What’s Blooming, Bay Area?

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Is that the blue of the sky I see peeking through my window? Last night, it was raining pretty hard out here. We also had some wind, which was a little spooky since my honey is out of town. Not that I’m complaining; we really need all the “weather” we can get. I read in the news this morning that San Francisco is at 50% average rainfall for the winter – which is pretty good, all things considered. Another big storm is supposed to move in tonight, hopefully after my husband’s plane lands.

A couple of weeks ago, I went for a walk around town to capture some of the blooming things. This was after the first substantial rainfall of the season, and I was excited to see the hills start to turn green (for reference, I live in Brisbane, just south of San Francisco on the bay-side of San Bruno Mountain). If you live around here, then you probably recall the freaky dry-ness that’s plagued our normally beautiful rolling green hills.

P2130004Look at all that fresh green grass!

One of the things I love most about the town I live in is the abundance of flora. San Bruno Mountain is home to some of the rarest plants in the world, one of which is San Bruno Mountain Manzanita, which only grows here. It’s also home to the mission blue butterfly, whose host plant is the beautiful blooming lupine; the larvae will only feed on the leaves of this plant. It’s super bio-diverse here. We have coyotes, red-tailed hawks, rabbits, raccoons, and more wildflowers than you could possibly imagine. The mountain is protected by the state and largely undeveloped because of the rare and endangered plants and animals that call it home. Brisbane is my hidden little slice of paradise, 5 minutes outside of San Francisco. Don’t tell anyone, mmkay?

P2130007In addition to the abundance of indigenous plants and animals, we also have some invasive ones like the ice plant shown above. My husband hates this stuff; as a teenager, he spent one summer removing it from a hillside to help a friend with his Eagle Scout project. You’ve probably seen it choking out our coastlands, and while it can be rather pretty when it blooms, it’s still a nuisance. Brisbane isn’t free from the evil clutches of ice pant, either.

P2130008This pretty yellow-flowered plant, above, is known as Broom. It’s non-native and invasive in California, but covers our hillsides with beautiful yellow flowers in the spring. We have a lot of it in Brisbane. Kind of hard to get mad at such a pretty plant.

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Above is flowering acacia, which is also invasive and non-native. You probably see it at your local farmer’s market being sold as flowers in the spring. It’s gorgeous – the whole tree becomes covered in tiny pom-pom shaped blooms in the spring, which came very early this year. It’s used widely in the perfume industry since some varieties can be very aromatic.
P2130012We have some rather exotic-looking wildflowers, don’t we? I can’t figure out what this is – if you know, please let us know in the comments. I see this stuff all over the hillsides and I *think* its indigenous, but I am not 100% sure. It looks tropical to me.

P2130022Nothing is more iconic than California’s state flower, the California Poppy. Did you know it’s illegal to pick these? Who needs to pick something that’s so prolific all over the state. These guys spring forth from the cracks in the sidewalks around here. They make me feel a strong sense of nostalgia – I’ve loved them ever since I was a little girl. If I could, I’d have a yard full of them.

P2130038This California buckeye is waking up a little too early. Did you know these trees contain a neurotoxin? Native Americans used it to stun schools of fish and make them easier to catch. These are endemic to California, and have a lot of history behind them. In the fall, they are covered in big nuts that are inedible, but create quite a display when the trees are full of them and have no leaves.

I’ll take another trip out a week or so after these rains and see what else is blooming. I’m looking forward to seeing our San Francisco wallflower, sticky monkey flower, and blooming Manzanita.

Do you have a favorite wildflower? Let us know in the comments!