California’s seasons are not as subtle as people say. Summer in California is when many plants go dormant to protect their softer tissues from drying out. In cold climates, plants go dormant in winter to protect themselves against freezing. The principle is the same: conserve energy and reduce the chance of damage to tissues like leaves, buds, and tender stems. But some California plants skip summer dormancy, so people who walk along the coastal Bluff Trail are especially lucky to view some splendid late summer bloomers.
Sea cliff buckwheat (Eriogonum parvifolium) is especially showy right now along the Bluff Trail. Its balls of cream to pink flowers are so thick that they completely obscure the branches underneath. This buckwheat is an especially important habitat plant. More than seven species of butterflies and moths raise their caterpillars on sea cliff buckwheat, and as many as 30 more species may use it. Bees appreciate its nectar and birds its seeds. Rust colored seed heads follow the bloom, keeping the plant conspicuous for a few weeks longer. Sea cliff buckwheat is not deciduous, but without its flowers or seeds it fades into the background.
Low growing California sandaster (Corethrogyne filaginifolia) is another plant that is easy to miss when it is not in bloom, but hard to walk by when it is. Tiny white to lavender daisy-like flowers grow thick above its silver leaves. Butterflies and bees appreciate the late-summer nectar of the sandaster.
The ocean bluff milk vetch (Astragalus nuttallii) is now in bloom and seed. It is hard to say which is showier: the stalks of up to 125 cream-colored flowers or the inflated pink seed pods. Even its feathery leaves are striking.
Although California gumplant (Grindelia hirsutula) can bloom all year round, its striking inch-wide yellow daisy-like flowers truly stand out in late summer. Gumplant’s common name is due to the sticky substance exuded by its buds.
Keep an eye along on the Bluff Trail for these summer treasures along with some California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), late seaside daisies (Erigeron glaucus), and the last of the seaside woolly sunflower (Eriophyllum staechadifolium). They will not last long, but they brighten an otherwise flower-poor season.
Thanks to everyone who made the Gathering in the Garden on last Saturday such a great success. FFRP’s crack team of volunteers outdid themselves with marvelous food and faultless production. Special thanks to our sponsors: Cambria Nursery, Cayucos Cellars, Cutruzzola Vineyards, Harmony Cellars, Hearst Winery, Moonstone Cellars, and Rocky Creek Cellars; and our splendid musicians Ron Perry, Mary Schwalbe, and Carolyn Kelly.
Originally published in https://cambriaca.org/