Sunday, May 24, 2015

Floral Visitors 11

This certainly feels like a strange year, considering the mild Winter which rushed into a hot dry spell that instigated a burst of blooms from all sorts of plants, and now it has been raining for a few days! I can only assume that the conditions have been great for plants, because many have flowered better than any year that I have lived here. The pollinator activity has been very high, the insects rejoice in the bountiful harvest. Here is a much-too-small sampling of what I have been able to capture this week, a few moments of time meant to represent hours and days and thousands of pollinator and flower interactions, it's never enough!

The South bed
This is one of the raised beds that sits next to our house. The original planting consisted of two large coniferous shrubs, seen at the edges of the photo. Whatever was originally planted in between had died before we moved in, the space being inhabited by sheep sorrel and prickly lettuce. After removing the weeds, I amended the clay that filled the bed (the landscapers used clay for everything here!) with manure and had originally planted Centaurea cyanus, Calendula, and Eschscholzia californica. That first year I realized what I created was a jungle, though bees and other pollinators did appreciate it. I decided to tear all of those out, and over time planted Anchusa (the blue flowers), Echinacea, AlliumThymus (two types, along the front, bottom of the photo), Agastache, Gladiolus, Veronica (a dwarf variety), Sedum album, Hyssopus, and Coreopsis. Earlier in the year I showed Scilla, Muscari, and Crocus that were planted in this bed, now dormant. It seems like a lot, but the plants grow very happily together in a relatively tiny space. California poppy now grows in the gravel around the bed, which I tolerate because I think it's beautiful and better than the weeds that we get here (most notably Hypochaeris radicata, like a tall dandelion).

Thymus serpyllum with hidden fly
The creeping thyme has been a perfect addition to this south facing bed. The bed is built from concrete interlocking wall blocks, the type used for retaining walls, and the thyme cascades down the sides and hides the blocks wonderfully. Honeybees and flies love the flowers. Can you find the fly camouflaged in the photo?

Eschscholzia californica with solitary bee
In front of the South bed live a few large, almost shrub-like in their proportions, California poppy plants. They have perennialized, growing out of the intersection of the wall and the gravel. Small bees of many types capitalize on the abundant orange flowers, which close as soon as there is a shadow cast over them as the sun sets. I think they are mostly a source of pollen for the bees, possibly yielding some nectar too, though not in great quantity (or just not good nectar producers in this location/climate).

Hypochaeris radicata with solitary bee
Rough cat's ear is a European native that has invaded several countries including the United States. It is similar to dandelions (Taraxacum sp.) except it is much taller (flower stalks can reach two feet). Dandelions have hollow stems with deeply lobed notched leaves while Hypochaeris has mildly lobes, rough hairy leaves, and solid stems. I'm not sure if it is the same in other localities or countries, but the dandelions here flower very early in the year, around February I think, while the Hypochaeris is only starting to flower now. Despite this invaders tenacity and voracious spreading habit (through seed and division of root crowns), it is a very good resource for pollinating insects and even birds (once it has set seed). See the video below of a solitary bee visiting a flower:

A realization, and an afterthought: This video was filmed from inside the house through a window, and my wife and daughter were in the room too. I completely forgot to edit the audio, so you get to hear me daughter talk towards the end. My first thought when I realized this was "Oh crap! I have to redo it!" but then, many of you might not even have the volume turned up anyway. Also, why should I erase a cute recording of my sweet little girl? If you do not want to hear it, please turn your volume down. It's all good!

Allium amplectens 'Graceful' with solitary bee and fly
Planted in various beds and locations around the house and in the garden is Allium amplectens 'Graceful', a California and Oregon (possibly Washington) native of hot and dry openings. This selection appears very adaptable, though seems to flower better where it gets more sun. When planted in large groups, it attracts many many insects (good ones) like the photo above illustrates. It isn't the best picture because it was taken from inside the house through a window. Watching the pollinators working the flowers through the window makes it feel like a zoo exhibit, and I've always loved the zoo (I'm originally from San Diego, I practically grew up at the zoo, for those who know me it may explain a lot!)

Allium amplectens 'Graceful' with solitary bee
These bees are well adapted to pollinating these flowers. I watched over and over as they would move around to most if not all of the flowers on each umbel, searching for nectar. I'm hoping for a good seed crop this year, both for myself and to share with the Pacific Bulb Society Seed Exchange.

