Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Other than our food plants, we have committed to fostering 100% native plants on our land, and we have been thrilled with the number and beauty of the wildflowers we already have, and the insects and birds that depend on them for food. The hillsides are covered with a variety of wildflowers, and in the summer native bees and hummingbirds can be heard happily buzzing from flower to flower.
One of our projects the first year we lived on the property was to document, by photographing and identifying, all the wildflower species. Each time we would notice a new variety, we would take a picture, noting the date they flowered.
When we spot invasive non-native plants, like salsify, we pull them on sight. It is sad to drive by untended hillsides that have been taken over by such plants, crowding out the diverse species that the ecosystem depends on.
We also started to learn some of the native insect and bird species and photograph them. We are carefully adding wildflower species that we enjoy and that live in the area already, to increase the diversity on our property, focusing on ones that provide food to insects and birds. As the climate changes, either because of global shifts or just the normal annual variation, different species are encouraged to take center stage. In our first year, we had more precipitation than usual in May and June, which resulted in a bumper crop of Sago lilies, but a dry August and September led to less showy displays from the late-season flowers. Increasing the diversity of the species helps this little portion of the ecosystem be more resilient in the face of changing conditions.
Wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity in the Western U.S., as the climate becomes warmer and drier, and burn areas do not necessarily regrow the same species that lived there before. But we are heartened to see the native grasses and pioneer species like fireweed coming back to the burned slopes after a few years. Whether or not the trees are able to repopulate these areas is more of an open question, but wildflowers are certainly able to grow in surprisingly little soil, even after the devastation of a forest fire.