Growing Buckwheat in the Garden

When cooler winter temperatures arrive in Southern California, residents wear sweaters and scarves to stay cozy. Buckwheat changes in the winter too, as the creamy white flowers turn a reddish brown when the flowers go to seed.

‘Dana Point’ buckwheat graces a garden in winter. (Kris Ethington)

The ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat has a compact nature suitable for the home garden and is fairly easy to grow for first-time native gardeners.

Buckwheat mixes with other natives in the garden. (Kris Ethington)

More than a thousand buckwheats were distributed last fall, and if all went well, the plants that were given away may have doubled in size by now. Thanks to abundant rains over Thanksgiving and Christmas, the new buckwheat plants should be off to a good start.

New ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat planted in late November has doubled in size. (Elizabeth Wallace)

How is your new buckwheat growing? Have you experienced troubles or success? Let me know with a comment on this blog, and share a photo if you have one. I would love to hear from you.

And if you haven’t had a chance to pick up a free buckwheat, you can pick one up at Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar on January 14, 15, and 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (while supplies last).

Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar. Photo from Roger’s Gardens.

Buckwheat in Winter

Pictured here is a large expanse of California buckwheat growing healthy and wild in O’Neill Park in November, just before the rainy season began. Notice how the flowers have turned a rusty reddish brown as this shrub reflects the changing seasons.

Field of buckwheat, oak trees and clouds in November before the seasonal rains began. (Elizabeth Wallace)

The buckwheat flower is turning to seed as winter approaches. California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is distantly related to the Eurasian crop plant common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), which is used for pancakes, bread, and porridges. Unlike its European relative, the seed of the California buckwheat is not commonly used as a grain but instead feeds local birds and wildlife. If you trim the reddish flowers in winter, lay them on the ground for wildlife to enjoy.

California Buckwheat heading into the fall season. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Author Michael Wilken-Robinson reports in his book “Kumeyaay Ethnobotany” that native Baja Californians cook buckwheat flowers and leaves with water to make a tea to calm nerves. Others report using California buckwheat to cure digestive disorders. Medicinal uses for buckwheat are widespread among the Kumeyaay people.

Kumeyaay Ethnobotany by Michael Wilken-Robinson

In the spring and summer, California buckwheat is an important source of nectar for bees and is prized for the fragrant honey produced from the flower. Buckwheat honey has a delicate flavor and aroma.

Honey bee visiting buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

More honey comes from pollinated buckwheat than any other native plant in California. Visit your local farmer’s market to purchase local buckwheat honey and enjoy its sweet, rich flavor throughout the year.

Buckwheat honey. (Elizabeth Wallace)

It’s hard to resist the allure of the iconic California buckwheat and all of the benefits it will provide in your garden landscape.

Restored Habitat at Shipley Supports Wildlife

I took advantage of the break in the rain last weekend to visit Shipley Nature Center for their A Buckwheat in Every Garden giveaway in Huntington Beach.

Sycamore tree overhangs natural pathway. (Elizabeth Wallace)

The 18-acre Shipley Nature Center is a California native botanical area and wetland. The centerpiece of the gardens is a fresh water pond surrounded by various California native habitat gardens, restful seating areas, and natural pathways.

Red toyon berries flank an adirondack chair in autumn. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Shipley offers vermiculture (worm composting) demonstration sites, rain harvesting and storage examples, and a native plant nursery on site. Fallen tree branches are stacked along some of the pathways, providing perfect habitat for California native bees.

An Urbane Digger Bee in flight. Photo by Kris Ethington.

The City of Huntington Beach and the nonprofit Friends of Shipley Nature Center began restoration of the site in 1974. They removed invasive plants such as tamarisk and black mustard, then planted fifty thousand native plants. This site now supports snowy egrets, great blue herons, ducks, turtles, Cooper’s hawks, cedar waxwings, and many other species of birds, and butterflies.

Cooper’s hawk in search of breakfast. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Shipley Nature Center is an oasis in the city of Huntington Beach. Take your family to visit over the holidays and walk along 4,000 feet of trails that wander through oak woodlands, Torrey pines, willows, coastal sage scrub, and butterfly gardens. Admission is free, and visitor hours are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Matilija poppies in full flower at Shipley. Photo by Mary LeBoeuf.

Don’t forget to look for the buckwheats planted near the entrance of the site, and remember to look up! You may be rewarded by the site of a snowy egret near its tangled branch nest in the tree tops.

Do you see the ghostly figure of the snowy egret near the nest built in the sycamore tree at Shipley? Photo by Mary LeBoeuf.

