Monday, February 6, 2017

Local natives for the upper north slope project: California harebell and canyon larkspur


This post is the first of a few about some local native plants I'm growing for the shadier north facing slope of our property, just below our house. The upper part of the slope, to be specific. The lower part is a weed abatement project at best, right now.

Our home is located on a ridge about 960 feet up and about 6 miles inland from Santa Cruz, California, and my hobby is to gather seed and grow local wild natives for my garden.*

The Great Upper North Slope Project!
The part of the slope that's above the path.
(Which is fast disappearing under miner's lettuce.)

This picture was taken at the shady end of that north slope.
Flags are to remind me where I planted something. Their color means nothing.
At some point I should probably coppice the toyons.

Closer view of one section planted last year with sedges above
and Heuchera micrantha below.

Another section of upper north slope with western colombine
and hedge nettle (which is a mint)


Last spring and summer I found some some lovely "new" local wildflowers along my happy-seed-collecting trail!* The part that runs downslope from us along a shady, creek-side road.

The two new plants I'll talk about today are California harebell and canyon larkspur. They are pretty but modest plants. Not the kind you'll find in a nursery. I first noticed them last summer. Was 2016 just a really good year for them? I don't know a lot about how they grow. I think they may die back after flowering - I look forward to learning.

I'm thrilled that the seeds are sprouting. Things could go wrong; it's early days. But if it doesn't work this year, I know where to find them next year and try again.

Asyneuma prenanthoides, California harebell

California harebell is sweet and delicate and blooms in early summer. Calflora indicates that it's common in our county and up the coast and also in Yosemite and other places on the far side of the hot middle of California. It's also found in Oregon.

Its Latin name sounds like something you might dread hearing in a doctor's office, don't you think? FYI the name's derivation (per Dave's Garden botanary) is as follows:
Asyneuma: "From the Greek a (without), syn (together), and Phyteuma (a genus); refers to the lacking of the joined corolla lobes during flowering."
prenanthoides: "Resembles Prenanthes, genus name from the Greek prenes (face downwards) and anthos (flower), referring to flower's drooping habit."


Asyneuma prenanthoides, California harebell
close-up of flowers, which bloom in June and July.

A sweet and modest sprawler, with soft leaves you can just tell
don't like strong sun or dry microclimates.

You can see the seed pods grow behind the flower.
I was never sure I got one at the right stage of ripeness.
I left them to continue to ripen indoors before looking for seeds.
The seeds are tiny tiny tiny and dark.

And here are tiny seedlings!

Delphinium nudicaule, canyon larkspur

The Las Pilitas nursery page on this little red jewel gives me hope that it will find a happy home on the drier areas of the north slope behind our home and provide nectar for hummingbirds from flowers that bloom from May to June. It might die back after that, I don't know. But it is a perennial, so its return can be a happy suprise each year. Calflora says it grows along the coast and northern parts of California (and in Oregon) and in "Chaparral, Foothill Woodland, Mixed Evergreen Forest, Yellow Pine Forest" habitats at lower elevations. Good - plants that like dry conditions are easier for me to find places for!

Delphinium nudicaule, canyon larkspur
It is POISONOUS according to Calflora.
Wikipedia also adds that the root was used as a narcotic medicine
by the Yuki tribe in Mendocino

This is a much drier slope as you can see. 

Lovely seed pods! Or fruits. I wish I had the right words! Oh - an aggregate of follicles.
They're similar to those of Aquilegia formosa, Western columbine.
They are both in the buttercup plant family, Ranunculaceae.

And here are the seedlings!
Delphinium nudicaule! Canyon larkspur
Little red gems!

Much more to talk about!
Here's a photo of the greenhouse February 5th.

(*If you gather seed, please don't gather from public lands such as state parks etc, or from private lands without permission. Take no more than 10%, and take from different plants - or not at all if there are only a few plants.)

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