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California Native Wildflowers: in the Orange County foothills and in my suburban back yard

April 22, 2012

April showers, April flowers.

Although the 2011-12 rainy season was a bit on the dry side, the recent rains seem to have encouraged a lot of new bloomers. Out on a barefoot hike on the Barham Ridge trail between Irvine Park and Santiago Oaks last Friday afternoon, I came across this unknown-to-me prickly pink beauty with a mouthful-of-a-name: Chorizanthe staticoides

Chorizanthe staticoides

Local botanical expert Ron Vanderhoff was kind enough to identify it for me:

“That’s Chorizanthe staticoides, or Turkish Rugging. Sometimes called “spineflower.” It’s a wonderful small plant of late spring, early summer. Definitely native!

“Usually grows on exposed soils in chaparral or coastal sage scrub. though sometimes in alluvial washes as well. Usually in sandy or decomposed granite soils. It’s a member of the buckwheat family, with very small, mostly basal leaves. It is easily overlooked until it comes into bloom.

“In some years, especially following a fire, it can turn a bare open area into a beautiful soft sea of pink-lavendar flowers. There is a coastal form of this that is somewhat rare and grows in only a few pockets along the cliffs of Corona del Mar, Crystal Cove, etc. Nice find.”

Thanks, Ron, for your willingness to share your expertise. Orange Countians: you can join Ron on a local wildflower adventure! Find out more at the California Native Plant Society’s Orange County Chapter web page: www.occnps.org

Although I don’t have Chorizanthe staticoides in my back yard, plenty of other California native wildflowers are out in their spring finest, including one pale mariposa lily.

Mariposa lily

Mariposa lily and friend

I didn’t want to pick the only bloom of that delicate plant, but I did make a quick collection of some of the other wildflowers in my yard:

Since I’m too lazy to look up all the Latin names, I’ll call it a quiz: Who can name them all? (Hint: There are three kinds of clarkia, two kinds of salvia, two kinds of buckwheat, as well as poppy, four o’clocks, mule fat, dudleya, penstemon, lupine, baby blue eyes, phacelia, blue-eyed grass, wild hyacinth, wooly blue curls, and wild morning glory… 19 wild-flower varieties represented here. And I forgot to pick a sticky monkeyflower and add it to the bunch. Next time . . . )

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