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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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 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.

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 Builds Habitat

The Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society (OCCNPS) has begun to distribute free, four-inch California buckwheat plants to homeowners living in Orange County.

The ‘Dana Point’ buckwheats are growing well at Tree of Life. Photo by Laura Camp.

OCCNPS hopes to improve habitat for wildlife and butterflies throughout Orange County with this first-ever campaign to distribute 1,500 buckwheats to homeowners who pledge to plant them in their home landscapes.

Doug Tallamy, scientist and author of Bringing Nature Home, argues that the single, best method to help bird and butterfly populations recover is for homeowners to plant a portion of their garden with native plants.

Two butterflies enjoy California buckwheat blossoms. Photo by Kris Ethington.

To that end, OCCNPS has developed A Buckwheat in Every Garden campaign as a direct way to “put California native plants in the ground.”

The group has selected the ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat for the campaign because it is a beautiful addition to home landscapes, easy to grow, blooms profusely for 10 months of the year, and supports pollinators and wildlife.

Soldier fly visits California buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

OCCNPS is connecting gardeners who are planting the 1,500 buckwheat plants in Orange County with an iNaturalist map. As the buckwheat plants go to their new homes, OCCNPS will mark the locations on the map. Homeowners can follow along as buckwheats are planted in Orange County by logging into the group’s website at OCCNPS.orgCNPS Orange County

Join us at the following events to get your free buckwheat (*while supplies last):

  1. October 5:  Acorn Day, O’Neill Regional Park, 30892 Trabuco Canyon Rd., Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  2. October 12:  Laguna Beach Smart Scape Expo, 306 Third St., Laguna Beach, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Only 64 buckwheat plants available).
  3. October 17:  OCCNPS Chapter Meeting, The Duck Club, Irvine, CA,  from 7 to 9 p.m.
  4. October 19:  Orange Home Grown Education Farm, 356 N. Lemon St., Orange, CA 92866, from 10 a.m. to noon.
  5. October 22-24:  Roger’s Gardens, 2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Corona del Mar, CA 92625 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m
  6. October 26:  Tree of Life Nursery, 33201 Ortega Highway, San Clemente, CA, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  7. November 1:  Roger’s Gardens, 2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Corona del Mar, CA 92625 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  8. November 1:  Fullerton Arboretum, 1900 Associated Rd., Fullerton, CA, 92831, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  9. November 6:  San Clemente Garden Club, St. Andrews Church recreation room, 2001 Calle Frontera, San Clemente, CA 92673, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

    St. Catherine’s lace decorates a patio area.