Owl's clover, butter and eggs and delphinium
Owl’s clover, butter and eggs and delphinium. Photo by Celia Zavatsky.

This is a follow-up on the wildflower report I sent out April 27, 2014. So much is topsy-turvy in the plant world because of our weird weather.

Cache Canyon is great now (March 19 and 20, 2015) along Highway 16. Highlights: thousands of foothill poppy (Eschscholzia caespitosa) cascading down the steep south and west facing canyon walls like yellow-orange waterfalls; virgin’s bower (Clematis lasiantha) beginning to frost the top of practically every shrub on each side of the road and the shrubs and trees up the canyon walls; California ash (Fraxinus dipetala) flowering in abundance with lush pendulous inflorescences. All three were excellent on the 19th, and the next day were even better—the Clematis and Fraxinus were still on the way to peaking—the poppy cascades may be burning off very soon. Also just before getting to Cowboy Camp from the south on Highway 16, on the east side of the road in the distance there were three or four large patches of blue close to the ground as if they were goldfield patches—only they were brilliant, glowing blue! Probably Lupinus, but I never saw miniature lupine (L. bicolor) look like that.

Bear Valley Road: April flowers don’t realize it’s still March. The tidy tips (Layia) in and around the corrals are rapidly reaching their peak—notably more color today than yesterday. More color than usual along the road — even the Dudleya were about ready to flower. A couple of fresh dense cascades of Jepson’s milk-vetch (Astragalus rattanii var. jepsoniana) looking big, fresh and happy. Intensely blue-purple larkspur, probably royal larkpur (Delphinium variegatum) blooming at the beginning of the Valley (it was also blooming in abundance along parts of Highway 16 in Cache Canyon). The pink adobe lily (Fritillaria pluriflora) has mostly finished blooming. There were only a few fresh flowers here and there. My feeling is that they peaked last weekend. There was not much happening quite yet on the part of the road going east-west; it may be drying out. There was only one plant of cream cups (Platystemon californicus) in bloom near the bridge at the edge of the creek. I did not go much beyond the bridge. By the way, a lot of arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus) was already beginning its bloom along the approach to the valley (it comprised the “giant wedding cake of lupines” I raved over last spring)—they may even peak in a few days to a week. Last spring it was at its best April 26-28.

Walker Ridge Road: Much more in bloom than usual driving from south end to mid-way — again because some April blooms were beginning, or even ending, now. However, I didn’t see manzanitas blooming like I usually do in March. Again, I was seeing blooms I’d usually expect in the last half of April. There were too many to name them all.

Did Wayne’s Knoll last: It was wonderful. There were all the usual plants, but in abundance. Fritillaria pluriflora flowered early, however, as capsules were at least 1/3 full grown. Checker- bloom {Fritillaria affinis) (the miniature-flowered one that blooms here) looked like they might have dried out or been eaten before being able to set seed. Lots of Calochortus amabilis were beginning to bloom, with lots more still in bud—they may make as good a display as last year, only much earlier. Widehead groundsel (Packera eurycephala var. euyrcephala) (formerly Senecio eurycephalus var. eurycephalus) is already beginning to bloom. It never blooms this early! Hoover’s lomatium (Lomatium hooveri) was in abundant bloom, but were already some going to seed. There was a splendid early spring display near the parking area with large patches of purple owls’ clover, blue larkspur, butter and eggs, goldfields, native clovers, etc, etc. Lovely to each lunch with. It will probably burn off soon unless there’s some rain.

This report is incomplete, but in case you did want to see this mix of early and mid-season blooms, now is the time to go. Of course that may be the case no matter where we go this year.

Celia Zavatsky

P. S. If you were planning to visit Jepson Prairie, the sooner the better,– but if we have rain that extends into the Central Valley tonight, it may extend the bloom some. East Bay CNPS will have a field trip there Sunday, April 5. See the field trips article on page 5.

A field of Ithuriel’s spear (Tritelea laxa) in the Central Valley on the way to Highway 16. Photo by Celia Zavatsky.

A field of Ithuriel’s spear (Tritelea laxa) in the Central Valley on the way to Highway 16. Photo by Celia Zavatsky.



Jepson's milk vetch. Photo by Celia Zavatsky.
Jepson’s milk vetch. Photo by Celia Zavatsky.