California Buckwheat is a Pollinator Magnet

The Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society (OCCNPS) will be giving a free four-inch California buckwheat plant to local residents this October to introduce homeowners to the beauty of California native plants in the garden.

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

Why buckwheat? According to the native plant experts at Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano, “In the garden, few plants can equal Eriogonum–or buckwheat–for sheer habitat value. Eriogonums are host plants and nectar plants for butterflies and moths, and are a bonanza for bees and other pollinators looking for summer food. The dried seeds provide abundant food for seed-eating birds, and the shrubby structures shelter lizards and other wildlife.”

Buckwheat growing under fruit trees

Buckwheat blossoms in late summer. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Buckwheat plants look great in a corner of a garden, as a centerpiece, and spilling over slopes. They are easy to care for and stay green with just a little supplemental water.  Two California buckwheat plants planted twenty years ago near my fruit trees have blossomed for months, and hundreds of tiny pollinators are feasting on buckwheat nectar. These pollinators increase the productivity of my fruit trees and support bird life.

Acmon Blue butterfly visits a California buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Lady beetle visits a buckwheat blossom. Photo by Kris Ethington.

If you would like to add a California buckwheat to your garden, the OCCNPS chapter buckwheat give-away begins October 5 at Acorn Day in O’Neill Park.  One four-inch Dana Point buckwheat will be given for free to Orange County homeowners while supplies last this fall.

More details with dates and places for the buckwheat give-away will be provided in future posts. In the meantime, stay cool and enjoy the waning days of summer.

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Pool with blue-eyed grass, purple three awn, and concha ceanothus. (Elizabeth Wallace)

More Butterflies in Your Garden

Southern California is home to people and plants from around the world.  Plants from far away lands have been introduced in California and have become so common that many people believe that most ornamental plants are native.

Examples of introduced species include Eucalyptus trees from Australia, ice plant from Africa, and bougainvillea from Brazil. These plants (and many others) are seen commonly in home and commercial landscapes in Southern California.

Ice Plant

Invasive ice plant surrounds a native Coast Live Oak, robbing it of rainfall. (Elizabeth Wallace)

What is a California native plant and why should we care?

Scientists tell us that plants that are native to our community provide a richer abundance of life than plants introduced from other countries. Local pollinators like bumblebees and monarch butterflies rely on specific local plants to survive.

Narrow Leaf Milkweed

Western Monarch caterpillars feeding on native narrow-leaf milkweed. Photo by Cynthia Grilli.

Pictured above is a narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) loaded with Western Monarch caterpillars. The narrow-leaf milkweed grows in the wild lands of Southern California.

The California Native Plant Society Orange County (OCCNPS) wants to help Californians plant more native plants in their yards and gardens. Even a small corner of your lawn devoted to native plants will help bird and butterfly populations recover and become more abundant.

Bees Bliss Sage and Vanessa butterfly

Vanessa butterfly nectars on a Bees Bliss sage. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Beginning October 5 of this year, OCCNPS will give away one free California Buckwheat plant (while supplies last) to residents living in Orange County. The California buckwheat that OCCNPS is giving away grows wild in Dana Point, California.  The Dana Point buckwheat blooms 10 months of the year with creamy white blossoms that turn a russet red in the late fall.

“If you’ve only space for one native habitat plant, let it be a buckwheat,” said Dr. Constance M. Vadheim of Mother Nature’s Backyard where she included tips on how to grow buckwheat in a home garden, as well as a list of traditional native uses of the plant.

California buckwheat

Field of buckwheat in the wild. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff.

Natural open space and parks are not enough to support bird and wildlife populations. Each of us can make a difference by installing California native plants in our yards. OCCNPS will begin distribution of free California buckwheat plants at Acorn Day in O’Neill Park on October 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. We will map the plants as they head to their new homes. More information to come!

Buckwheat lines roadside

Buckwheat lines the road like summer snowdrifts. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff