April Bloomers

Invigorated by days of showers and days of sunshine, the park spilled a great big cornucopia of blooms in April for park visitors with eyes to see them. Here, in no particular order, is a short survey of flowers noticed since our last bloom review in March.

New: Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana)

Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana) Photo by Jutta Burger
Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana)

What a lovely surprise to see a little patch of these native beauties growing on the west side in the shade of a coyote bush. This handful displayed some of the range of color variations the species is known for. Read more about them on Wikipedia Calflora CalScape.

New: Arroyo Lupine (Lupinus succulentus)

Arroyo Lupine (Lupinus succulentus) Photo by Jutta Burger

This California native wants sharp eyes to spot its four or five family members low on the edges of a v-shaped concrete channel on the east side of the park. It’s prized in gardens but also tough enough to establish itself in disturbed areas, such as the edges of last year’s rip-rap rock rehab. Read more about it on Wikipedia Calflora and CalScape.

New: Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila menziesii)

Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila menziesii) Photo by Jutta Burger

These pretty ones are mostly tucked away in the thicket of alyssum that grew unintentionally from a Conservancy-sponsored volunteer seeding effort last October 26. Undoubtedly this was in the seed mix. (Hear about that in the March bloom survey.) They’re natives of California, Oregon, and Baja California (Mexico). It grows wild and also for gardeners. More: Wikipedia Calflora CalScape.

New: Desert Bluebell (Phacelia campanularia)

Desert Bluebell (Phacelia campanularia) Photo by Jutta Burger

This also is a native of California, although more at home in the desert. CalScape, which tracks native plants, does not show any occurrences in the San Francisco Bay Area. It grows wild, where it grows, and in gardens. This also grows in the alyssum patch and was among the seeds planted there last October. More about it, but not much, in Wikipedia Calflora CalScape.

Rock Rose (Cistus)

Rock Rose (Cistus)

This particular Rock Rose grows on the north shore of the park just behind a bench that’s framed romantically by the ceanothus featured here in March. You can read more about this remarkable plant in earlier posts on this website.

Wild Onion (Allium triquetrum)

Wild Onion (Allium triquetrum)

At leasts two dense patches of this familiar garden volunteer grow on the north side of the park. In gardens it’s generally seen as a weed that requires digging deep to get the root bulb out. Here in the park it’s an ornament. It’s entirely edible fresh or cooked. Read more about it on Wikipedia or CalFflora.

Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis)

Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis)

In the gallery of ill-fitting names, this plant rates high. It isn’t scarlet and it doesn’t cut a bold dashing figure like the Pimpernel of the 1905 stage play. It’s more salmon in color and a modestly proportioned flower, not half an inch in diameter. It’s letting its toxic little light shine lots of places along the east side of the park. Read more about it here and in these standard sources: Wikipedia Calflora CalPhotos.

Eggleaf Spurge (Euphorbia oblongata)

Eggleaf Spurge (Euphorbia oblongata)

This fast-spreading yellow bloomer (aka Oblong Spurge) sprouts on the east side of the park in three separate clusters on either side of the paved trail. Wikipedia doesn’t say much about it, but Calflora has this bit of classical trivia. The plant is

named for Euphorbus, Greek physician of Juba II, King of Mauretania. Juba was educated in Rome and married the daughter of Antony and Cleopatra. He had written about an African cactus-like plant he knew about from the slopes of Mt. Atlas which was used as a powerful laxative. That plant may have been Euphorbia resinifera, and like all Euphorbias had a latexy exudate. Euphorbus had a brother named Antonius Musa who was the physician to Augustus Caesar in Rome. When Juba heard that Caesar had honored his physician with a statue, he decided to honor his own physician by naming the plant he had written about after him. The word Euphorbus derives from eu, “good,” and phorbe, “pasture or fodder,” thus giving euphorbos the meaning “well fed.” Some sources suggest that Juba was amused by the play upon words and chose his physician’s name for the plant because of its succulent nature and because of Euphorbus’ corpulent physique. (contributed by Cynthia Powell)


You can also read more about it on this blog a year ago.

Wild Mustard (Sinapis arvensis)

Wild Mustard (Sinapis arvensis)
Wild Mustard (Sinapis arvensis)

This yellow bloomer flourishes in many places in the park, but it isn’t as aggressive and widespread as the wild radish. The California Invasive Plant Council gives it a “limited” invasiveness rating. It’s beloved by numerous pollinators including butterflies. The leaves are edible when young, boiled. The plant was a common famine food during the Irish Potato Famine. The seeds yield a kind of mustard and a lubricating oil. Read more about it on Wikipedia Calflora CalIPC, or here.

Jupiter’s Beard (Centranthus ruber)

Jupiter’s Beard (Centranthus ruber)

There’s only one of these currently in the park, to my knowledge. It grows next to the path that leads to the Open Circle seating area. Its solitary existence belies its reputation in South Africa, where it’s listed as a highly invasive alien species under tight government control. Here it’s probably an escapee from a garden, possibly dropped by a bird, or maybe a guerrilla planting. Read more in Wikipedia Calflora CalPhotos or here.

Rose Clover (Trifolium hirtum)

Rose Clover (Trifolium hirtum)

One of the clovers that grow annually in the park, the rose clover came from Turkey in the 1940s and is a forage crop and a roadside weed elsewhere in the state, a welcome bit of eye candy here in the park. Read about it here or on Wikipedia.

Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum)

Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum)

In late April this clover was just beginning its surge to dominance on the east side of the park near the flare station. Native to Europe, it’s well established here as a forage crop for livestock. It’s also entirely edible for humans and can be tossed into salads or other dishes. Read more about it here or on Wikipedia.

