If there were such a thing as my favorite native plant it would likely be the clarkias. Their are 41 known species of clarkia and California is home to all but one species. Interestingly this species (Clarkia tenella) is found in far away South America. Many are rare, some endangered, and many species on those special California springs carpet whole hillsides. Here are photos of two species I am enjoying growing this year: Clarkia speciosa (red spot clarkia) and Clarkia gracilis subsp. tracyi (Tracy's clarkia).
There are so many good reasons to cultivate native plants in the garden but my personal favorite rationale for growing natives is that native plants are naturally better at creating urban habitat for other native species. The incredible diversity of life on our planet is something that human species have a way of diminishing. Creating diversity in our gardens provides food and shelter for native species and this is a way of showing appreciation and respect for other residents of our community. Watching the interactions and activities of plants and animals is also a great pleasure. I think the greatest bee attracting plant I have known is my Desert Museum parkincidium. Right now during the magnificent spring bloom from early morning to evening time there is a constant drone of activity by both honey bees and the western carpenter bee (Xylocopa californica). I rarely see carpenter bees except when this tree is in bloom and I wonder where they all come from. Parkincidium and this hybrid's parents, Parkinsonia (Mexican paloverde) and Cercidium (blue paloverde), are all excellent urban landscape trees thriving here in Hemet which is really a semi-desert region.
The other day at peak bloom just for fun I took my camera out and using a very small aperture, a slow shutter speed, and using my zoom mechanism I created these wacky abstract images hoping to emphasize the wonderful yellow of the flowers illuminated by the dazzling sunlight. They do however make me feel a bit dizzy looking at them.
This spring in the garden I am delighted to see my jewel flowers (Streptanthus farnsworthianus) flowering abundantly and producing large and hopefully very seedy fruits. In addition, from what I can tell, as the magnificent mustang clover winds down its boisterous bloom I am excited to see them also appearing to be setting seed. I am hopeful as when I pinch the individual ovaries, at the base of where the spent flower was, many are firm and plump indicating that pollination has occurred and seeds for my Three Rivers garden reintroduction project are developing within. While not big and showy both of these two native species viewed up close are absolute darlings in the garden and exceptionally photogenic.
Michael Wall - Hemet, CA