Born to be wild(flowers)

Spring is the season of wildflowers and the El Nino rains that we’ve gotten seem to have caused an explosion in the growth of wildflowers. There are reports of a “super bloom” in the usually barren Death Valley. A few weeks ago reader Pete Silva of Jackson sent me pictures a of beautiful poppies growing along Electra Road in the Mother Lode growing out of the wake of the Butte Fire that devastated the area last summer.

As much as I’d like to, I haven’t gotten a chance to travel to Death Valley or even up to Electra Road but I have seen a plethora of flowers closer to home and you can too.

One usually thinks of wildflowers growing in far-flung rural places, which is true, but they can also be found in urban and near-urban locations as well.

The ubiquitous wild mustard can populate almost any open field or lot well within city limits and their bright yellow color can make for some great photos. The same can be said for the white and lavender blossoms for wild radishes. These plants can grow anywhere and everywhere.

There are some flowers that can be found on the edges of a city where it interfaces with country landscapes. Long-beaked filaree can grow in some areas like groundcover. Its tiny purple blossoms can be easy to miss as individual flowers but when they carpet a large portion of the ground they can give an area a lavender hue from a distance.

There are many others; fiddleneck, winter vetch, rose clover, lupine and more, that I’ve seen just a stone’s throw from urban and suburban populations.

A few weeks ago I was walking through Michael Falkis Park in the Spanos Park West development of north Stockton. I got up on the levee that separates the park from White Slough. As I walked I saw a few of the aforementioned flowers along the banks of the slough but also large swaths of a new one that I hadn’t seen before

.They were the vivid yellow of wild mustard, which I mistook them for at first. A closer examination revealed that their blossoms hung in clusters a little like miniature lupine flowers. When I got home I consulted the National Wildlife Federation’s Field Guide to Wildflowers of North America. The best as I can tell from the guide, the flower is yellow sweet clover.

It is said that one person’s weed is another person’s wildflower. That seems to especially true within a city’s borders. The recent rains have many familiar flowers, as well as ones rarely seen before, thriving and growing like, well, like weeds. But as for me, I like to see it as a chance to experience the beauty of nature without having to travel too far.

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