Allium amplectens 'Graceful' with fly
The sheer diversity of pollinating insects on this selection suggests to me that it is well adapted to this region. Many flies and bees, and possibly the odd moth or butterfly have visited these flowers in the past few weeks. The large flies seen in the photo of the thyme (top of the post) as well as the one in this photo as well as other tiny flies have been frequent visitors. The only time I have seen this much pollinator activity on a single flower source was when the fruit trees were in bloom. For those who love both bulbs and pollinating insects, this is a good one.

Iris pseudacorus with small wasp
Far away from home, a large patch of Iris pseudacorus grows in a ditch in front of a trailer camping resort. I shared this in a previous posting, but I felt it was worth including here again. Being an invasive species from Europe, yellow flag (as it is called) does not fit into our ecological web, particularly when it comes to pollinators. This small wasp (definitely not a bee, note the position of the wings and lack of pollen-carrying apparatus) is very much unsuited to pollinate the large flowers. Wasps generally have no interest in pollen, instead feeding on nectar. Unlike bees, most wasps only feed on nectar as adults, while they feed their young other insects, mostly just chewed up parts. Perhaps it is a good thing that these flowers aren't pollinated more efficiently more often, this would only increase their spread and facilitate the speedy takeover of more riparian habitats (I mentioned in a previous posting, this species likes very wet conditions, often in ditches and shallow creeks or pond edges).

Robinia pseudoacacia
The black locust tree, Robinia pseudoacacia, is worth mentioning here although I did not get the opportunity to photograph a pollinator at work (unless you count the tiny fly in the center). The trees are fully covered in drooping racemes of papilionaceous (pea-like) white flowers. Honeybees adore the trees, bringing in a lot of nectar to hives located close to the trees, also contributing to an early honey harvest for some. The trees are only in bloom for a matter of weeks before the petals begin to rain down with a snow-like effect, particularly beautiful when there is a slight breeze.

Symphoricarpos hesperius with honeybee
Otherwise known as creeping snowberry, Symphoricarpos hesperius is a generally under appreciated understory herb native to much of Oregon, Washington, and Northern California. For the longest time I had no idea what it was, having never seen it in flower (it is admittedly easy to miss). One day, I was taking a walk with my daughter up our shared gravel driveway and I heard the characteristic buzzing of honeybees, much louder than the typically silent solitary bees and much quieter than the loud distinct buzzing of Bombus or Xylocopa (the big bees). Just then, the movement of a bee in my peripheral caught my attention and I saw them.

This is one of those rare occasions when honeybees venture into the generally shadier parts of the yard, apparently highly attracted to a single plant. This is always special to me, because honeybees tend to avoid plants in shade, instead preferring plants in the sun, even if the plants are in both sun and shade. For example, clover may grow and flower in both sun and shade, but honeybees will usually prefer the flowers in the sun. This could be because flowers release scents unlocked by the warmth of the sun, or perhaps are better nectar producers in sunnier locations, compared to shadier sites. Symphoricarpos may have adapted to shade by being able to attract bees in the shade. Very peculiar, I am very pleased to see the bees interest in this otherwise easy-to-miss native.

Silene hookeri with syrphid fly
Silene hookeri, or Hooker's Indian-pink, is an attractive perennial native to Southwestern Oregon and Northern California. I have long wondered what types of insects pollinate it, but now I am fairly confident that flies are the most likely pollinators. On observing a group of plants on a warm day, I noticed a variety of flies visiting the flowers, and even moving from flower to flower! This kind of thing makes me very happy, mostly because flies in the garden are rarely seen as pollinators, or even acting like pollinators. Seeing flies practice flower constancy, much like a honeybee or other types of bees, is fairly rare.

Eriogonum compositum with beetle
On a trip with my daughter to a rest stop park close to our house, we came across this beautiful plant. It is almost carrot-like with white flowers held in an umbel, but it has six petals on each small flower instead of five, like all the plants in the Apiaceae (carrot family). I am not familiar with the genus Eriogonum, but have always admired it for the beauty of the inflorescences the different species possess.

Cistus with two bees
On the same trip with my daughter we came across a planting of Cistus and Lavendula. Small solitary bees were all over the Cistus, seemingly mostly for pollen. This flower had two bees, so it was obviously special. Bees typically don't like company when foraging and it is rare to see two in a single flower. This seems especially true with solitary bees, maybe less so with honeybees, but it really depends on the plant and how much the bees like it at the time.

