Wildflowers among the charred manzanita.

Rosy Sandcrocus

Early this morning I had joked with my daughters about hiking alone today, saying that because it was Saturday I knew there would be plenty of other hikers around to see the event if a mountain lion dropped from a tree onto me. (None of them laughed at my joke.) Yes, there were many people on all the trails, but when I did have an accident it was during a minute when I was out of sight of everyone, and I was glad for that.

I couldn’t resist visiting another regional park this afternoon because I was in the neighborhood, having helped to care for my goddaughter Mary and her siblings all morning, a bit north of home. But I had forgotten to put my boots in the car, so I went with just my Merrells that are super comfortable and supportive, but still – they are just shoes.

The fires of last fall ripped through this area — that’s two years more recent than where I hiked on Tuesday, and the damage is striking. So many manzanitas are black, or black with copper leaves. But these wind-driven fires we’ve had will thoroughly burn one bush or tree and leave one right next to it unharmed. In the next picture I was trying to show the flowering bush, and the other close by that is singed and stressed. Maybe it will recover by next year – or maybe not.

Some trails in the park are still closed since the fire; I made note of that when I printed a map last month, but I also forgot to bring the map. So I wandered a lot and ran into two dead ends where the trail was closed, making it seem like I had walked for much longer than an hour. There were plenty of green trees and shrubs, and lots of new ground cover including several low-growing wildflowers. I was surprised to see so many on this last day of February; maybe the warm days we’ve had recently encouraged the bloom.

I made good use of that phone app: Seek, from iNature. I’m excited about it helping me to spend more time outdoors with the plants and less time in my cold corner looking at a screen to do my plant identification detective work. In that short time it helped me confirm the names of or learn for the first time eight plants and flowers. It didn’t matter to the app that the wind was blowing them blurry. It does matter to me, when I am posting pictures, so I will show you the clearest images I got.

Besides the charred oaks and manzanita in the photo above, you can see how the plant pictured in more detail below covers the slopes all over with its wavy leaves. When I pointed my phone at it I learned that it is appropriately named Wavy-leafed Soap Plant or Chlorogalum pomeridianum:

And this sweet thing (with the botanical name impossible to say without spitting) is the Rusty Popcornflower – Plagiobothrys nothofulvus:

The trails were mostly very gravelly, and what happened was, I slid in the gravel and went down. It wasn’t even a steep hill. I got back up and brushed myself off, looked around to see that mercifully, no one was rushing to my aid. I was more careful after that, especially when going downhill.

Besides the plants I’ve pictured here, I saw Blue Dicks; a yellow flower called Pacific Sanicle; Henderson’s Shooting Star; and a tiny and tightly furled white flower among leaves also folded close, but looking like clover — the app could make no sense of that one. But the most interesting meeting was of the Rosy Sandcrocuses. I saw most of them almost hidden in the grass, they were down so low, but this one had opened while still lying in its sand bed. Those long grass blades lying next to it are its leaves, which makes you understand why some people call it Onion Grass.

My favorite for beauty, the Pacific Hound’s Tongue. That phone app is up to date; it knew that the botanical name has changed to reflect what has been discovered about this flower’s genetics. These were smaller plants than what I’ve seen in wetter places, but their beautiful blue catches the eye. I’m thrilled to have seen one today, and reveling in the gorgeous springtime and all my flower surprises – also that I didn’t break a bone!

13 thoughts on “Wildflowers among the charred manzanita.

  1. I envy you being able to use that iNaturalist app. This is the only reason I’ve come across that might tempt me to buy an iPhone — except for the fact that I can’t afford one, anyway. So, I’m condemned to my corner at the computer — emails, or websites — or people for identification — but I’m still way ahead of the botanists of old!

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    1. So true! You seem to have a large plant “database” at your command already, but if you’re like me, every new specimen you identify reveals more of the amazing complexity and diversity of Creation in such a way that it makes you realize how little we know.

      I find it a challenge not to get positively greedy and distracted from thankfulness, especially with the app telling me, “You haven’t identified any reptiles [insects, birds, etc] yet!” I have to talk back and say, “Hush! Don’t be so bossy!”

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  2. I am so glad you didn’t have to scoot around and fine some Bone Set! I think that is one of the old names for comfrey. What solace first flowers are on any hillside, but they are especially so after a burning.

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  3. I just must check out the iNature app. As it is now, I slowly turn through the pages of a couple of very fine books that help me identify almost every tree, shrub, and wildflower in Arkansas. I am thinking it might be time to update! If I lived closer, I would love to walk along with you so both of us could go sliding down on gravelly inclines.:~) I could hope that we would find a Pacific Hound’s Tongue. Wow, how beautiful can blue be! We have a lamp made from manzanita, a gift from a grandfather who lived in California.

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    1. Browsing around the Net with that question, I found out a few things: “A healthy, green manzanita, with five to six feet of clearance around it and no dead branches is very likely to survive a low to moderate intensity fire.”

      “Manzanita does not sprout back from the stump the way many broadleaf trees do,” and the site that seemed most authoritative said that the shrubs don’t often survive fire because their bark is so thin and not protective. But the plant actually requires fire to activate the “seed bank” in the soil and many of these will sprout after wildfires. “Manzanita seeds can lie dormant in the soil for decades, and it is believed up to a century or more. The heat from fire cracks open the seeds and allows them to germinate. Manzanita can be some of the first plants to emerge and populate an area after a wildfire.”

      Thanks for asking, which prompted me to look into that question sooner than I would have. 🙂

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  4. I am so glad you are using the pass! Be sure to go to Tolay Lake during the spring. It is a hidden valley that seems lost to the rest of the world and is gorgeous, especially when everything is neon green!

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