There's aliens among us. I saw some this week. Native Californian aliens in fact. At least they sure look like aliens. I mean - how else do you describe wildflowers that are green and hairy and only grow on one scruffy coastal hillside in Tiburon and no where else on Earth? Well, except maybe also with words like "wow!" and "look at this one!" and "oh my gosh are these things crazy-weird beautiful or what?"
Flora fiends will know with a glance what wildflower so captivates my imagination. It's the Tiburon Mariposa Lily, Calochortus tiburonensis. And they only grow within a few wind-swept acres on the east side of a serpentine rock encrusted hill in the Ring Mountain Preserve of Marin County - just north of (and overlooking) that amazing city on the bay, San Francisco. And that's it. No where else. Pretty discerning & tasteful lilies I'd say.
Because of this unbelievable uniqueness, the California Native Plant Society gives Calochortus tiburonensis a CNPS listing of 1B.1, which is the highest level of concern for plants not thought to be extinct. It means that these fabulous lilies are endemic, endangered, rare and threatened (and any other scary word short of "extinct" that they can think of). I wouldn't be at all surprised if it also means that each flower gets a tiny GPS transmitter implanted inside it each Spring as they bloom. Oh, and ignore that red sniper-scope dot on your chest while you're taking photos of them. It'll go away as long as you just don't touch any... :)
Here's some pics from my pilgrimage to see these rare beauties. I sure hope they protect 'em forever - they're definitely worth it.
The predictable SF and Marin sides of the Golden Gate Bridge:
And the awesome alien-looking natives, Calochortus tiburonensis, in all their glory:
The lilies have some pretty nice views:
And some quality friends:
There's also lots and lots of delicious, delicate, delovely Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum (which I'm used to seeing with their flowers chomped off because mule deer love them so):
I'll close with a color explosion from the rest of the most-assuredly jealous wildflowers that grace the rocky slopes of the Ring Mountain Preserve (including one of tiburonensis' brothers, Calochortus luteus, the Yellow Mariposa Lily).
(Above wildflowers in order of appearance: Dudleya, Indian Pink, Chinese Houses, Western Larkspur, California Gilia, Pitted Onion, White Brodiaea, Narrow-leaved Mule's Ears, Ithuriel's Spear, Common Phacelia, Yellow Mariposa Lily, Nude Buckwheat, California Phacelia and Common Monkeyflowers)
- Marin County Open Space District - Ring Mountain Preserve
- Wikipedia - Calochortus
- California Native Plant Society - Calochortus tiburonensis