Cistus with solitary bee
Most of the bees that work these types of flowers (open with many stamens projecting like Anemone, Rosa, and others) will move in a circle around the center crawling over the anthers, dislodging and collecting as much pollen as they can. While honeybees literally pack the pollen tightly into their "pollen baskets" (AKA corbicula) using a bit of nectar, solitary bees by contrast do not wet or pack their pollen in but instead collect it in scopa in a dry state. This method of pollen collection is much more efficient for pollination simply because it is more able to fall out onto the receptive stigma of a plant of the same species.

Kniphofia and Cistus at the Wildlife Safari in Winston, OR
Recently I took my family to the Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon. It was so much fun! It is essentially a drive through safari with many Eurasian and African megafauna like rhinos and giraffes, elephants, hippos, and many herding ungulates (hoofed animals). Also there was what could be considered a small zoo, and petting zoo. Throughout the premises were a diverse group of plants, including many geophytes! The large scale use of geophytes is always a surprise to me. The most abundant of the "lily-like" plants were the Kniphofias, often planted en masse like this photo illustrates. Honeybees were all over them, a surprise to me since I had never seen them to be so interested in these plants before.

Kniphofia with honeybee
It should be no surprise that honeybees have been able to work these flowers, both having species or subspecies from Africa. Though they are pollinated by African sunbirds, the honeybees seemed perfectly capable of accessing the nectar, though probably unable to effectively pollinate the flowers because of the position of the anthers. The protruding stamens are perfect for bird pollination, and I have in past years seen hummingbirds (distantly related to sunbirds) visit the flowers very frequently for the nectar.

Stachys byzantina with honeybee
Another surprise to me was seeing honeybees visit Stachys byzantina, AKA lambs ear. I have rarely seen honeybees show interest in it in my garden, yet they were working it eagerly at the Winston Wildlife Safari. Like other members of the mint family, Stachys produces little pollen. However, it also produces many many tiny flowers, so the chances of pollination increase. This pollen to flowers ratio is pretty consistent with many plants, think of the many Spring flowering bulbs who produce relatively few flowers per plant but correspondingly large quantities of pollen.

Rhododendron occidentale
Back at home, I have been noticing these attractive roadside beauties growing happily by a moist ditch on the side of the road bordering a densely forested area. The western azalea, Rhododendron occidentale, is a gorgeous and highly fragrant shrub. Bumblebees and Xylocopa (large carpenter bees) were gregariously working the fragrant blossoms, yet the location of the plants made it difficult to get a good shot of them, unfortunately. The ditch was fairly steep, and I had to try carefully not to slide down (into the poison oak thicket below!) But I did slide a bit, luckily not into the poison oak! The plants were growing with Physocarpus capitatus, which was just coming into flower. If I can remember I would like to try and collect some seed of these amazing rhodies to try them in my own garden!

Dichelostemma congestum with syrphid fly
Dichelostemma congestum, known affectionately as the forktooth ookow (the common name is of Native American origin, referring to the forked appendages surrounding the anthers) is in bloom now. Blooming much later than Dichelostemma capitatum, the two can also be told apart from the number of stamens, D. congestum having three fertile stamens visible, D. capitatum having six. The flowers are held on tall stalks, taller in my observation than D. capitatum. I've also noticed that when D. capitatum is in bloom, the grass is much shorter, and they are better able to hold themselves up. In contrast, D. congestum will almost flop over without support, practically requiring the tall grasses it grows with in order to stay upright.

Dichelostemma congestum with honeybee
Forktooth ookow attracts a wide variety of pollinators, including butterflies and flies. This photo is the record of the first time I have seen a honeybee visit the flowers. This photo was taken on a roadside patch of wildflowers, not too far from my house, that included Wyethia amplexicaulis, Chlorogalum, nonnative Centaurea cyanus, and Dichelostemma congestum.

Wyethia amplexicaulis
This is a beautiful sunflower relative, growing two feet tall with flowers two to four inches across. Solitary bees have been the visitors I have seen in years past, but in the few minutes I was there taking photos there were bumblebees. The seeds are apparently edible, somewhat like small sunflower seeds, that when roasted can be eaten like a snack.