New: Scarlet Flax (Linum grandiflorum)

Scarlet Flax (Linum grandiflorum)

This native of Algeria has become established in parts of California, but Calflora does not show any recent sightings in Alameda County and none ever in Berkeley. Judging by the slender, drooping posture of this individual, which needed hand holding to show itself, it won’t be around for next season. It also was almost certainly among the seeds sowed last October in what has become the alyssum patch. Still, it brings a bit of joy here and now, and don’t we need that. More on Wikipedia and Calflora.

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

This, obviously, is a California poppy. There are quite a few of them blooming around the park, though not nearly as many as we would like. That’s mainly because the ground squirrels munch them up when they’re little seedlings, an inch or two high. That’s what makes this particular poppy special. It survived the squirrel poppycide that devastated this species in the wildflower planting patch that student volunteers seeded this past October 26; see March bloomers. We planted literally thousands of poppy seeds there, and only this one individual made it to bloom.

New: Moroccan Toadflax (Linaria maroccana)

Moroccan Toadflax (Linaria maroccana)

This looks like a tiny orchid, but it’s a member of the plantain family. Native of Morocco, it’s found in gardens in many countries. One variety has got the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. This individual is one of a very few growing in the alyssum patch on the southeast corner of the park, and was very likely in the seed mix we planted there last October. More about them on Wikipedia.

New: Himalayan Smartweed (Persicaria capitata)

Himalayan Smartweed (Persicaria capitata) Photo by Jutta Burger

This one comes from Asia, and has found uses in traditional Chinese medicine for urinary disorders. Here it’s grown as a garden ornamental, and occasionally grows in the wild. Calflora records sightings in at least three Berkeley residential locations in the past three years. It hasn’t been spotted before in the park. More in Wikipedia and Calflora.

New: Yellow Sorrel (Oxalis corniculata)

Yellow Sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) Photo by Jutta Burger

You need sharp eyes to see this one. The tip of the photographer’s index finger on the left serves to set the scale. This inconspicuous member of the much more demonstrative Oxalis family– who could miss the blankets of Oxalis pes-caprae in the park? — has a storied history and hidden talents. It originated in southeast Asia and traveled via the Silk Road to Italy before 1500. Linnaeus, the father of modern botany, obtained a sample from Italy in 1753. All of it is edible in moderation and can be made into an infusion or tea. It’s rich in Vitamin C. It’s also a source of trace amounts of copper, which it absorbs if found in the soil. Because of this quality it has been used as a tell for locating copper deposits. Wikipedia says:

As a hyperaccumulator of copper, it can be used for phytoremediation. The 1491 Ming Dynasty text, Precious Secrets of the Realm of the King of Xin, describes how to locate underground copper deposits by extracting trace elements of copper from the plant.


New: Shivery Grass (Briza minor)

Shivery Grass (Briza minor) Photo by Jutta Burger

If you thought the previous one was small, check out this one! Also known as little quaking grass or trembling grass, this plant gets its name from the delicate suspension of its tiny flowers. The slightest breath of air makes them dance. Thought to originate in the Mediterranean region, this grass now grows in the wild, favoring disturbed places. More about it, but not much, on Wikipedia or Calflora.

New: Nettle-leaved Goosefoot (Chenopodium murale)

Nettle-leaved Goosefoot (Chenopodium murale) Photo by Jutta Burger

Also known to botanists as Chenopodiastrum murale, and commonly as Australian spinach, this plant has taken “sheltering in place” to a new level. Its tight red buds that look like tiny berries refuse to open and show their petals. They stay shut while the fruit develops. How it manages to get itself pollinated, the sources don’t reveal, except that it must be done by the wind, somehow. In any case, its seeds, stems, and leaves are edible in moderation. A 19th century Australian cookbook cites it as a pot herb, to be treated the same as spinach. See Wikipedia, PFAF, GoBotany.

Cheeseweed (Malva parviflora)

Cheeseweed (Malva parviflora) Photo by Jutta Burger

This common mallow is displaying its flower and its fruit at the same time. The “cheese” in the common name derives not from the taste but from the shape of the fruit body when dried; it resembles a round box with wedges of camembert. The plant is edible and tastes like a salad green, which is one of its common uses. There are conflicting reports of medicinal properties, good and bad. Check out Wikipedia, IEWF, Rootsimple, PFAF, and ScienceDirect to become fully informed/confused. The plant grows in numerous spots in the park alongside the paved path.

New: English Daisy (Bellis perennis)

English Daisy (Bellis perennis) Photo by Jutta Burger

This familiar inhabitant of lawns worldwide is considered the genetic ancestor of all modern daisies. Long loved by children for making daisy chains and pictured in idyllic paintings, the plant has a contrasting history nicely captured in its Latin name, bellis. This may mean “pretty,” or it may refer to the Latin word for war. Marauding Roman armies gathered it up by the bagfull wherever they went and used it as a poultice to heal slash and puncture wounds. Was that for real? Some recent research on rats (poor rats) suggests that an extract of the daisy does speed wound healing. Other medicinal properties are also claimed. Learn more on Wikipedia and MDedge.com. The word daisy, by the way, is thought to be a modification of “day’s eye,” since the plant closes up at night.

Well, once again I’ve left out the vetches — Purple Vetch and Common Vetch, and the controversial Tansy Ragwort bushes, and the blooming Catalina Island Cherry, and the iceplant, and others seen last year, including an Italian thistle — no surprise to see them back. Also left out are a newly seen French broom and a beautiful Fremontia. So much bloomed in the park this month that it’s overflowed the available bucket of text and images, not to mention readers’ patience.

Next month there’ll probably be even more. Come to the park and open your eyes to the nature blooming all around. There’s joy here in this time of distress. Take advantage. These plants won’t give you a virus; you can get up close with them and not worry. Think of them as little people who speak in colors, shapes, and odors, and you won’t be lonely.

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