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)
But 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!
Baby blue eyes, Nemophila menziesii, is only known to exist in one population on Catalina Island. Photo by Amy Catalano
Deerweed, Acmispon dendroideus, are endemic to the Channel Islands. Photo by Amy Catalano
Photos by Monica