Friday, May 23, 2014
Wildflowers of the Los Padres National Forest
I very much enjoy visiting Tassajara, a monastery in a deep canyon in the Los Padres National Forest. In the summer, Tassajara has a guest season, and the paying guests - which support the monastery for the fall and winter - enjoy the wonderful hot springs, the relaxing atmosphere, and the delicious food.
And, most of all, I enjoy the beautiful wildflowers in the spring - and was quite surprised how much there was to see even with rainfall being only half of normal. Above, a white ceanothus lights up the chaparral.
A close-up shows how unusual this ceanothus is - truly resembling a lilac with flower clusters that are easily 3-4 inches long.
A second, blue ceanothus is harder to find and seemed especially attractive to pollinators.
Similarly, the chaparral clematis was humming with activity.
At the side of the road, where annuals and perennials could enjoy more sun, I saw at least three different species of lupine, plus Penstemon 'Scarlet Bugler' and chia plants.
And, hidden in the rock, the sweetest little dudleya, almost ready to flower.
The star of the show this year was the Santa Lucia monkey flower.
Characterized by larger flowers than the monkey flower in Santa Clara or Santa Cruz county, this species also has distinctive coloring.
Though I was a little puzzled when I saw a plant with buttery yellow flowers right next to one with much lighter flowers. It was tempting to take cuttings, but it's extremely likely that a plant that's used to sandy soil and sharp drainage won't make it through a Bay Area winter.
I also enjoyed yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum), large shrubs with lilac-colored flower clusters. It's supposedly good for asthma and allergies, but I tend to be timid when it comes to eating or drinking things I don't know so I mainly enjoyed the flowers.
Things changed when the doors opened for Tassajara bag lunch - between delicious spreads, grilled veggies, fresh Tassajara bread, and cookies everybody found something they liked - and I looked forward to take my wonderful lunch out on a hike to discover more flowers.