I usually post on the Walkabout of things that are blooming in the greenhouse or the garden, and sometimes sightings of special things like the time I saw two bald eagles fall out of the sky locked together in play or combat. Two days ago, however, my walkabout was somewhere else in the Sierra foothills, where I had gone on a very quick trip to gather some seed.
I used to live in that area, and I know it well. It is an area very rich in bulbs, so I can estimate the best time to go back to collect some seed, and I usually get it right. Every year is a bit different, but when we were in the area a month ago for our wildflower hiking and camping trip, I checked out several areas and found abundant bloom. This was actually unusual for this year, for it hasn't been a good year for flowers or seed production, but in two of the areas I visited, there had been massive clearing of brush along the roads, apparently for fire prevention, and in those areas the bloom was impressive, often in places where there had been little evidence of any bulbs existing at all. It has been postulated that after wildfires, which are frequent in this area, the blooming of bulbs is stimulated by the smoke produced by the fire, since smoke can stimulate seed germination and, possibly, flower production in bulbs. Other theories attribute the blooming to the release of nutrients through the ash produced. Well, in these areas there was no ash and no smoke, so it seems that it might just be the removal of competing vegetation or the exposure to more sunlight and warmth.
Most of my seed collecting takes place along the roads where the seed will fall in the ditches or on the road itself, so I certainly don't feel guilty about gathering the few pods I need. Our first stop was to collect some seeds of the beautiful pink flowered form of Calochortus tolmiei pcitured here. The seed pods are pendulous, and if the weather warms up suddenly they will open and drop the seeds all at once, so these seeds are not easy to time right. This time it worked well. Our next stop was at higher elevation for seeds of Calochortus monophyllus, where colonies stretch for miles along both sides of the road. The plants are so small that the seed pods can even bury themsleves in the duff, so they are very hard to see.
Our last stop was along a beautiful road that travels along a huge pool where water from the spillway of the Oroville dam falls. Here there are colonies of Calochortus albus growing on steep cliffs. It was very early morning, and the sun was rising, bathing the whole area in a golden glow and reflecting off the pool, with resident flocks of Canada geese flying low across the water. Acorn woodpeckers were chattering, mockingbirds singing, and many other birds in chorus. It felt like heaven.
I had to return home that day, a long seven hour drive, with one quick stop along the way to check out an area where Fritillaria purdyi grows, and was happy to find a couple in bloom, although most are in bud at this time.
We drove down our driveway at 6pm, right when the solar eclipse was at its maximum. I wanted so much to see it, but rushing around, getting the dogs squared away and my things out of the car, I pretty much gave up. Then I came down the stairs of the barn, and there dancing on the floor of the barn were dozens of 'rings of fire', the perfect image of the eclipse projected on the floor of the barn from the sunlight filtering through the leaves of the trees outside. I was thrilled.