Monday, July 22, 2013

Visiting Northern California: the Coast at Inverness

Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Dunes, Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Dunes, Point Reyes
National Seashore, California
   Point Reyes National Seashore is a lovely place. When it is unpleasantly hot in St. Louis, Denver, or Walnut Creek, you can head to the beach and find yourself cooled by the breeze off the ocean, and even looking for a windbreaker  when the clouds roll in. 

     We were there in May and we really did have these beaches to ourselves. 
beach at Point Reyes National Seashore, California
beach at Point Reyes

flowers on the headlands, Point Reyes National Seashore, CA
flowers on the headlands,
Point Reyes
     The spring wildflowers were glorious. They dotted the headlands with color.

California poppy, Eschscholzia californica
California poppy,
Eschscholzia californica 

   When I went to California in 1969 I had never before seen the California poppy, Eschscholzia californica (poppy family, Papaveraceae). Although today it is reported across most of the United States on the USDA Plants website, it appears to be native to the US west of the Sierras. It has been widely offered as a garden plant and is included in many wildflower seed mixes, so is now more widely distributed than its original range. I thought the fields of California poppies were spectacular.

California poppy, Point Reyes National Seashore
California poppy, Point Reyes National Seashore
     Despite our strong commercial trade in “wildflowers,” there are many small plants from every location that are not in commercial production and can only be seen in their native habitat or a botanical garden. And there are some even botanical gardens don’t seem to grow. 

    Why aren’t these plants in cultivation? 

      Perhaps no one has yet thought them worth the time. For example, plants with tiny flowers don’t attract gardeners the way plants with large flowers do. 

       Other plants are hard to grow. It is not that people don’t want to cultivate them, but to sell plants you need to have lots of seeds or many pots of the plant. Some plants make this difficult. Perhaps they require some not particularly obvious conditions, such as starting wet but drying out, so they die frequently in the experimental garden. Others drop their seeds as fast as they ripen. In this case, gathering seeds for planting is difficult--you have to go back every couple days to get a few seeds each time. Other plants have complex dormancy conditions, so of 100 seeds, only 25 germinate. That is frustrating to growers and buyers think they've been sold bad seed. Other plants rarely survive transplanting, no matter how carefully you do it. These problems can be solved, but it requires someone to work at it.  There are many plants for which that has not yet happened.

     Another group of plants are troublesome in cultivation. I can’t speak for California plants, but some prairie wildflowers--one small aster comes to mind--spread so aggressively that after a few years I found myself digging them up to avoid having them take over the entire yard. And, even when spiny plants are beautiful, you need just the right place or they’ll stab you and your visitors. 

   At Point Reyes National Seashore I wandered the hillsides enjoying the spring wildflowers without the anxieties of trying to tame them. I had a grand time seeing these old friends again this spring.
blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium
blue-eyed grass,
Sisyrinchium bellum

gumweed, Grindelia
Grindelia hirsutula

lupine, Lupinus
lupine, Lupinus arboreus
self-heal, Prunella vulgaris
self-heal, Prunella vulgaris,
a pretty weed from Europe

wildflowers in the grass, Point Reyes
various wildflowers in the grass,
Point Reyes

      Despite making me think about what plants are cultivated, all the ones in my photos can be purchased as seeds or potted plants, I suspect. But I chose these photos to post because the nice big flowers easily make satisfactory photographs. You'll have to go see the more obscure plants for yourself.

Comments and corrections welcome.

Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist
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1 comment:

  1. The beach pictures look beautiful, hope you had a great time there. The California poppy flowers are so pretty, it’s sad that not many people are interested in cultivating them.