ammannia coccinea

Don’t overlook the teensy ones!

Guided by some online resources, I went looking for this flower by the pond at Rocky Oaks. I was expecting a plant between ankle and knee high (my wildflower book says it’s up to 16″/40cm tall). I scanned about but couldn’t see any likely candidates. Then I had the urge to just sit awhile right there on the bank.

You guessed it! I soon realized I was surrounded by the plant I’d come seeking — tiny (1.25″ high) scarlet toothcup plants with miniscule magenta flowers. Such a delight!

romneya coulteri

The Matilija (ma-TILL-uh-hah) Poppy, often called the Fried Egg poppy, has the largest flower of any native California species, 6+ inches (15+ cm) across. It’s native to dry, sunny areas from California to Baja. These ones were growing by Serrano Road and had probably escaped from a garden, as I don’t see them growing natively in this part of the SM Mountains. But it’s always such a treat to come across them.

striped racer

After stopping in a shady spot to paint a profusion of Sticky Monkey-flowers, I came around a corner of the trail and surprised a California Striped Racer. It tried to climb the trunk of an oak but didn’t get purchase and fell to the ground! I have never seen a snake ‘fail’ like that, and we were both momentarily stunned. Faster than I could whip out my phone, it recovered and raced off through the undergrowth at its signature speed. Sorry for disturbing you, little buddy!

field guide to western wildflowers

We have a lending library for docents at MCSP, and yesterday I discovered this treasure: Field Book of Western Wild Flowers by Margaret Armstrong, published in 1915. It’s a small, thick book, filled with 500 black and white illustrations and 48 watercolour plates, and the most delightful plant descriptions. Example (Easter Bells, p 28):

“A patch of these flowers bordering the edge of a glacier, as if planted in a garden-bed, is a sight never to be forgotten. Pushing their bright leaves right through the snow they gayly swing their golden censers in the face of winter and seem the very incarnation of spring.”

Makes me want to gayly swing my golden censer 😁

You can see the text here on Gutenberg, but of course holding the hundred year old book in one’s hands is an infinitely more special experience. I’ve borrowed it, and I’m already feeling sad about the day I need to return it to the shelves.