Centaurea cyanus with honeybee
Centaurea cyanus, AKA bachelor buttons, are invasive here where they can get a foothold. Most of the time they are the blue-flowered variety, but in this patch were also these gorgeous intermediary colored forms. Honeybees and small solitary bees were working the flowers, consistent with previous year's observations.  

Centaurea cyanus
If this color form was sold more often, it would sell more than the blue-flowered form. Wow.

Centaurea cyanus with solitary bee
As a gardener, I am in a way attempting to "play god" on a tiny scale by gardening. Our desire to create aesthetically pleasing gardens can sometimes undermine the unimaginable complexity of the natural world, even considering plant ecology alone. My goal as a gardener has always been to give back as much as if not more than the garden gives me, if that is even possible. I think to be realistic about being a modern human is to realize that our figurative footsteps result in serious life-or-death consequences. Homes and roads alone take up immense amounts of spaces. Considering just how many plants can live happily in such a small space as my South bed (top of the post) which is less than ten feet by four feet wide, it is merely an imitation of what nature can accomplish. I cannot help but feel like a hypocrite, guilt from using roads and living in a house, not something that I am willing to change at this time. By gardening, I do not believe it is a fair trade, yet by acknowledging the fundamental inequality of human life as I know it I can live forward and make choices fair to all life. Plants and insects are some of the oldest life-forms on Earth, we as humans are the new tenants. Let us be polite guests to our gracious hosts!

Foothill Blvd., between Grants Pass and Rogue River in Oregon

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Iris chrysophylla
Though the typical "bulb season" has for most purposes past for most people, a number of bulbs are apexing or just starting to bloom now. Irises are in the spotlight now for many. The native Iris chrysophylla continues to bloom all around the region, though many of the flowers are being obscured by the lightning fast growth of the grasses which are now setting seed (much to the gardeners disdain!) thanks in part to the recent rain. These plants are perfectly adapted to growing with grasses which may in part protect them from browsing deer (as we move towards the dry season, the deer are willing to eat more diverse plants).

Iris chrysophylla anther and stigmatic lip
Irises are fascinating plants. They are one of the few plants whose leaves can photosynthesize on both sides, capitalizing on any sunlight that they can capture. The flowers are most fascinating, both from a casual and a botanical point of view. The true petals, or "standards", are often upright or sometimes hanging down (as is sometimes the case with Iris chrysophylla and others). The sepals are called the "falls" and are usually hanging down, often with intricate veining and nectar guides. The reproductive parts and pollination ecology are the most interesting aspects to me. Every Iris flower (as well as a few related genera, Morea for example) is separated into three symmetrical sections. Each section has an anther and a part of the modified, flattened stigma. The stigma is modified into three petal-like arms, which often share the color of the tepals.

Iris chrysophylla
Being bee pollinated plants, bees are meant to enter one of the chambers and brush its back on the anthers. Upon visiting the next flower, the bee will inadvertently scrape its back on the stigmatic lip before contacting the anther, depositing the pollen and possibly facilitating pollination. While this is ideal, some bees, often small bees that aren't the main pollinator of the species, will bypass the anthers and stigma altogether and go in from the side for the nectar. This is probably most often the case with non-native irises, either invaders or garden plants.

Iris × germanica 'Wabash'
This plant has an interesting history, both in the world and in my garden. Iris germanica 'Wabash' is an old favorite, having been introduced in 1936 and winning numerous awards for its simple yet beautiful and delicate flowers. In my garden, it has grown as a group of non-flowering plants in dry shade for over six years. Two Autumns ago, I finally broke up the neglected rhizomes and transplanted them to various sunnier locations. The part of the rhizome in the middle of the clump had no growth on it, and pretty much every resource on Iris maintenance says to discard this center section. Being the curious gardener I thought "What the hell, why not?" and planted the dead looking sections in the finest soil in a nearby raised bed. A year passed with no growth, until last fall when I noticed some leaf growth coming from what I thought should have been rotted remains of the rhizomes. Then a week ago, to my utter surprise, these flowers appeared! The funny thing is that this and another "I thought it was dead" section are outperforming all the other divisions!

Iris × germanica 'Wabash' beard and stigmatic lip
Iris × germanica is believed to be a natural hybrid from Germany, rather than a true species. It is one of the most common irises in cultivation, sold almost everywhere as a rhizome cutting in the fall along with Spring flowering bulbs.

