More California Wildflowers 2019

The ubiquitous California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) and a fiddleneck to the left.

Now that the drought has broken, California is bursting with wildflowers. These pictures were taken in two areas south of the San Francisco Bay Area.

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There were carpets of baby blue eyes (above) in Canada del Oro– although this is a subspecies that is white rather than baby-blue. Contrast the colour with this one from Pacheco Park.

 

 

Woodland star –Lithophraga affine. Flowers are approx. 3/4 in. or 1 cm. across.

 

 

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Pacheco Park also had hillsides covered in blooms. The dominant species were shooting stars and violas.

 

 

This species of shooting stars, Dodecatheon clevelandii, takes on different colours.

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“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour” – William Blake

Anza Borrego Wildflowers: Part 1, northern section

There are many wildflowers in the northern section of Anza Borrego Desert Park… and many people vying to see them. When we came to the desert years ago – make that decades ago – we had the desert to ourselves. You just had to make sure you had enough water and gas and brought along some food. Today with social media, nature has become entertainment and people are well-informed as to when the flowers are blooming. To counter this we rented a four-wheel vehicle to go on the back sandy roads, but we weren’t the only ones who thought of that! Still it is a vast area and you only have to hike a little ways up a canyon wash to have the landscape yourself.

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                                                         photo by CCM

 

Desert lily  – a bloom you see after a wet winter.  It is found in nature only in the desert areas of the North American southwest – favoring Anza Borrego. Unlike most genera, Hesperocallis is a genus solely for this single species.  It is a bulb that can send a stem up to 4 feet high, although these are just getting started.  Native Americans used the bulb like garlic.

 

 

 

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Tall lupin (Lupinus arizonicus) with desert verbena (Abronia villosa) in the background.

 

Perhaps my favorite desert flower is the evening primroseOenothera.

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I’m really not sure if I have ID’ed the two species correctly but I think Oenothera deltoides is taller and Oenothera caespitosa blooms from a basal rosette of leaves. (if anyone has further information I would be grateful.)

Desert sunflowersGeraea canescens

 

The caterpillars are coming!  The sphinx moth caterpillars (and others) hatch shortly after the first wildflowers and begin munching on the delicate flowers and new shoots. They can decimate 100 acres in a few days.  They consider evening primroses (Oenothera) a particular delicacy.

 

 

 

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On the positive side when the sphinx moths hatch they pollinate the flowers – and they are attractive don’t you think?  I was standing in a patch of verbena and thought I was being buzzed by hummingbirds, but it was the hovering, swift flight patterns of the (2-3”) sphinx moths.

They were too fast for my camera so I gratefully borrow this beautiful photo of a sphinx moth (Hyles lineata) fr. Ronnie Pitman.

 

Verbena landscape with a few sunflowers sprinkled in.

Next week Part II – Central and southern Anza Borrego.

 (All photos by CCM unless otherwise credited.)

 

 

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.

A Few Wildflowers

Here are a few photos of spring from parks in Marin County, California.

Delphinium – or larkspur (note the “spur” at the top).

 

Gilia capitata from Azalea Hill.

 

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Several views of Calochortus umbellatus – a small lily also known as the Oakland star tulip.

 

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Fritillaria sp. – or Mission bells from Mt. Tamalpais

 

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A few more lovelies

 

I came upon a small hill that was like a wild garden, covered with several species. Shown here are annual lupin on the left,  owl’s clover (out of focus) behind and the ubiquitous California poppy on the right.

A WILDFLOWER TRAIL ALONG THE YUBA RIVER

My husband and I drove up to California’s “Gold Country” last week, specifically to hike a trail along Buttermilk Bend on the South Yuba River.

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The dog  scared us by running downslope to swim.  I had visions of throwing myself into the raging water to save him, but he was smart enough to find a pool and avoid the rapids.

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The wildflowers were fantastic – both in the abundance of display and diversity of species.

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For over a mile you could hardly take a step without discovering something.

Even the pipevine swallowtail butterflies were having a field day – they were everywhere.

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More WILDFLOWERS

Most of these flowers are from Table Mountain, an “inverted” volcanic flow (which resists erosion and form a “table”, near Chico in northern California. The landscape is stunning in the spring (4 slides below).

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My companions, husband and golden retriever. (Geologists will recognize the basaltic rocks.)

 

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(4 slides above/5 below)

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…wait for the close up!

 

White meadow foam (Limnanthes douglasii) was abundant next to the streams (click to enlarge).

 

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Butterflies were having a field day (5 slides).  These are Pipevine butterflies, but the pipevines flowers were not out yet, so they pollinated brodiaeas. (Maybe the pipevines are just where they lay their eggs – I have seen the plants full of black and red caterpillars.)

Wildflower season is almost over now – unless I head for the mountains, but after growing up in the tropics I can appreciate what the seasons bring.  Have you walked in a field of wildflowers in spring?  If not put it on your bucket list!

 

There’s Gold in them Hills: Wildflower Season

It’s wildflower season again and after years of drought the blooms are making up for lost time.  I choose the Gold Country (California foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mts.) this year as a hot spot.  We started near Yosemite and made our way north on HW 49 – and various floriferous side roads. 

California poppies (Eschscholzia californica)  and gold fields (Lasthenia californica)

The discovery of gold in 1848 sparked the largest mass migration in U.S. history.  Prospectors moved from one strike to the next along rivers and streams .  Today there are remnants of diggings, rusting machinery, stamp mills and old camps. There are historic towns and wonderful plant diversity.  The California golden poppy has replaced the “gold in dem der hills.”

Gold fields a common sight in spring.

The small flowers above,aptly named “gold fields,”  are in the daisy family.

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Shooting stars- Dodecatheon hendersonii

I found a field of shooting stars too.

