January’s Wildflowers

Today, I was lucky enough to spot these wildflowers on my way down the mountain.

This is an Indian Paintbrush, probably Castilleja chromosa, the most common western paintbrush. I say probably, as I have misplaced my $75 Jepson’s. This paintbrush is also called Early Indian Paintbrush or Desert Paintbrush. It is found all over the Western United States in dry conditions. The genus Castilleja is generally considered a hemiparasite. It can live without a host, however it performs better with one. The patches I usually photograph are intertwined with a local vetch, which is high in nitrogen.

This is the vetch that grows with the paintbrush, as well as on its own. It is probably Vicia americana, which is native to all of California. It is high in nitrogen and makes a great cover crop as well as functions well for erosion control.

This lupine is probably the Lupinus albifrons or Silver Bush Lupine. It is a perennial and likes dry conditions. As with the vetch, this is a great nitrogen fixer. I have several natives growing in my garden. This one was shot at a much lower elevation, where plants bloom earlier.

This is the Santa Lucia Gooseberry, or Ribes sericeum. It is a favorite of birds, and the berries are delicious, although I rarely get more than a few, as the birds beat me to them! Here is one in berry form that I took last June. See those spikes? Ouch. They are quite sharp, and thus the name, “gooseberry.”

I hope to post two of these monthly wildflowers each month during the blooming season. I am not the best at identification, despite my best efforts to be accurate. In order to assure accuracy, I am asking firefox, of Fire Safe Gardens, and XT of Xasauan Today to check these for accuracy and post in the comments below. Both are listed in the Big Sur/LPNF links to the right, as well as direct links in this post. Both have extensive knowledge of local flora and are wonderful human beings. Thanks, gentlemen, for all your help this past year and a half with blogging!