Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Aesthetics vs. Information; Can information be beautiful?

 On a rainy Monday, I headed out to Greenhorn Ranch, around 15 miles East of Quincy, to do an errand.  I brought my camera just in case there was a break in the rain and I saw something beautiful.  The right hand side of the road leading into the ranch is pretty much solid forest, but I thought I spotted a small meadow maybe 100 feet into the trees.  I decided I needed to investigate on my way back out.  I remembered a large California Incense Cedar at the roadside marked the spot.  When I stopped by the cedar, sure enough there appeared to be a meadow around 1/4 acre in size below the road around 100 feet into the trees.  The meadow had a very light blueish color overriding the green grass.  It was a puzzle.  Maybe a dense patch of a new flower.  As I scrambled down the embankment, I was stopped in my tracks by a beautiful patch of Lupines that had captured raindrops in their leaflets.  These never cease to amaze me as photo subjects.  At this point I was beginning to see that indeed there was some kind of flower more or less evenly spaced all through the meadow.
 When I got closer, it was obvious that the flower was a larkspur.  Most of them were white, and I didn't know of a white larkspur around these parts.  I knew I'd have to research it when I got home.
 My son and I roamed around the meadow and discovered they weren't all white.  Some of the mostly white ones had blue on their spurs. Others were solid blue, which is what I'd expect of Larkspurs in this area, and some were a kind of red wine color.  
 Some of the plants had more than one color of blossom.
 I began to think that maybe this was an escaped bunch of flowers cultivated by CalTrans for planting on road cuts and median strips.  If Luther Burbank had a hand in it, there could be many colors and sizes, all posing as Larkspurs.
 At this point, my strongest feeling was the aesthetics of Larkspurs and the setting.  As I hiked back toward the car, again I was taken aback by the beauty of dew drops captured in the leaflets of the Lupines.

 Then, one more strong impression was made by a very large stump on which some young thistles
 and a patch of grass had staked a claim.  On the way home, I made a stop at Williams Loop, and the photos I took there will be on my next post.  But first, the research on the Larkspur. 
The scientific name of the Larkspurs is Delphinium, and there are many different species.  Some people and field guides use Delphinium as the common name rather than Larkspur.  I found it interesting that two of my field guides list both Larkspur and Delphinium in the index, but another one doesn't list Larkspur at all and uses Delphinium as both the common and the technical name.  What's in a name? as the Bard said.  It turns out I couldn't any white species that live around here, just blue and the red one, Delphinium nudicaule, that has been featured here recently.  So, I still have a mystery on my hands, as far as the identification of these Larkspurs is concerned.  When it comes to getting excited about information, I'll never forget the time I first discovered that Larkspurs are in the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae.  Now that's weird!


  1. Hey Joe,

    Was there and difference in the soils between the instances? Perhaps there is a mineral/micro-nutrient difference. I have seen wild variability in Larkspur color as well. It seems to me that age, pollination status and soil makes a huge difference with them.

    Interesting read! Looking forward to the next one.



  2. Nothing I could detect without a soil test kit. The "meadow" looked pretty uniform throughout all the color variations, and I saw no variation in the grasses and other wildflowers mingled with the Larkspur. That's why I assumed there was genetic variety.

  3. I love that for all we know about plants, there is always more to learn! The color variations in your Larkspur reminds me of the color variations in Penstemon - hues of pink, purple, and royal blue within in a single patch, and often on the same flower. The white Larkspur is beautiful; it reminds me of a bride wearing "something blue."