Tuesday, August 28, 2012

'Tis the Season of Yellow Flowers

 My early morning wanderings included a check-up at a local patch of Gumplant.  These intriguing composites bloom for a couple of months or longer and I am fascinated by the fact that one large bush may contain flowers in all stages from very early buds to the larger, gum-filled buds, to fully bloomed hosts of many interesting insects and spiders, to those already wilting and going to seed.  On this particular plant I saw a hint of a spider web beneath a flower and a bit of motion suggesting a struggle.  When I pulled the flower aside I saw a very interesting-looking spider dining on an insect.  I was already anticipating my errands in Reno and the drive through Sierra Valley that would include views of Rabbitbrush and Goldenrod, and hopefully some Birdcage Evening Primrose.  The theme of "yellow" hadn't occurred to me yet.
 The highlight of our trip to Reno, as far as floral beauty and photography is concerned, was the several patches of Giant Blazing Star still blooming along Highway 70 beginning a short way past Mt. Tomba.  I took advantage of the first safe turnout that had some blooming Blazing Star, but the most spectacular examples I saw at 55 mph were on road cuts with no safe parking.  I was also mindful of several secretly-parked CHP cruisers waiting for all those Quincy-ites who either believe the speed limit along this stretch is 65 mph, therefore entitling them to drive at 70, or simply insist on getting to Reno as quickly as possible, speed limits be damned.  I must admit, I enjoy seeing a car pulled over that a few minutes earlier passed me at an high rate of speed in a no-passing zone.
 Back to natural history of a purer sort.  I had to walk through some dense, prickly underbrush to get to the prettier blooms of Blazing Star, aware that it looked like a good place for rattlesnakes to hide.
In that state of mild anxiety, I was startled by the discovery of a dried-out carcass just below a blossom I was photographing. Here's that blossom:

 A few more shots of Blazing Star and I hit the road again, now thinking about how many roadside flowers were yellow - nearly all of them!  I was seeing lots of Gumplant and Goldenrod at first, then more and more Rabbitbrush as I approached Portola.
 I've posted Goldenrod earlier in this season, and it impresses me as one of the longer-lasting summer blooms, often remaining yellow after the first frost.
 The large Sunflowers around Quincy are certainly attention getters, and I love watching the bees busily visiting one disc flower after another, sometimes spending several minutes on one head.  For those not familiar with composites, the flower in the above photo is actually a composite of several hundred individual flowers.  I get more excited about the occasionally stray sunflower on remote roadsides than the ones planted by humans in town.
 Another long-lasting bloom in summer is Klamathweed.  Many on the roadsides have gone to seed by now, but many others are still blooming.
 Star Thistle.  Photogenic.  Hurts when you walk through it wearing shorts.  Sometimes makes approaching other roadside wildflowers difficult.  I don't mind.  Some of my favorite photos are of Star Thistle.
 Cinquefoil, of which there are several species in our area, is still blooming in my yard and on the roadsides.
 In most of my favorite photography spots the Hooker's Evening Primrose has gone to seed.  However, where there's still surface moisture, such as by the irrigation ditches in Sierra Valley, there's lots of it still blooming.
 I've been following the bug activity, especially the Ambush Bugs, on Tansy for a couple of months.  It, too, is a long-lasting summer wildflower, a composite with only disc flowers, no ray flowers, and pretty enough that lots of people plant it in their yards.  Grab a handful of leaves and take a whiff. I think you'll find it a pleasant aroma.
Just so followers of this blog don't think I've abandoned my interest in Bugs, here's a dramatic-looking Assassin Bug I found on some Tansy, but felt I could get a better photo by posing it on my finger.  I've never been bitten by one of these, but there must be a good reason for the name.
So, to summarize my Monday experience during a round trip to Reno: I still wonder why most of the flowers blooming in late August and September are yellow.  At least they keep my interest during that sometimes depressing period between seasons.


  1. It is interesting how late season flowers have their fall colors too.

  2. I'm not a biochemist, but I wonder if it's the same or similar yellow pigment in all species, thus helping demonstrate common ancestry. That's what I would suspect.