Monday, April 5, 2010

California Buckwheat or Eastern Mojave Buckwheat

California buckwheat or eastern Mojave buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is one of about 250 species of wild buckwheat (the genus Eriogonum) in North America. It is found in a good portion of central California and lower, to Utah, Arizona and northwest New Mexico down into northwestern Mexico. It is found on dry slopes, in washes and in canyons in scrub. When I originally posted this, I had seen one plant, in its red stage, in a wash on the way to Carey's Castle in southern Joshua Tree National Park. I had a hard time identifying it because I mistook the red buds as flowers. On a second visit to Carey's Castle a month and a half later, I found lots of buckwheat, virtually all of it in the flowering stage with little pink and white flowers replacing the red buds. It is variable in appearance, from a compact bramble to a spreading bush that can be nine feet across. Here is a plant in its red bud stage.
Now one in its flowering stage.
A side view of the plant in its red stage.  
Then a side view in its flowering stage.
The leaves grow in clusters at nodes along the branches
and are leathery, woolly on the undersides and rolled under along the edges.
The flowers are in dense, frilly clusters. Each flower has five lobes and is pink and white and very tiny.
From a distance the flower heads are not very distinctive. Closeup they are amazingly beautiful.
The closer, the better.
One thing I have come to appreciate as I have focused on desert flowers the last month and a half is how much beauty there is if you are willing to look at the world in miniature. As you walk through the desert and catch little splotches of white, yellow, red and blue, there is often nothing that really grabs your attention, unless of course you brush up against a teddy bear cholla. However, when you focus on those little splotches, particularly as you photograph them and look at them in magnified form, a whole new world emerges.  These desert forms usually display themselves in miniature, but display they do, and it is marvelous. On a completely different level, the Indians utilized parts of the plant for many medicinal uses, including treatment of headache, diarrhea and wounds. The flowers are frequented by butterflies and honey bees.

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