Two months ago, I was making plans to set up weekly field trips through the spring and summer, to be sponsored by the Native Plant Society and by Flora ID. However, keeping “social distance” on a field trip is difficult. So scrapping plans for field trips is one more outcome of the nasty virus. Though I can’t take people to see the flowers, I can at least provide some beauty, color, and information about them.
Last weekend, I took a drive up Cabbage Hill to Deadman Pass to check out the progress of the early-blooming plants. Several people had told me there were many different plants already in bloom there. And as advertised, there was a good showing of flowers; enough to satisfy someone longing for a flower fix after being cooped up inside.
The flower show wasn’t apparent at first, but getting out and looking in a few places paid off. By this weekend, a few more species and a lot more blooms will have appeared. The plants you can expect to find include those listed below:
Yellow Bells (Fritillaria pudica): This little lily fits its name, having one to three nodding yellow to yellow-orange bell-shaped flowers at the top of a 4-6 inch stem.
Fawn Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum): This showy lily is up to about 6 inches tall when fully mature, with one or two nodding yellow flowers about 3 inches wide. The petals have spreading, pointed tips. The plant is usually found in partial shade and is now just coming into bloom. It has several common names, depending on who you ask, including Dog-toothed Lily and Avalanche Lily.
Grass widow (Olsynium douglasii): Also known as Blue Eyed Grass, this plant often grows in meadows or partial shade, and stands nearly a foot high. The flowers are an inch wide and pink to pink-purple. It is named for the Scottish botanical explorer David Douglas, who found it in our area in the 1820s.
Sagebrush buttercup (Ranunculus glaberrimus): This little buttercup is sometimes the first spring flower to bloom on Cabbage Hill. The bright yellow flowers are about an inch across, the leaves are of a variety of shapes, and the plant sort of sprawls on the ground.
Red Kitten Tails (Besseya rubra): Kitten Tails is not yet ready to bloom, and won’t be for another two to three weeks, but it is worth watching for. Last weekend, it was just tall enough to tell what it was. Once mature, it will be about 8-12 inches tall, and have a single stalk topped with a cylindrical spike of dull reddish flowers that have no petals. The mass of tiny flowers on the spike provide the color with minute sepals and stamens.