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Late winter in the Garden is often a time of "few blooms, many buds", coupled with the advantage deciduous trees and shrubs provide to view things that would otherwise remain concealed under densely-covered branches. However, the unusually warm and dry weather has produced a remarkable number of plants in flower, many of which are blooming unseasonably early.
Manzanitas (Arctostaphylos spp.), always the reigning attraction in winter, do not disappoint: nearly every species found in the Garden is in bloom and are visited frequently by hummingbirds and bumblebees.
Currants and gooseberries (Ribes spp.), some of our more colorful winter performers, are blooming in almost every section of the Garden. Favorites are pink flowering currant (R. sanguineum var. glutinosum), fuchsia flowered gooseberry (R. speciosum), and the rare Santa Cruz Island gooseberry (R. thacherianum).
California pipevine (Aristolochia californica) is in bloom in both the Valley-Foothill and Shasta-Klamath sections. This wonderfully unusual plant is pollinated by fungus gnats, and is an important habitat and source of food for the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly.
Female and male oso berry shrubs (Oemleria cerasiformis) blooming in the Shasta-Klamath section across from the Visitors Center provide an interesting study of pistillate and staminate flowers.
Giant trilliums (Trillium chloropetalum) in colors ranging from white to yellow, and pink to deep purple, are staples this time of year in the Franciscan and Santa Lucia sections, while western coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus var. palmatus) dot the path leading up to the Pacific Rain Forest section.
Ceanothus have begun to bud and bloom in a few sections, the most notable being the cream-colored, and gently fragrant bigpod ceanothus (C. megacapus) in the Valley-Foothill section, the strongly fragrant Otay Mountainc ceanothus (C. otayensis) in the Southern California section, and the deep blue-colored Mt. Tranquillion ceanothus (C. papillosus var. roweanus) in the Santa Lucia section.
Bulbs have been sending up foliage throughout the Garden and in the bulb beds, with some plants that are on the brink of bursting into full bloom. Island shooting stars (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. insulare) are the first to flower, with many Fritilliaria species following closely behind: Checker lilies or somber monks (F. affinis) are about to bloom in the Sea Bluff section, and fawn lilies (Erythronium spp.) in the Shasta-Klamath and Pacific Rain Forest sections should be blooming within the next few months.
--by Ashika Narayan, February 6, 2014
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