Iris pseudacorus
Also known as Yellow flag, Iris pseudacorus is a wetland species native to Europe, and an invasive garden escapee in the United States. It grows in ditches, bogs, shallow pond edges, anywhere it can take root. The seeds float, and are spread by water. It's strange to me to think that an Iris can be invasive, compared to other invasive plants like the blackberry and mustards.

Iris pseudacorus anther and stigmatic lip
A view inside one of the three chambers, the long anther and the stigmatic lip are visible. The style arm protects the anther and the pollen from washing away in the case of rain. Also there are some solitary bees which are said to take night refuge inside some species of Iris flowers, possibly serving as true pollinators to them as well.

Iris pseudacorus and a small wasp attaining nectar
I was lucky to see this small wasp obtaining nectar from this flower. This illustrates the point I made above of how small floral visitors to irises will bypass the reproductive organs altogether to get to the nectar. Wasps do not collect pollen intentionally, and this wasp would have nothing to gain from moving higher up to where the anther or stigmatic lip reside. If I had to guess I would say bumblebees or other large bees would be the most efficient pollinators of this species.

Iris pseudacorus
Here the yellow flag is growing in a moist roadside ditch. The plants reach over three feet tall, some said to grow as tall as five feet! Being alongside a country highway between Grants Pass and Rogue River with cars rushing by at around 50 mph, the flowers still put on a colorful show and are highly visible to the passer-by.

Sisyrinchium bellum
An Iris relative in my garden is blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium bellum. The plants have iris-like leaves forming a grass-like open mound, these small (around an inch across) flowers at the ends of longish scapes. Though they may not be considered "showy", I still find the plants to be highly attractive. They are native to the West Coast, from California north into Oregon and beyond. I have never seen any floral visitors to these flowers, though I have read they do not attract their pollinators with pollen or nectar but instead by floral oils which are probably excreted at the base of the flower on warm days. Floral oils are produced by many genera in the Iridaceae (Iris family) to entice oil collecting bees to visit them and pollinate their flowers. I speculate that the flowers have some sort of self-pollinating mechanism, perhaps late-acting, to ensure reproduction since the seed pods are always packed full of seed.

Dichelostemma congestum
These small wildflowers, easily missed if you are not looking for them, are coming into bloom now here. Dichelostemma congestum is very similar to D. capitatum and can be differentiated by the shape of the appendages surrounding the reproductive parts in the center. In this species, the appendages are forked (thus the common name, fork-toothed ookow) while in D. capitatum the appendages are slightly rounded. The corms were used as a food by the Native Americans. Deer will also eat them, which may be why they have adapted to grow among tall grasses, setting seed and drying out at this time of year.

Triteleia hendersonii
Henderson's stars, Triteleia hendersonii, is coming into bloom in some surprisingly shady areas around our home. In my observations, the plants do not seem to grow in areas that receive the full Summer sun, instead preferring the edges of clearings, sometimes where there is little competition. There are only a handful of individuals in the areas I have found them growing. I have wondered if they once grew in masses here, but have since retreated to their current locations after decades of mowing and development by humans and deer herbivory.

Allium amplectens 'Graceful'
This is a nice onion, flowering well in the variety of locations that I have planted it in. It has done better in the sunny sites, though the true test of the growing success of bulbs is time. Alliums, like other true bulbs, form the next years buds this year so in essence their success depends on good conditions in two-year blocks, overlapping of course. The best growth from bulbs may be attained from two consecutive years of ideal conditions, the first year to form the buds, the next to flower them, and so on and so forth.

Allium oreophilum
This tiny onion packs a punch, the umbels proportionately larger than the plants themselves. I plan on growing many more of these in the future, from acquiring new bulbs to collecting the seed from my plants. 

Toxicoscordion micranthum
Smallflowered deathcamas (Toxicoscordion micranthum, syn. Zigadenus micranthus) is named for the smallish flowers, around 3/8" across, smaller than other species of Toxicoscordion I suppose. They are toxic, and were systematically weeded out by Native Americans where they grew in proximity to true camas, the genus Camassia. Camas bulbs were eaten by the Native Americans, and the bulbs of Toxicoscordion are said to look similar although the plants look almost nothing alike in flower.

Toxicoscordion micranthum
Last year I witnessed a single beetle on this plant which literally remained on the inflorescence for several days feeding on the pollen. I have not seen anything on these flowers yet this year.

