Facing Fear and Wildflower Worshipping
“There is the mud, and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
The beauty of the lotus quote is in accepting there is an amount of suffering that comes with happiness. Life will always have the ups with the downs. Here we are in what seems like one of the lowest times, with a big unknown of how long we will be here and naturally that brings in a lot of fear. So, how can we see some beauty and feel some happiness while we experience this deep suffering? See as many flowers as possible. I consider myself polyfloramorous. Whoa, hey, it means “one who loves many flowers at once”. I made it up. Anyway, it works for us, okay? No judging.
Fun facts: California has more plant species than any other state in the nation and at least one third of California’s native plants are found nowhere else in the world. (This is perfect timing for California as last week was officially California Native Plant Week, which means there should be plenty of species busting out to make your walk pay off. )
Connecting with wildflowers is one of the best ways to brighten your day and to learn about what is actually happening near you I recommend getting a book on local flowers.
How to find wildflowers
- Neighborhood walk: How many flowers can you find growing out of the cracks in the sidewalk or along the roadway? Is there a green space near where you live? Google maps can show you. Even a tiny park usually has some flora. Take a walk around your neighborhood and slow down as you see trees and yards blooming. As you walk, what seems to be growing best? What catches your eye? Do all roses actually smell strongly? Flowers I have seen growing in random places in San Francisco include: Poppies, Queen Anne’s Lace, dandelions, mustard, fennel, Douglas Iris, Shooting stars, Silver Lupine, Indian Paintbrush and Checker Bloom. Some of these are native (yay!) others are non-native and even invasive (rip em out–well, don’t, unless they are on your property).
- Find some green space: Whether this is an official park or a natural open space, there are wildflowers growing this time of year. In a park, they may be native plants growing, especially if you are in an urban setting. More and more parks are trying to only plant California natives, which is better than invasive plants since they promote biodiversity and help preserve and support the natural heritage. The further afield you can get from masses of concrete, the better your odds of finding: Soap Plant, Fairy Lanterns, and Common, Tidytips and thousands of others.
- If you can get to open space or a bigger park while adhering to local guidance on sheltering, then you will find more opportunities to see the wildness. All parts of the bay area have an abundance of wildflowers, you just might have to search out some open space.
- https://calscape.org/ lets you put in an address and then tells you what plants grow there that are native to the region! This can help guide you to know what to look for.
- If you are looking for a specific flower or plant, check out https://www.calflora.org/, which is a little nerdy but very helpful and will give you some many resources when you are ready.
- If you really want to nerd out and see what other people find or hope to identify (where I started to learn a lot) check out the California Native Plant Society Facebook page or the one for your state. This time of year it will be super-blooming in your face everyday.
- Since most beginner flower seekers start with knowing the color of a flower, but not much else, I recommend a book that organizes by color like Wildflowers of Northern California's Wine Country & North Coast Ranges: By Reny Parker. Or if you prefer by month, check out Wildflowers of California: A Month-by-Month Guide by Laird Blackwell. These guides will also tell you what is native vs non-native, and whether it is invasive.
- And yes, there is an app for this. Seek will take all the not-knowing wonder out of the hunt and just straight up tell you what you are looking at, which is amazing, but not as satisfying as a book, that you can get online from your local bookstore, https://www.greenapplebooks.com/
- Some of my favorite non-fiction books on botany are The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
- Here is a free coloring book on California wildflowers you can print at home. https://www.sbbg.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/Coloring%20Book%20compressed.pdf
- No picking, just take a picture.
- No trampling innocent flora to get that selfie.
- No digging up (most plants will not survive you replanting in your yard or house. They need a certain environment to grow in that you cannot replicate.)
- Watch out for ticks. Use tick repellent measures like clothing that is impregnated with insect repellent (shameless plug) to keep them away from you.
I’m so glad I’m not the only one who photographs local wildflower as stress relief!! I’ve found over 20 different kinds in my neighborhood since the shelter at home started. Thank you for the links to flower identification sites!On April 22, 2020