More Buckwheat, More Butterflies

When you plant California buckwheat in your home landscape, you bring immediate relief to butterflies and other pollinators searching for nectar and shelter.

California native bee, solitary and docile, visits a California Buckwheat. Do you see the bee? Photo by Kris Ethington.

California buckwheats flower for months, enrich the soil with their tiny leaves, are easy to grow, and are evergreen. Buckwheat is a foundation plant for any garden.

Buckwheat graces a suburban garden. (Elizabeth Wallace)

The California Native Plant Society Orange County (OCCNPS) chapter is partnering with the Shipley Nature Center to give away 200 California ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants at the Holiday Crafts Faire on Saturday, December 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free.

Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach.

Visit Shipley Nature Center this Saturday to pick up a free California buckwheat, select from 70 California native plants to purchase, and see 18 acres of restored wetlands, woodlands, and pristine coastal sage scrub habitat. Shipley’s address is 17851 Goldenwest Street in Huntington Beach. See you this Saturday!

Bernardino Blue butterfly on California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasiculatum). Photo by Chuck Wright.

Buckwheat with a Side of Natives

The Shipley Nature Center of Huntington Beach is partnering with STEMscopes students to host the final Buckwheat in Every Garden giveaway of 2019.

Restored coastal sage habitat at Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach.

The December 7th Shipley Nature Center buckwheat giveaway is especially exciting because along with the 200 buckwheat plants being distributed for free, Shipley will offer 70 additional California native plants for sale.

California native plants and books about gardening with natives. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Located in an 18-acre fenced natural area within Huntington Beach Central Park, the Shipley Nature Center is owned by the city of Huntington Beach. Several years ago, the Friends of Shipley Nature Center and the city of Huntington Beach joined together to remove invasive plants, upgrade the trail system, improve wetland areas, and install 50,000 California native plants.

Shipley Nature Center field of poppies.

This Shipley garden event will help OCCNPS supply northwest Orange County homeowners with buckwheat for their home gardens and fill in the Buckwheat in Every Garden iNaturalist map. One buckwheat plant is given to an Orange County homeowner in exchange for the homeowner’s street and city to plot the buckwheats as they are planted across the county.

A Buckwheat in Every Garden iNaturalist map showing 975 buckwheats planted across Orange County as of November 29, 2019.

Join us at the Shipley Nature Center, 17851 Goldenwest Street, Huntington Beach, on Saturday, December 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to pick up your free buckwheat and buy some California natives too. While supplies last, see you December 7.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly on Red Buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Buckwheat in the Headlands

Last Friday I visited the 60-acre Dana Point Headlands for the first time. I was interested in seeing the place of origin of the ‘Dana Point’ California buckwheat that is being given to Orange County homeowners in A Buckwheat in Every Garden campaign.

Ocean view of the Dana Point Headlands. Photo by Debra Kettler.

We started at the Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center and walked along a sandy trail leading to viewpoints overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was mid-November, and the Dana Point Headlands hadn’t had a drop of rain for six months. Many of the plants in this environment are summer dormant, waiting for winter rains to refresh their leaves and begin new growth.

Walking through the protected path at the Dana Point Headlands. (Elizabeth Wallace)

I enjoyed the rare pristine Coastal Sage Scrub environment in this protected area. It has been a long time since I have traversed a natural environment untouched by invasive black mustard. The most noticeable hints of color in the headlands were the rusty red color of the California Buckwheat flower in autumn, along with patches of green from Laurel Sumac and Prickly Pear Cactus.

California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) at the Dana Point Headlands. Photo by Debra Kettler.

The Dana Point Headlands is a coastal promontory managed by the Center for Natural Lands Management. It is home to about 106 native plant species including, of course, California Buckwheat, and the rare California Boxthorn, Cliff Spurge, Prostrate Spine Flower, and Seaside Calandrinia.

Cliff Spurge (Euphorbia misera). Photo by Wayne D. Johnson.

Because the Headlands is home to the threatened and endangered Pacific Pocket Mouse and the Coastal California Gnatcatcher, the area is carefully managed to prevent disturbances to the vulnerable creatures. My husband was fortunate to hear the kitten-like cry of the gnatcatcher and then see the tiny bird hopping on a coastal sage for a few moments near the trail.

California Gnatcatcher. Photo by Debra Kettler.

The Dana Point Headlands is one of the few places left that protects endangered California coastal plant and animal species. Bring your family to visit the Headlands, and enjoy the beautiful swaths of buckwheat in a pristine environment and many other rare plant and animal species as well.

California buckwheat “Dana Point.’ Photo by Kris Ethington.

