the coarse sand of the riverbank.  He had lugged down various tools and claimed he’d had modest success over a 30 yr. period.

These are one of my favorites, maybe because they are not found in profusion. Silene californica or Indian pink.

Indian Pink

.

The yellow mariposa lily, Calochortus luteus, is another species endemic to California. Like many Mariposa Lilies it has “hairy” petals and grows from a bulb. Actual size of the flowers is less than 1-inch across

Milkweeds get their name from the sticky white sap that oozes from the leaves when they are damaged. Never judge a plant by its name: this North American wildflower isn’t really a weed at all and isn’t the color glorious? It is the main host plant for the struggling monarch butterfly. I encourage you to plant this easy care native if you live in Monarch country (realize they are winter dormant however).  Asclepias cordifolia . Notice the wild garden in the background in the first photo below – very often, when a couple of wildflowers catch your eye, there are different species to see when you get closer.

.

Enjoy the spring weather and flowers!