Numerous creeks flow out of the foothills of the Sierras and into rivers that eventually join the San Joaquin River, one of California’s largest. 

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Below is the Stanislaus River.Stanislaus_pse1230

Old bridge over the Stanislaus. A sign says it was covered to make it last longer.  In the foreground are the remains of an old stamp mill, which crushed rock for extraction of gold ore.covrd bridge Stanislaus_pse1232

Many wildflowers have evolved to root in serpentine soil and gravels – which are toxic to most other plant life.  This is Bitter root – Lewisia rediviva (named after explorer M. Lewis of Lewis and Clarke fame).Lewisia r_pse1185

I was hunting for one particular wildflower I’d never seen: a fawn lily,  Erythronium tuolumnensii – and was excited to find it….  The thrill of the chase.

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Fawn lily –  Erythronium tuolumnensii

 

Below: wait for it – it’s a brief  slide show ( or click if feeling impatient 😉 )

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Lupins and goldfields in front of snickering horse.

Is that horse sticking his tongue out at me?

    

horse grin_pse1224Yeah pretty funny trying to ruin my shot. (I did not photo-shop this horse – he really was mocking me.  So disrespectful!)

The one(s) that got away 😉 :  I had some fabulous photos of a place famous (with botanists anyway) for wildflowers near Yosemite Park.  That night I downloaded over one hundred photos to my laptop and was going through them, deleting those that were out of focus etc. and taking pleasure in the ones that were sharp.  Long story short, my laptop died and I’d deleted the photos in the camera card to make room for the next day’s findings.  I paid a computer guy to retrieve them and he found everything else – that I had already backed up, except those photos I had driven many hours to take.  Ah well another year, and excuse for another trip!

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

 

 

DEATH VALLEY – SUPER BLOOM

Late in the season there was a most unusual storm that brought twice the normal annual rainfall to the northern desert in a matter of days. The silver lining in this dark cloud is that it bode well for wildflower season. (The bad news was a flash flood destroyed or damaged roads and buildings in the park.) Rain occurred again in early 2016, but I only heard that there was a “super bloom” after it was well underway.

DVNP 2016 by Diane Miliard

DVNP 2016 by Diane Miliard

Being that this this is known to happen in Death Valley only once or twice in a lifetime, we started looking for tickets to the nearest airport (Las Vegas, Nevada-  a two hour drive to DV), lodging (not easy), car rental etc. Having accomplished that, we arrived a couple of days later, just in time to catch the last phase of the flowers. It was worth it.

 

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Yellow primroses, purple phacelia and chicory. CCM

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Desert primrose ( C. brevipipe), by CCM

The most common wildflowers in the park were Camissonia brevipes or desert primrose (shown carpeting the desert in the first two photos and a close up above) phacelias and chicories. Wednesday we got off the main road, checked out the middle of the park and found those flowers.  Two different species of Phacelias  are shown below: the top row is P. calthiflora (based on the short stamen and color) or possibly  P. campanularia (based on leaf form and white spot in corolla); bottom right is P. crenulata and the last photo shows the two species

side by side.

DesertChicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana)

DesertChicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana) by CCM

 

Thursday we drove to the north only to find Scotty’s Castle Road closed by the flood. Not to be deterred we walked up the now dry wash into the canyon and were amply rewarded with a wealth of species. My husband discovered our first “Five-spot” and then we saw many more after that.

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A baby Eremalche rotundifolia

I spotted this red plant (above) up the wash, assumed it was a flower and walked over to discover it was an infant 5- spot;  the red leaves discourage predators from eating tender shoots.

 

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Friday we woke up to high winds- anathema to photographing delicate flowers.  I had to make wind breaks with my body and jacket, but even then had to patiently wait until the wind subsided for a moment and quick: click!  I did capture a few macros, but soon gave up and just hiked around and decided to try my hand at landscapes.  But that’s next week…(It took me too long to go though my many photographs and longer to  identify the species of those I didn’t know – i.e.most of them!)

While I would never visit the desert in summer – or even winter – it is a whole different landscape in spring if the area has received some rain.  Have you been there?

Planting WILDFLOWERS could help Feed the World

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photo from Conservation Magazine, Feb.2016

Well, being a wildflower aficionado,  I love this idea – beauty and agriculture producing enough food for the growing, global population. I’ve written about the problems with mono-cultures (large tracts of banana  and coffee crops in Latin America succumbing to diseases) and increasing biodiversity is the clue to healthy crops and environment.

Central California supplies most of the nations produce. (Photo Lupins poppies by CCMacKInnon)

Central California supplies most of the nations produce. (Lupins and poppies; photo by CC MacKinnon)

 

 

The  information below is from Conservation Magazine at the University of Washington:

“Many studies have shown that planting strips of wildflowers amidst croplands can increase species of insects and birds that act as an all-natural pest control, reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides.” In Switzerland many “farms that have implemented wildflower strips as part of a government subsidy program that aims to boost biodiversity on farm lands.”

Butterfly-2

Swallowtail butterfly pollinates wildflowers. (Photo by CCMacKinnon)

In a study published recently in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment they found that the presence of nearby species-rich wildflower strips increased winter wheat production by 10 percent as compared to control fields.  The paper did not take into account any losses in yields that farmers would incur if they set aside arable lands for wildflower strips (however my guess is that the balance of nature would at least balance out the yield as 10% is a big  effect).

 

Save these landscapes. (Arvin, CA photo by CCMacKInnon)

Save these landscapes. (Arvin, CA photo by CCMacKinnon)

What do you think… win win? (Like this post? Share it on your favorite social networking site.)

 

The full article can be found here:
http://conservationmagazine.org/2016/02/planting-wildflowers-could-help-feed-world/