Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Nature Study Outing :: Spring Wildflowers

I'm back today with a peek at our nature study outing from the week before Holy Week.

After a couple weeks of illness and rain, we finally were able to revisit our favorite county park.  For some inexplicable reason, we had the park entirely to ourselves this morning, despite the perfect weather.

We went out without a particular goal in mind beyond enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, but upon arriving and settling down by the creek, we knew what we would be focusing on today: spring wildflowers.  We were so excited to see several new varieties in just the first few minutes!  In the weeks we were stuck at home, the park was busy coming alive apparently--so many new things to see.

Sorry the photos are a bit blurry!  It was very difficult to take photos with my big baby bopping around on my back--and the one on my front wasn't being all that still either!  But I do want to document our new findings here:

:: Fiddlenecks - We have read about these often but have never seen any in person.  Of course, we knew what they were right away because of the distinctive fiddle-ish curl of their tips.  And note the sticky, fuzzy stems.

:: Miner's Lettuce - This was another one we were able to identify immediately thanks to their leaves, which my kids agreed were nasturtium-ish (is that a word?).  We were really enchanted by these!

:: Horehound - My kids' first guess at this one was some kind of sage because the flowers form rings around the stem, but the leaves were quite different.  When we got home and checked the local field guide, it was clear this was horehound, which is part of the mint family.

:: Spring vetch - We've seen lots of the narrower-leaved winter vetch this season, but this one was new for us.  There were lots and lots of leaves throughout the area, but just a very few purple blooms so far here.

(Update: one week later at the park just a few blocks away, the fields are full of vetch flowers!  So I think these here will be getting theirs soon if they haven't already.)

And to add some old favorites: a few members of the wild geranium family...

Red-stemmed Filaree
Dove's Foot Geranium
None of these was fully in bloom, so I imagine we'll be able to enjoy them for at least a few more visits as well.  There was also plenty of sorrel, dandelions, poppies--oh, and poison oak. ;)

We also spotted a few flowering trees: the Elderberry was in full bloom, as it is on all the trails here...

...and we also noticed that the buckeyes are on their way to blossoming!  

I mentioned a month or so ago that we'd be watching these buckeyes as they go through their maturation, and these spikes on the tree's branches were the first sign of their flowering season.  I found out later that they're called erect panicles.  In a few weeks (or sooner), the flowers should open and the tree will be quite showy.

And a few photos to close of my littlest darling, who was so very happy to be out and about, running around with the big kids!


  1. We saw some of these same wildflowers on our nature walk the week before Easter too! We were down at a lower elevation, so we were able to see some things that we don't see as much of (or any) up here.

    We saw a nice patch of miner's lettuce, which always reminds me of my sister's 4th grade teacher. This teacher grew the miner's lettuce in her backyard and would bring a salad made with it into the class every spring to talk about in conjunction with the California Gold Rush. The kids got to take baggies of it home to share with their families, and I remember being so struck by the shape of the leaf and by the idea of eating something that was a native plant.

    At my house we're mainly seeing western buttercups and yellow cat's ears (I'd never seen this one until I moved up here). We should have lupines too, but they don't seem to be coming out this year. I'm wondering if our low rainfall is to blame. I haven't managed to get down to the creek to check for trilliums and other wetter environment wildflowers, but I'm hoping to do so soon. I just need to get over this laryngitis and cold. It is one thing after another right now!

    1. I just did a Google search for the Yellow Cat's Ear and what came up is not what we've been seeing! The scientific name is Calochortus monophyllus and it is also called Yellow Star Tulip. My book doesn't mention that name though. And that's why the scientific name is important, isn't it.

    2. How fun about the miner's lettuce--I had no idea it was edible. I don't think we'll actually *try* that (I'm trying to keep things out of my toddlers' mouths as it is--LOL), but I'm sure my older kids will find that very neat all the same. We do have lupines and western buttercups here, but you have to go searching for them. And the yellow star tulip is just lovely. We have lots and lots of yellow star thistle--not quite as lovely. ;)

    3. Yes, I'm hesitant to give that example around my little people too! As I recall, the miner's lettuce tastes a lot like spinach. But it has been a number of years since I've seen some growing in a place where I could or wanted to eat it. I keep hoping to find some growing down by the creek so my older kids can try it.

      We have yellow star thistle too, but not as much as grows at lower elevations!