Our next Buckwheat in Every Garden giveaway will be on Saturday, December 7, at the Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach. Two hundred ‘Dana Point’ California buckwheat plants will be distributed at this event, and many more varieties of California native plants like Encelia (below) will be for sale too. More details to follow.

Springtime fields of California bush sunflower (Encelia californica). Photo by Debra Kettler.

 

Buckwheat Giveaway in Dana Point

The city of Dana Point is partnering with the Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society (OCCNPS) on an ambitious 200-plant Buckwheat in Every Garden giveaway this Friday, November 15 at the Dana Point Community Center.

Four-inch ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plant is ready to be planted in a new Orange County home landscape. (Elizabeth Wallace)

OCCNPS and the city of Dana Point will give away 200 four-inch ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of the Dana Point Community Center at 34052 Del Obispo Street on Friday, November 15.

Buckwheat giveaway earlier this month. Photo by Thea Gavin.

Tree of Life Nursery selected the ‘Dana Point’ California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) from a buckwheat plant growing at the Dana Point Headlands. The ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat is a long-flowering shrub that grows one-foot tall and three-feet wide, making it well-suited to smaller home landscapes and gardens.

‘Dana Point’ buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

One ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plant per homeowner will be given in exchange for the homeowner’s street and city. OCCNPS is mapping the buckwheats as they are planted across Orange County home landscapes on the BIEG iNaturalist map. A recent version of the iNaturalist map is shown here with nearly 700 buckwheats planted across Orange County.

A Buckwheat in Every Garden iNaturalist map.

Please join us this Friday and help make Dana Point’s namesake buckwheat giveaway a success. The plants are ready to go into the ground. Get yours this Friday, November 15, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Dana Point Community Center at 34052 Del Obispo Street, Dana Point, California.

Newly installed ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat. Photo by Rob Skinner.

How the Buckwheat Campaign Began

California buckwheat. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff.

The idea for A Buckwheat in Every Garden was hatched in July 2019 when board members of the California Native Plant Society, Orange County chapter (OCCNPS) met for their annual strategy meeting. The goal of the campaign: To encourage Orange County homeowners to install California native plants in their home landscapes to support healthy urban environments.

OCCNPS committee members defined the goals of the campaign: Distribute 1,500 California buckwheat ‘Dana Point’ plants, one plant per Orange County homeowner, from October 2019 through February 29, 2020, or until all plants are distributed. Plants are given in exchange for the homeowner’s street and city address, so the plants can be mapped on A Buckwheat in Every Garden iNaturalist map.

The committee worked with Tree of Life Nursery to support the cultivation of 1,500 ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants in decorative four-inch containers. The committee also worked with Roger’s Gardens to help distribute and promote the buckwheat campaign.

California buckwheat ‘Dana Point’ variety. Photo by Laura Camp.

OCCNPS committee members created a blog and a web page and began an Instagram and Twitter account. A new iNaturalist mapping program was created specifically for the campaign and added to the OCCNPS web site.

A Buckwheat in Every Garden is funded by OCCNPS’ small treasury and is operated with all volunteer labor. OCCNPS is a 501(c)(3) California non-profit organization. Upcoming buckwheat give-away outreach events are listed below (while supplies last):

OCCNPS gives away California buckwheat ‘Dana Point’ at Acorn Day in O’Neill Regional Park. Photo by Ian Morrell.

  1. San Clemente Garden Club,  Wednesday, November 6 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., San Clemente.
  2. Laguna Beach Garden Club, Friday, November 8 from 9:30 a.m. to noon, Laguna Beach.
  3. Sherman Library and Gardens, Friday, November 8 from 10:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., Corona del Mar.
  4. The city of Dana Point, Dana Point Community Center, 34052 Del Obispo, Dana Point, Friday, November 15 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. This event is ambitious: We hope to distribute 200 buckwheats in four hours. Help us make that happen. We will see you there.

Fullerton Arboretum event on November 1st. Photo by Maryanne Mayeda.

If you haven’t had a chance to pick up your free buckwheat yet, join us at one of the four events listed above, and share your address with us so we can plot your new buckwheat on the iNaturalist map. The plants go quickly, so arrive early.

Fairy bee visits buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

 

Buckwheats Buzz

Most people recognize the common honey bee as a social creature that lives in hives and makes honey. However many people don’t know that honey bees are non-native insects, introduced from Europe.

European honey bee visiting buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

There are 1,600 species of native bees in California, ranging in size from one-inch long to less than one-quarter inch long. California native bees are often solitary, living in wood or underground tunnels, and most do not make honey. They are important to the existence of our wild lands, and serve as food that supports other species.

