Summer Buckwheat Blooms Bright

It is July, the height of summer in Southern California, and buckwheats are blooming with thousands of showy white flowers.

(E. Wallace)

I took a walk this morning at my favorite local park, O’Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon. Many of the spring-blooming plants are hunkering down in the 90-degree heat, but California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is just beginning to shine. Look closely and you will see clouds of tiny butterflies and pollinators flying from blossom to blossom, gathering pollen.

Gray hairstreak butterfly. (E. Wallace)

Beetles too are enjoying the buckwheat blossoms.

(E. Wallace)

In the photo below, notice the tiny fly (upper left corner) coming in toward the buckwheat flower while the Flower Longhorn Beetle forages.

(E. Wallace)

If you are looking for a summer-blooming shrub for your garden, buckwheat should be one of your top choices. Buckwheats bloom for months during the hottest parts of the year and support clouds of pollinators, butterflies, and birds. Buckwheats are easy to grow, and once established, require no supplemental water.

(K. Ethington)

Try planting a buckwheat interspersed with salvias, fuchsias, and mallows. You will get year-round blossoms in your garden and year-round butterflies too. Add a native milkweed, such as narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), and support declining monarch butterfly populations.

(E. Wallace)

Native plants are gaining popularity as gardeners learn to appreciate their beauty and importance to wildlife. Join the movement! Try planting a buckwheat and see how many pollinators are attracted to your landscape. Then add more. Butterflies will flutter, birds will sing, and you will be filled with happiness.

(S. Bressler)

Where Do Western Monarchs Spend the Spring?

Despite the fact that Western Monarch butterflies are universally loved, their numbers have plummeted in recent years.

Two monarch butterflies cruise together under a Coast Live Oak tree. (Elizabeth Wallace)

What can you do to help? Join the Western Monarch Mystery Challenge–a campaign created to increase awareness of locations where Western Monarchs spend the spring in California after leaving their coastal California overwintering sites.

Male and female Western Monarchs together. Photo by Jeff Wallace.

If you see a monarch from February 18 through April 22, take a photo (it can be far away and blurry). Then report the siting to iNaturalist, the Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper, or email it to MonarchMystery@wsu.edu.

Far away and blurry photo of Western Monarch on baccharis pilularis cultivar and coffee berry. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Your photo will help scientists better understand Western Monarchs’ locations and activities in February, March, and April. When you share your springtime Monarch observations, you help conservation efforts for the butterfly.

In between reporting your spring Western Monarch sitings, plant more native plants in your garden, especially California buckwheat, salvias, manzanitas, narrow-leaf milkweed, and maybe a scrub oak tree!