Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Early Bloomers

Ah, Springtime in the Sierra. The days start getting longer, the weather warms, and the snow melts. Migrators return. Bears & ground squirrels wake from their slumbers. The oaks begin to bud. Birds sing in ceremony as they pair and build. And, with a flourish that always leaves me happy & hopeful, the wildflowers explode into our lives.

On my recent trip up to the family lodge I figured I'd do a little search to see which fantastic florals get outta the ground first. Of the 100+ species of wildflowers that we've identified there, I found 16 early birds. I won't bore you with details about them though - I'll just let their beauty be the meat 'n potatoes of this post.

First, the natives...

Western Buttercup, Ranunculus occidentalis & Meadow Foam, Nemophila heterophylla
western buttercupmeadow foam

Whiteleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida & Sierra Gooseberry, Ribes roezlii
manz flowerssierra gooseberry

Baby Blue Eyes, Nemophila menziesi & Redmaids, Calandrinia ciliata
baby blue eyesred maids

Pine Violet, Viola pinetorum & Fivespot, Nemophila maculata
pine violetsfivespots

Goldfields, Lasthenia californica & some kinda Figwort
goldfieldssome kinda figwort?

Shooting Stars, Dodecatheon hendersonii & Miniature Miner's Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
shooting starsminiature miner's lettuce


And the wild non-natives...
These four are fairly common in areas that have seen some agriculture.

Red-stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium & Common Chickweed, Stellaria media

Speedwell, Veronica sp. & Henbit, Lamium amplexicaule


And the reward for being go-getters? Snow on the first day of Spring!

baby blue eyes in snow

Ah, Springtime in the Sierra.


Related factoids:
  • March 20th/21st really isn't the first day of Spring. It's actually the Vernal Equinox - the day that the Sun spends an equal amount of time just above and below the Equator, thus making day and night roughly the same length. "Equinox" is rooted in "equal" and "nox," which is Latin for "night." It's just become western tradition to call it the first day of Spring. In many cultures, the Vernal Equinox is considered to be mid-spring.
  • At 3,000 feet in the western Sierra, the warmth required to trigger Spring blooms & buds usually lags the coastal and valley regions of California by 3-4 weeks.



  1. What a great collection. I love the five-spot!

  2. Thanks Hugh. Fivespots seem to be the fave of the family too - how can you resist those little purple tips that look like they were dabbed on with a paintbrush?

  3. Springtime color is always such a treat. I love your photo of the baby blue eyes in the snow. We only get a few patches of those flowers in my southern Sierra area.

  4. Thanks for that one. I can't seem to remember my wildflowers very well, and this is a great short course.

  5. Ah, the Sierra gooseberry! I ran into one of those (or something similar) last year and was totally thrown by the fuschia-like flowers on what was obviously some sort of Ribes. Love them early birds!


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