Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Common Buckeye Subspecies--Junonia coenia grisea

Yesterday, I led my first butterfly walk of the season at the UC Botanical Garden. About a half a dozen kids and adults participated. Early on in the walk, someone spotted this butterfly on the road. It kind of looked like a buckeye. And buckeyes like to settle on the road. I had seen that behavior many times before. But I had never seen a buckeye with so much light color in the wings. Quite unusual in my experience. One participant offered to take a photo and email it to me. Gotta love those smart phones! And the people who own them!

When I got home, I checked all my field guides, and couldn't figure out what was going on. I then sent it to the experts, asking if this was ordinary variation in the Common Buckeye. They said no, it is a subspecies of the Common Buckeye: Junonia  coenia grisea. I have been watching and rearing butterflies for about 30 years and have never seen one that looks like this before. So it was a very special find. Thanks to all of you who helped with this butterfly.

Orecocereus doelzianus--Old Man of the Andes

The cactus is blooming now at the UC Botanical Garden. Such beautiful scarlet flowers! My understanding is that the common name, Old Man of the Andes, refers to the white "hair." Another cactus, with longer hair, is called "Old Lady of the Andes." I wonder what color flowers that one has?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Everlasting--Helichrysum retortoides

This plant is called an everlasting because the dried flowers last forever. Well, maybe not forever, but a long time. However, on this particular species, the plant forms a mat and flowers have very short stems. I am not at all sure how those flowers could be arranged after they were picked. Maybe in a wreath? Anyway, it has lots of flowers and would make a great ground cover given the right conditions. It seems very happy at the UC Botanical Garden. I wonder if it would do well in a garden in Berkeley with normal neglect?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pipevine Swallowtail

This Pipevine Swallowtail was released yesterday at the UC Botanical Garden. Andy raised it from an egg at his house and it emerged on April 17, 2013. Several people who happened to be at the entrance were able to observe the butterfly up close. I think the shiny turquoise structural color is so beautiful! This is a male. The females have more of a chocolatey brown color in the hind-wings.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ajuga reptans--Carpet Bugleweed

This easy ground cover is not fussy about soil. The leaves hug the soil and the purple flowers form spikes above. Grows quickly and covers thoroughly. In bloom now at the UC Botanical Garden.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fraxinum dipetala--Foothill Ash

The California native is blooming now at the UC Botanical Garden. I have never seen it before. So lovely! It is drought tolerant, but does better with some summer water, only about 20' high at maturity. Which makes it the perfect garden tree!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ferraria crispa--Starfish Iris

Ferraria crispa is blooming now at the UC Botanical Garden. I love these flowers! At a distance, they fade into the foliage, but up close, the detail is amazing! The spots and crisped edges look like something from another world. 

Easy to grow if you have good drainage, it can even take over your garden. It is listed as a weed in Australia.  Needs summer drought. Can be grown indoor. Some people have trouble getting it to bloom.

Annie's Annuals calls it a "freaky flower" and I think they are right. 

Reported both as smelling bad and with a vanilla fragrance. Maybe that is due to variation in the plant, but maybe due to variation in human noses. I forgot to test it, so no report from me.

This plant has many interesting common names. Sea Spider. Black Flag. Starfish Lily. Starfish Iris. It isn't black; it is in the Iris family and looks more like a starfish than a spider, so I vote for Starfish Iris.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Chalcedon Checkerspot-- Euphydryas chalcedona

I took this pic at the UC Botanical Garden on Thursday, 11 April, 2013. It was in the African Area right next to the Arid House. Looks like a Chalcedon Checkerspot to me. It is quite variable and therefore difficult to identify. 

This species is odd in that the third and fourth instars hibernate, sometimes for years. The caterpillars eat a wide range of plants, which is also unusual. They include plants in the for-get-me-not, rose, monkey flower and honeysuckle families.

This species occurs in many western states at many elevations.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Leptosyne gigantea--Giant Coreopsis

This used to be Coreopsis gigantea, but the taxonomists decided to complicate things. So now it is Leptosyne coreopsis.

Before it has flowers, it looks like a small palm tree. It would be great as part of a miniature landscape. Really cute! I can just imagine it with tiny toy dinosaurs at the base.

Yellow daisy flowers pop out of the top in spring and summer.  Looks weird to me.

Drought tolerant. Likes well-drained soil.

