The Wildflower Watch Is Underway
The first patch of California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) blooms in fire-scarred Corral Canyon. Photos by Suzanne Guldimann
Wild cucumber (Marah macrocarpa) is also known as “manroot, for its enormous root system that stores water and nutrients deep underground. This root, which can weigh as much as 100 pounds, enables the plant to get a head start after a fire. Wild cucumber is currently the dominant native plant in the fire area. Its sweet-scented flowers already giving way to prickly seed cases, but it also thrives in the unburned areas of the mountains, including Topanga, where it wreaths itself on fences and mailboxes, and covers steep hillsides in a tide of tiny white flowers.
Blue dicks (Dichelostemms capitatum) grow from a corm deep underground, enabling it to survive and thrive during wild. It’s just starting to bloom in profusion in the Woolsey Fire burn area, but I also thrives in Topanga. Look for this delicate, long-stemmed wildflower in Topanga State Park.
A proliferation of Padres shooting star (Primula clevelandii) catches the light on a hillside in the Woolsey Fire burn area. This short-lived flower is usually one of the first to bloom in late winter. When conditions are right, as they are this winter, it can cover entire hillsides. In a dry year, all one may encounter is a solitary plant.
Ground pink (Linanthus dianthiflorus) is a member of the phlox family, and like its big cousin prickly phlox has a sweet fragrance. Ground pink is tiny, seldom growing higher than a couple of inches, but when conditions are right it blooms in the thousands, carpeting hillsides in a tide of pink.