Maianthemum racemosum
False Solomon's seal, Maianthemum racemosum, is a forest dweller with an international distribution. I recently found a small patch in a neighbors yard, a proud discovery for me (though it's just another plant for him). I guess not everyone has the same unhealthy obsession with plants as I do!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Garden Observations

Lupinus bicolor
This year, perhaps due to the mild Winter, has shown a marked increase in flower production of many plants. The annual lupine's, above, have been flowering in patches whereas last year I only found them as scattered individuals. Pollinator activity has also been good, but so has my work load (in all respects of life) so my availability to "catch them in the act" with my camera has been greatly diminished. It takes a lot of time to photograph pollinators on flowers, much of it seems to be luck. I have mentioned before that my presence alone may inhibit my chances of seeing any floral visitors to some plants, particularly when native bees are concerned. I have concluded that the best way to capture them is to walk around and try to catch them by surprise. In other words, waiting by a flower may be futile, as you yourself may be keeping them from approaching.

This web log (I really do not like the word "blog") has been as much for sharing with you what I have seen and learned as it is for my own personal records of what I have observed. In the past, I kept journals documenting my observations of floral visitation, but it proved cumbersome and difficult to keep up with, and ultimately I had to input all of my collected data into the computer anyway. Now, I am able to keep a good record of my observations in a way that is searchable. I hope you enjoy my random observations and comments, in reality these posts are a jumble of thoughts and memories of the recent past week or so that I have to struggle to organize and share in a coherent and hopefully pleasing manner (not a natural thing to do for some people, like myself). I only hope that you the readers can enjoy what is here and possibly take something from it, like a new perspective or something. At the core, what this is really about to me is the pursuit of continued optimism for the future, something that is challenged daily in the current world we live in (that is, if you follow the news). I hope to pass the optimism forward, so I hope you enjoy what is here!

Anchusa azurea
This is a species I grew from seed started last Spring from Horizon Herbs seed. Anchusa azurea, also known as Italian bugloss, is native to Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa, naturalized elsewhere. It is in the Boraginaceae, AKA the borage/forget-me-not family, and like most in the family is highly attractive to bees and is a good nectar producer. The flowers are about a half inch wide, five-lobed, with hairy trichomes (hairs) protecting the nectar. Bumblebees and, to my surprise, hummingbirds (!) love these plants.

Anchusa azurea
The plants grow to three feet in fertile moist (yet well drained) soil, but much shorter in drier soil. I planted several plants in several different locations to see how they would cope. Some were planted in dry soils and are now less than a foot tall in flower. One was planted in an irrigated bed on the SE side of the house (the hottest side) and is growing very well, two feet tall and flowering well (pictured above). Finally I planted one in a somewhat shaded irrigated bed on the NW side of the house, where it has reached over three feet tall and is now beginning to flower profusely. Time will tell how they cope, particularly in the summer. Some plants in the borage family tend to flop over once they start to set seed, so I may need to cut those ones to the ground once they do so. 

Delphinium nuttallianum
In a dry shaded area on the side of our shared driveway are a few individuals of this plant, Delphinium nuttallianum. or upland larkspur. The plants grow under pines, madrone's, and Arctostaphylos. This species is easily confused with D. menziesii, which it shares a close resemblance. D. nuttallianum differs from D. menziesii by distribution, the former is more common east of the Cascades while the latter to the west of the Cascades. This species also has more reflexed sepals and typically a shorter spur, though this may only be appreciated when the two are compared side by side.

Delphinium nuttallianum
Though I have not witnessed it myself, D. nuttallianum is surely likely to be bee pollinated, probably by relatively larger types of bees like Bombus or Eucera which would be able to pry open the petals to get into the flowers. The dense trichomes would also prevent smaller insects or short tongued flies from gaining access to the flowers.

Delphinium nuttallianum leaf
The leaves of the upland larkspur are highly attractive to me, appearing in late Winter. The highly divided lobed leaves reach around two inches across. While there may be a few leaves on the flowering stem, most of the leaves are basal (at the base). Stem leaves are smaller and less lobed, looking quite different than the basal leaves.

Leptosiphon bicolor
Bicolored flaxflower or babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor (syn. Linanthus bicolor), is an annual species native to the West Coast from Baja to British Columbia. It grows in dry soil with other tiny plants. Below shows how small they really are, in inches. The plants reach less than two inches in height.