Blooming now at the UC Botanical Garden.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Babiana rubrocyanea--Baboon Flower

Blooming now at the UC Botanical Garden. Those are my photos, but Annie's Annuals has a great write up of this species:

"Inky purple blooms with a glowing red center make this perhaps the most striking of the “Baboon Flowers” for the garden & this species is no slouch in terms of toughness either. Clay, drought, poor soil, deer – it takes all comers. Just watch out for those pesky baboons. Babianas like a dry Summer rest, but we’ve discovered that they can take some Summer water just fine. Where hardy, you’ll find that this species will increase every year, gently but steadily - profusely enough to share, but not so much as to ever be unwelcome. A fine bulb! Grows to 1’ high & is in flower from around mid-March to early-mid April. Summer deciduous & returns with the Winter rains. From South Africa.
Claire Woods


Monday, April 8, 2013

Anchusa capensis--Summer Forget-Me-Not--Blue Angel

This plant with a beautiful blue flower adapts to most soils (although it prefers sandy soil) and can be weedy. I love plants that just take over and make themselves comfortable. Less fuss, less muss! It needs sun, but little water. Easy from see and can be started almost any time of year. Bee adore these flowers.

Another wonderful plant blooming now at the UC Botanical Garden.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Madrone--Arbutus menziesii

Madrones are are blooming now. The flowers look like Manzanita flowers because they are in the same family. But Manzanita is a bush and Madrone is a tree, a GREAT BIG tree. It can become more than 60' tall and the trunk more than 5' wide. I always thought of them as small trees because of the specimens in cultivation that I saw were always small; like the trees at the UC Botanical Garden, which are only about 10-20' high with trucks less than a foot wide.

Madrone is native to coastal California, Oregon and Washington. It is a fast-growing broad-leaved evergreen. They don't like their roots disturbed and are therefore difficult to transplant.

Many birds and mammals eat the berries which ripen in the fall.  Humans have used this tree for medicinal purposes. The Salish people of Vancouver Island used parts of the plant to treat colds, tuberculosis and stomach ache. Several tribes of the Pacific Northwest protected the Madrone from fire because according to their myths it provided an anchor in times of flood. So this is yet another sacred plant.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Our Lord's Candle--Hesperoyucca whipplei

Our Lord's Candle is beginning to bloom again at the UC Botanical Garden. The buds are more amazing than the flowers! Here is a previous blog entry with the same species in full bloom:

This plant has several common names. It is known as Chaparral Yucca, Foothill Yucca, Common Yucca, Spanish Bayonet, and Our Lord's Candle. I find it interesting that it is named after both a weapon and a sacred object. The leaves are narrow and sharp and do look like knives or perhaps the blade of a bayonet. And the creamy flowers on the tall stalk do remind me of candle. So, I guess it makes sense. Similar species that grow in the Midwest are called "Ghosts in the Graveyard" because it grows wild in rural cemeteries and the pale flowers on the stalk look like an apparition.

Perhaps this would be a good plant for the sacred plants tour.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Creeping Sage--Salvia sonomensis

This low growing sage makes a wonderful ground cover. Creeping sage (Salvia Sonomensis) is blooming now at the UC Botanical Garden where it is growing in full sun. In a warmer climate, it prefers part to full shade. It doesn't mind clay soil and one plant can grow to fifteen feet across. Hardy to about 0 degrees F. It is native to coastal areas of California. Most sages, including this one, are deer resistant. The flowers attract bees and hummingbirds. Drought tolerant.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Maianthemum stellatum--False Solomon's Seal

The False Solomon's Seal is now in bloom at the UC Botanical Garden. I love the way the plants cuddle up to the oak tree and the starry flowers are so pretty. It is six-petaled starry flowers that lead to the common name. Solomon's seal was in the shape of the Star of David, which is six-sided. The ring with the seal gave Solomon power over genies and demons and the ability to speak with animals. I wonder what he said to the butterflies? Another plant has the name Solomon's Seal. I think this one is called False Solomon's seal because it is very similar and people mistake it for the other plant. So, it is the plant that is false, not the seal.

This would be a great plant to include in a sacred plants tour. It seems like it would also be a great plant for a ground cover in this area, but I rarely see it in gardens.

Monday, April 1, 2013


Trillium is in bloom at the UC Botanical Garden. This one is pure white. Some are maroon. So beautiful! Don't miss them. The bloom season doesn't last long. We also have some babies for sale on the plant deck. Check them out!