Fairy Bees visit buckwheat blossoms. Photo by Kris Ethington.

California native bees love buckwheat’s profusion of blossoms. If you look closely at your California buckwheat when it’s in full bloom in the summer, you will see hundreds of tiny bees and butterflies scattered throughout its blossoms.

Fiery Skipper butterfly visits buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

If you would like to learn more about California native bees, visit the website for UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.

And if you would like to support our native pollinators, join us as we give away California buckwheat plants (while supplies last) at three upcoming events in November:

  1. The Fullerton Arboretum is hosting A Buckwheat in Every Garden give-away on Friday, November 1, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  2. Roger’s Gardens is giving away four-inch California ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Corona del Mar on Friday, November 1.
  3. The San Clemente Garden Club is hosting a buckwheat give-away on Wednesday, November 6 from 1 to 3 p.m. Brad Jenkins, President of the Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society, will be presenting that afternoon as well.

    An Urbane Digger Bee in flight. Photo by Kris Ethington.

    OCCNPS gave away more than 400 ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants in October. Visit our iNaturalist map to see the hundreds of buckwheat plants that have gone to their new Orange County home landscapes.

Buckwheat Brings Beauty

Native plant lovers know from experience that California native plants bring beauty into their lives through connections with people, pollinators and wildlife.

Lizard sunning on autumn buckwheat blossoms. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Do you have questions about California native plants? Tree of Life Nursery is hosting California Native Plant Society experts this Saturday, October 26 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is your chance to visit with CNPS experts at four tables featuring these topics: California Native Plant Care, California Native Plant Pollinators, California Native Evergreen Foundation Plants, and A Buckwheat in Every Garden.

Bob Allen, author of Wildflowers of Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains will be hosting the pollinator table this Saturday.

At Tree of Life Nursery, you can shop the most extensive native plant selection in California. CNPS members will receive 10 percent off every purchase.

Tree of Life Nursery, San Juan Capistrano. Photo by Tree of Life Nursery.

And if you haven’t picked up your free, four-inch California buckwheat yet, you can pick it up this Saturday at the nursery at 33201 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano. A Mexican food truck will be on site from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Pollinator visits buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Buckwheat Builds Soil

California buckwheat is an evergreen plant with small leaves that occasionally drop to the ground, forming a natural mulch. The fallen leaves enrich the soil around the plant and allow the plant to grow and spread in its own loamy mulch.

California buckwheat leaves and stem. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff.

If you are an Orange County homeowner who hasn’t picked up your free ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat yet, stop by Roger’s Gardens at 2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Corona del Mar on Tuesday, October 22 through Thursday, October 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is the only three-day giveaway we have planned, so take advantage of it if you can.

Rogers Gardens is participating in the A Buckwheat in Every Garden campaign.

 

Birds, Bees and Buckwheat

The California Native Plant Society Orange County (OCCNPS) chapter created A Buckwheat in Every Garden to encourage homeowners to plant California native plants in their home landscape– which in turn supports and increases bird populations.

Hummingbird and native California fuchsia. Photo by Kris Ethington.

My neighbor recently sent this photo of a swallowtail butterfly laying eggs on the leaves of her kumquat tree. She had previously considered removing the kumquat trees from her garden, but decided against it and was thrilled to see the swallowtail butterfly laying eggs on the leaves.

Swallowtail butterfly laying eggs on the leaves of a kumquat tree. Photo by Amanda Morrell.

California buckwheat has a long, prolific flowering season that attracts tiny native California bees and butterflies. When I looked closely at my California buckwheat plants this summer, I was astonished to see thousands of tiny pollinators on my buckwheat flowers. These pollinators support my vegetable garden and fruit trees, and they support bird life as well.

Butterfly visits a California buckwheat. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff.

On Thursday, October 17 at 7:30 p.m., Mike Evans, owner of Tree of Life Nursery, gave a presentation at the OCCNPS chapter meeting called Horticultural Valor in the Native Garden–Be Bold! OCCNPS gave away 61 four-inch ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants during the chapter meeting.

Paper wasps visits a buckwheat flower. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff.

On Saturday, October 19, OCCNPS board member Thea Gavin gave a presentation at Orange Home Grown Farmers Market about how beneficial pollinators increase in numbers when native plants are installed near fruit and vegetable gardens. OCCNPS gave away 42 ‘Dana Point’ California buckwheat plants at the event.

California buckwheat

Butterfly visits buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Would you like to help the buckwheat campaign? Join us as a Buckwheat Ambassador and help distribute baby buckwheat plants to your garden club or environmental group. Click here to learn how you can be a part of A Buckwheat in Every Garden.