Most California annuals don't start blooming until March or even April, so it's easy to forget how much there is to see even in February. I was surprised when I went on a hike a few weeks ago and found flowering shrubs and beautiful flowers everywhere. Above, Cynoglossum grande (houndstounge), discussed here by Ms. Country Mouse, is already stunning with ferns surrounding it.
In a sunnier area, I found the first of Castilleja affinis (or possibly a different species of Indian paint brush). Beautiful orange-red flowers contrasted nicely with the greyish leaves.
Not far away, under the oaks, I was delighted to find Pedicularis densiflora (Indian warrior) under the oaks. Oh, I would pay good money to have one of those three plants in my own garden, but alas, they are not available in the trade. Which got me thinking - I know that Pedicularis is a root parasite, growing primarily in oak woodland. Castilleja is not a parasite, but depends on other plants. I've heard that one nursery sells it together with a host plant. As for Cyneglossus, I'm starting to wonder whether it, too, gets some nourishment from the plants that surround it, and that's why those three plants might be able to bloom so early.
Currents, in contrast, are big strong shrubs and can be ready for beautiful blooms even in January.
Similarly, the beautiful large Arctostaphylos that lined the trail at the higher elevation seem to be made for blooming early - and they delight Californians with blooms from January into March.
A little lower, Ceanothus thysiflorus, the local wild lilac, lined the trail and added the sound of happy humming bees and an intoxicating sweet fragrance to the hike.
But almost the best thing was that I was able to use this hike to figure out the camera on my iPhone. Sure, I hit a few rough spots when I discovered that the screen did not go dark after I'd snapped some pictures, and I tried all the buttons on the Photo app's screen. The result was an amusing collection of snapshots and videos of my shoes. But otherwise, I'm considering the expedition a success (well, never mind the finger on the photo of Zigadenus venenosus (death camas).
(And if someone knows how to turn the screen dark after taking a photo, don't hesitate to leave a comment...)