by Charlene Burgi
Spring is in the air. One minute the sun is warming the earth, and the next minute we are donning raincoats and grabbing umbrellas. While the weather is unpredictable, springtime consistently produces some of the most glorious wildflowers to be seen.
As I drove to Marin this week, I noticed sweet drifts of pink creeping phlox showing up along the roadside that, not so long ago, was covered in snow. Brilliant orange poppies spun their gold through meadows and the redbud shrubs burst into color as if vying for attention. New growth of green from deciduous trees seemed to dance through the forest of conifers still bearing the scars of winter storms.
I love spring. Everything seems to come alive. During one of those rare sky-blue warm days in March, I grabbed my camera and set out for a walk around the ranch hoping to find some wildlife to capture digitally. While nothing furry appeared before my lens, I did come across the most beautiful glossy yellow wildflowers. I was stunned by the intense color and couldn’t walk by without capturing their loveliness to share with you. I soon learned that the sagebrush buttercup, Ranunculus glaberrimus, is listed as a California native in the northeast part of the state. Amazingly, very few sightings are registered on the CalFlora website. Even more amazing is there is another buttercup, glossy buttercup, that looks much like the sagebrush buttercup but is considered a nocuous weed in many states. Research revealed subtle differences between the two, and I was greatly relieved that I wasn’t promoting an invasive weed!
My research on this little yellow beauty made me think about people collecting seeds from wildflowers. I wondered how many research their discoveries prior to gathering and sowing their finds. Many people new to Marin see the gorgeous yellow blooming bushes during this time of year. They frequent nurseries asking for the plants, not realizing those bushes are invasive Scotch and French brooms we are fighting to eradicate on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed and in other parts of Marin. Once again, it is important to know your plants before propagating them!
Speaking of the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed, there are many wonderful spots to hike and see wildflowers this time of year. Take a stroll around Lake Lagunitas or explore the different habitats along Rocky Ridge. I hear that the iris and lupines are particularly beautiful this year! This is also the time of year to explore Days Island in Novato where native rockrose is found exclusively along with one other place in the Mediterranean. Those seeds are collected for propagation purposes. And the rockrose is a sure winner for planting in native gardens. (As a reminder, seed collecting is not permitted on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed.)
If you are interested in adding native plants to your garden, don’t miss the Marin California Native Plant Society’s Annual Spring Plant Sale tomorrow, April 13, from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Green Point Nursery in Novato. While visiting Marin, I spoke to staff members at the College of Marin and learned the Indian Valley Organic Farm & Garden also has its Spring Plant Sale coming up next weekend, April 20 – 21. In addition to native plants, they will be selling many organic vegetable starts. This is the perfect opportunity to collect healthy native and vegetable starter plants that thrive in the garden. Will I see you there?