Pepperwood and the Santa Rosa Junior College partner to offer a two-semester Bio 85 – Natural History of Pepperwood course that certifies participants as UC California Naturalists. Students have the option to submit an article for the Pepperwood Field Notes Blog as part of the course. The following is a student-submitted article.
By Jennifer Roberts, Spring 2017 Bio 85 participant
“Where the most beautiful wildflowers grow, there man’s spirit is fed, and poets grow,” wrote Thoreau, undoubtedly while surrounded by a sea of wild color on a hillside or in a meadow. With record rainfall this winter and spring, we have all heard about the beautiful wildflower shows happening in the California deserts and along our coast, but lucky for us Pepperwood is no exception. Seas of yellow and orange, purple and white and blue and yellow have popped up all over the preserve. The California poppy is a standard favorite, and those who hike regularly are likely familiar with the purple lupines and tangerine sticky monkey flowers. In addition to these, Pepperwood is home to numerous other wildflower species. This spring has been a treat for the eyes and three species have really caught my fancy.
A beautiful canary yellow treat can be spotted between the rattlesnake grasses down by Martin Creek, along the Redwood Canyon Loop and under the madrones near the Hume Observatory entrance road. The Diogenes lantern (Calochortus amabilis) aka the yellow globe lily or golden fairy lantern is an herbaceous perennial that emerges from a bulb after the winter rains. The face of the flower hangs downward almost like it is casting its golden light down on the oak woodland soils. It is typically found in native prairie with summer dry grasses and near other wildflowers. Interestingly, it can be eaten after being baked or boiled and was an important food for the Pomo native people. This is an endemic California species, meaning it only grows in California, but even more specifically in Northern California above the Golden Gate. We are lucky it casts its beauty on Pepperwood.
Have you ever seen a native bee with blue pollen pants? Your opportunity is among the purple petals of Bird’s eye gilia (Gilia tricolor). Five stamens stand above the five purple petals and their tips are covered in blue pollen! This is the only flower like this on the preserve and the only one I’ve ever seen in person. Its dainty petals are white at the center and slowly blend to a purple or lavender of varying shades. This flower, also known as bird’s eyes, is native and endemic to California. At Pepperwood they can be seen near the barn and across the road from the meadow, enticing bees to drink its unique nectar.
Cream cups (Platystemon californicus) are delicate flowers that stand 1 inch tall and pop out just above the grass they nestle in. These beauties are in the poppy family and grow with our California poppy and another yellow wildflower, called Goldfields, which gives a true wildflower meadow effect. Their stalks have very tiny hairs, which set them apart from neighboring wildflowers. You can see them for yourself at Pepperwood in the meadow area by the Barn. They have white petals with accents of bright yellow. The yellow accents can vary widely in size and placement depending on where they are found. The Pepperwood varietal has triangular shaped yellow splotches on the tips of each petal and another dot of yellow closer to the large stamens in the middle. Their bright, pure colors remind me of Easter candy and definitely say spring is here!
The wildflower shows of this spring are sure to be remembered for a long time to come. We were blessed with so much nourishing rain that the plants are showing their appreciation with rich blooms. At Pepperwood we are fortunate to have the opportunity to view so many different native and endemic wildflowers in one place. Wherever you are, make sure you take the time to get out and appreciate one of nature’s greatest wild shows in the coming weeks. And remember as John Muir once said, “All that the sun shines on is beautiful so long as it is wild.”