Tag Archives: Wildflowers

The Perks of Being Wildflowers

Spring is in bloom and wildflowers of all colors are decorating our hillsides on Catalina Island.  Just look at them! Bright red Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja affinis (Fig. 1) and white Bush Anemone (Fig. 2) are some you are likely to see while hiking around. Starting with the south facing slopes, the island begins a transition from the more earth toned brown landscape of summer and fall into one of vibrant and cheerful colors from February through May.  The Shooting star, Dodecatheon clevelandii, is a favorite for many people, with its purple shape (Fig. 3), while the Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum, are a form of wild onion that was used by native Tongva for food (Fig.4)


Wildflowers 4Wildflowers 5But where do they hide all year long? Well, one of the perks of being a wildflower is that you don’t have to make an appearance all year long!  These wildflowers are known as “annuals”, meaning the seeds will germinate in the fall or winter rains, flowers will bloom in the spring, and then they ripen to seed towards the end of the spring season. This completes the annual cycle and allows it to start again.  

As the south facing slopes are exposed to more sunlight for longer periods throughout the day, these slopes will tend to bloom earlier in the wildflower season, followed by the shadier north facing slopes.

After a heavy rain season this year, the abundance of wildflowers is noticeably greater than in past years of drought.  As it turns out, in order for the wildflower seeds to germinate, they require continued moisture, or at least enough that the soil remains moist.  Without this, the plants will dry out before they get to flower! We really enjoy these annual bursts of color, so rain, rain, don’t go away!

Wildflowers 2

Baby blue eyes, Nemophila menziesii, is only known to exist in one population on Catalina Island. Photo by Amy Catalano

Wildflowers 3

Deerweed, Acmispon dendroideus, are endemic to the Channel Islands. Photo by Amy Catalano

Photos by Monica





Spring Wildflowers on Catalina Island

Spring is the season of new growth and blossoming life. Visiting CIMI during the spring feels dreamlike as you walk through the trails flecked with wildflowers of all shapes and sizes. Catalina Island is home to over 400 native plant species, and 200 non-native plant species. There are even 7 endemic plant species only found on the island, including the Catalina Ironwood and the Catalina Liveforever.

Since southern California does not get copious amounts of rain, our ecosystem is dominated by chaparral foliage. This ecoregion is characterized by woody shrubs, heat tolerant flora, and drought resistant plants. Many of the plants on Catalina Island have beneficial adaptations, making them perfectly equipped to live in this dry and rocky environment. One example is a flower called theBlue Hyacinth (Dichelostemma capitatum). Blue Hyacinth grow well in dry climates because of its ability to colonize after a fire. Their seedpods can lie dormant for over a decade until a fire scorches the plants around it; once the other plants have been removed, the Blue Hyacinth can quickly spread.

Though the wildflowers on Catalina are tough and resilient, they can’t do it all alone; angiosperms (flowering plants) are dependent on animals to carry their pollen around the island as part of the fertilization process. During the day, flowers open up wide and produce nectar to attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and more. When these animals brush up against the anther (the male part of the flower), they collect pollen on their bodies, and as they travel from flower to flower, the animals deliver the pollen to other plants’ stigmas (the female part of the flower). This process fertilizes the angiosperms, allowing them to germinate and spread.

You may have noticed that many flowers fold up their petals at night. Are they doing this as a way to tuck themselves in for bed? Or is there a scientific reason for this? This behavior, called nyctinasty, is common in many angiosperms – including Catalina Island’s Bush Poppy and Mariposa Lily. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why this happens, but there are many theories. As mentioned before, these flowers are dependent on biological pollinators to move their pollen. Many of these animals are asleep at night, meaning that the flowers have no reason to stay open. Some think that closing the flowers is a way to keep morning dew from dampening the pollen, making it too wet and heavy to stick to pollinators. Another theory is that flowers fold up in order to reduce the risk of freezing. Still others think that by closing, the flowers are conserving energy and odor for the next day. Do you have any other ideas why flowers might close at night?

 Written by: Max Veenema

Encelia Californica – Bush Sunflower

Bush Sunflowers on Lion's

Dichelostemma Pulchellum – Blue Hyacinth

Blue Dick

Calochortus Catalinae- Catalina Mariposa Lily (white flower at the bottom of photo, also shows cimi students kayaking at Cherry Cove)

2015-02-25 09.05.46

Eschscholzia Californica – California Poppy

California Poppy (Heather Peterson)




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