|Eriogonum latifolium in the wild!|
|Eriogonum latifolium growing on the coast north of Santa Cruz (the pale pompoms in the middle)|
In pursuit of low growing ground covers for my sunny slopes, I've decided to branch out into the wonderful and deer-resistent world of beautiful buckwheats.
|Rosy buckwheat, Eriogonum rubicunda - this one is NOT deer resistant, unfortunately|
Why have I not yet done so? Buckwheats are wonderful plants for the native garden and there are - I counted on CalFlora - over 250 species!
But I have this golden rule: never to plant anything that will hybridize with a local native - or escape into the wild. And I have been told that buckwheats hybridize. And I've been raising the local Eriogonum nudum, naked buckwheat - so, no other buckwheats for me.
But my experience of naked buckwheat in the garden is this: it looks gorgeous when young - sculptural long tubular stems with clouds of little pompoms waving at the tops of them, adored - as are all buckwheats - by native pollinators.
|Eriogonum nudum in June (maybe after a watering)|
|E. nudum has a nice basal rosette of leaves and sculptural stems in early summer.|
|Flowers and flower stalks are still nice but lower leaves drying out - by late fall the long stems are breaking off leaving just the withered stumps. Which do regrow, but don't look so good the next year.|
So I'm not going to grow it on sunny areas this year - I'll try it in a shadier place on the north slope.
And I'll discontinue my breeding program or - I will continue maybe but with a different goal: to see if I do in fact see any hybrid-looking plants.
There is a lack of hard evidence about hybridization and anecdotal evidence is mixed - for pretty much all the natives, as far as I can tell. I prefer not to take the risk of contaminating local natives where I live.
In this case, I'm not worried about contamination. Naked buckwheat doesn't grow very near our property - I collected the seeds from a sandy semi-shady slope about a mile away, and three hundred feet lower than us or so - on a sandy slope above a creek. I haven't seen it anywhere else in my travels around our area.
When I asked a botanist at Central Coast Wilds how they deal with hybridization when breeding native plants she said - we just try to put things at opposite ends of the nursery (which is quite long). So I don't think I'll be contaminating any local wild buckwheats.
Hence my new year's resolution: grow more buckwheats! In particular these ones —
|Coast buckwheat, Eriogonum latifolium in the wild (also shown in the opening pictures)|
|Coast buckwheat, Eriogonum latifolium, in a garden - after it starts to dry out. Still attractive, though maybe not against that mulch.|
|Eriogonum giganteum, Saint Catherine's lace, in my garden, July 2009|
|Saint Catherine's lace again (this image from web somewhere, downloaded a long time back)|
And last, and smallest, but not least -
|Eriogonum umbellatum, sulphur buckwheat. Low, bright, cheerful. Not long lived.|