The longest day of the year is rapidly approaching and our dry season is firmly upon us. Grasslands have flushed green, flowered and been pollinated by the wind. Many of the colorful wildflowers of spring have bloomed sending out their signals to be pollinated by some busy insect or bird. And now at the tail end of peak season, the Farewell To Spring (or if you prefer Hello To Summer) Clarkia rubicunda has begun to bloom. The first flowers of the plants by the front fence opened this first week in June. Luckily the entire show takes a few weeks to unfold, the flowers begin closer to the ground successively opening up multiple two foot tall stems.
Farewell to Spring is one of many species of Clarkia found in our area. The endangered Presidio Clarkia can be seen blooming at the Serpentine Prairie at Redwood Regional Park and in the Presidio and no where else in the world. In woodland areas you might see Elegant Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata) with its frilly looking petals or if you are really lucky you may see the low growing intensely pink Red Ribbons (Clarkia concinna). Farewell To Spring typically occurs in grasslands and is most often seen as a light pink blush on less disturbed hillsides.
Not so long ago this was a busy time of year for the first people. The seasonal browning of plants meant ripening of seeds which were an important food source for folks throughout the state. Many different types of Clarkia along with Popcorn Flower, Red Maids, Chia and loads of other wild flowers and perennial bunch grass seeds were collected. Later in the season native people burned grasslands and some forest under-stories to create favorable conditions for seed rich plants to flourish the following spring.
When planting these lovely annuals in our gardens or restoration sites the hope is that they will put on a show and then drop seeds for an even better show the following year. Conditions in the garden can change and hungry birds and small mammals may benefit from feasting on the seed. So, I always recommend collecting some of the seed in an envelope as an insurance policy. Once the days are rapidly shortening and rain showers are forecast, broadcast the seed in a prepared area and wait to see if you get germination.