Carrizo Plain National Monument! Anza Borrego Desert State Park! Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve State National Reserve! Even a Nursery Manager can lose hours in envy, glazing over thousands of seasonal wildflower photos shared on social media. Without the time or means, it can be easy to feel FOMO (fear of missing out) during this extraordinary drought-free year, but our Bay is also home to numerous show-stopping wildflower species that are benefiting from the rain as well. At Save The Bay’s nurseries, we grow several native species whose flowers are worth seeking out on your exploratory hikes around the Bay. Here are some of my favorite native Bay flowers that are in full bloom now:
Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum)
Eye-catching and charismatic, blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum) is found in various plant communities all over California. This blue to purple-flowered perennial is yet another native species with a deceptive common name – it is actually not a grass, but is more closely related to the iris.
Sticky Monkey Flower (Mimulus aurantiacus)
In showy bloom all over our restoration sites is sticky monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus), a native shrub species beloved by pollinators and human wildflower enthusiasts alike. Though I like to joke that their blooms are a shade of orange alarmingly close in color to Mac & Cheese, I always appreciate its joyful presence. Sticky monkey flower is extremely drought tolerant, but seems to be appreciating the deep-root watering it received this year. It’s also popular with local pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
California Melic Grass (Melica Californica)
Let us not forget the unassuming inflorescences of some of our native grass species – I know that I am not alone in my love for a remnant coastal prairie. My personal favorite is California melic grass (Melica californica) with its jewel-like, burgundy striped florets.
Purple Needle Grass (Stipa pulchra)
Another beloved species grown in Save The Bay’s nurseries is purple needle grass (Stipa pulchra). This common perennial bunchgrass is not only stunning when viewed in its native plant communities, but it was also crowned our official State grass in 2004. You can spot this grassland species at beautiful Bayfront parks like Coyote Hills Regional Park in Hayward and the Presidio Coastal Bluffs in San Francisco.
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
It wouldn’t be a wildflower report without a shout out to the ubiquitous California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) – our state flower. The genus of this species was named after the German botanist Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz. I recommend spending a minute longer closely studying the poppy this year – it is a remarkably beautiful flower.
But wait, there’s more!
Early spring wildflowers aren’t the only celebrities of our restoration sites! Many species bloom in the summer and fall, providing color to the transition zone and a food source for our animal and insect neighbors during the drier months. I particularly look forward to the cotton candy tufts of our native buckwheat species (Eriogonium nudum and E. fasciculatum) throughout the summer in upland plant communities.
Last year we were also treated to a stunning floral display from marsh gumplant (Grindelia stricta). This deep yellow, sunflower relative can be seen in the tidal marsh and transition zone, lending cover for protected animal species during high tides. Sign up for one of our restoration work events to see some of these species in their full glory. You can also catch them earlier in the restoration cycle by aiding our propagation efforts in the nursery in the next few months. We are entering into transplanting season for plants that will be outplanted next winter.