Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sierra dreamin'

From Bryce we wended through Zion (which has many charms as well) and through the Mojave to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada where we stayed as guests at Susan Eubank and Paul Martin's wonderful mountain homes (yes homes, they have two side by side: one for them and their adorable daughter Elizabeth and one they usually rent out: since it was unrented, we could have a house all to ourselves!). Sierra spring is incredibly beautiful. The above is the view from their back door: the orange in front is a wonderful borage in the genus Amsickia that colored meadows for acres. In the distance you can glimpse California redbuds (Cercis occidentalis) and rock faces stained with the early bloom of annuals. We saw dozens of wonderful plants, but I was particularly thrilled to see a widespread manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida, in prime form: these even formed small trees and was everywhere in the foothills from the valley up to the deep snow accumulation areas.
Of the hundreds of wondeful wildflowers we glimpsed along the roadsides or on our too brief of hikes, the one I shall single out is the ubiquitous succulent of the Sierras (and also the coast range). I have seen Dudleya cymosa many places along the foothills of the Sierras, sometimes growing to almost 6000', as in the Yuba river canyon where I collected seed almost twenty years ago. I have grown this for many years in my various gardens, although I notice I don't have it right now: time to get some fresh seed! The ghostly grey rosettes are worth growing in their own right, but the brilliant yellow, orange or even red flowers are wonderfully translucent and make a wonderful show in the wild or the garden...I could be happily reincarnated as a Sierra pollinator....

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