Leptosiphon bicolor
Toxicodendron diversilobum flowers
Poison oak is in flower now. The tiny reflexed flowers resemble others in the Berberidaceae (barberry family). This group of flowers is about the size of a US quarter. Following the flowers, assuming they are pollinated, berries will form which are then spread by birds.

Toxicodendron diversilobum leaves
The leaves of poison oak are always in threes, less lobed than true oak (Quercus) but similarly reddish when they are newly emerged. The plants will grow as small mounds, sometimes reaching immense dimensions as six by six foot rounded shrubs (you wouldn't want to fall into one of those!) or as a parasitic vine clambering up neighboring oak trees. In the vine form, perhaps only spurred by the presence of a nearby tree, the plants grow up the side, sending roots directly into the bark.

Toxicodendron diversilobum with tiny bee 
Small red bees (possibly a type of wasp, I am not sure) have been highly interested in the flowers, seemingly for nectar. Normally I will get "up in there" with the camera, but I have not ever had a rash from poison oak and I would like to keep it that way for as long as possible, so the photo is a bit blurry. I did notice that these same bees (or whatever they are) were working the madrone flowers. I question whether they are bees or wasps because I do not see pollen carrying structures, but my inability to see them doesn't mean they aren't there.

Silene hookeri
This is a very variable perennial species, called Hooker's Indian pink. The plants can have white to deep pink flowers, with deep or shallow, thin or wide lobes. The plants in this area are like this one, light pink with fairly deep lobes. I would assume they are pollinated by moths based on their morphology (most Silene's are moth pollinated), but I have not seen this.

Epilobium minutum
A small barely noticeable community of the annual threadstem willowherb or desert willowherb (Epilobium minutum) in the gravel of my driveway. The reddish leaves of these plants (typically green) obscure them visually unless you are looking for them. The small flowers close as soon as they are in the shade, day or night. The plants have a vast distribution, from California Arizona (and maybe Mexico) north to British Columbia. They are typically prairie plants and are one of the first plants to flourish after wildfire. Perhaps it is because of the lack of competition after a fire that they grow so well, similar to the lack of competition on the gravel.

Lavandula stoechas
The Spanish lavender's are always in bloom long before the English types. In the past years I have only seen bumblebees on the flowers, but this year they have been covered with honeybees. The "flowers", or rather inflorescence's of Spanish lavender are interesting. The small dark purple parts on the sides are the true flowers, while the "rabbit ear" petal-like bracts on the top are actually sterile florets, perhaps to signal pollinators.  

Brassica oleracea, broccoli
Sometimes life gives you more work than you have time to accomplish (while still finding time to sleep and eat), as we were not on top of the garden maintenance and the broccoli bolted. The stalks, while still technically "edible" at this stage of growth, become tough and lose their sweetness (and this was some sweet broccoli). But it's no matter, the plants are covered in small flowers that I have recently observed small solitary bees working for nectar. This is why it is nice to be aware of the local pollinators, you will not feel as bad about accidentally letting your garden plants go to flower.

Alyssum montanum with skipper butterfly
I took this photo from inside the house, the garden bed here (my small rock garden) is located outside our bedroom window. This Alyssum continues to surprise me as it attracts yet a larger array of diverse pollinators. There were in fact two different species of butterflies working this plant at the time of this photo, yet this was the best of the pictures taken.

Vicia villosa
Though I have not seen any floral visitors on the hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) this year, it has been very popular with bumblebees in past years. It is also worth mentioning because it is covering entire hillsides at this time of year, being an agricultural escapee. Vetch's have long been used (like many "pea" crops) to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil in the form that plants can use. While there are many native vetch's in Oregon, this invader is one of the prettiest in my opinion.

Geranium macrorrhizum with ground nesting bee (possibly Eucera sp.)
Geranium's of all sorts (not to be confused with Pelargonium, often called "scented geranium") are blooming now. The most floriferous is G. macrorrhizum, a drought resistant, deer tolerant groundcover type that spreads slowly by rhizomes. The leaves have a slight "pine" smell when they are crushed, deer might not like it. When grown in large drifts or patches, bees of all sorts are attracted to the flowers. In fact, when the plants are done blooming, they can essentially be mowed down to initiate another bloom cycle, doubling the bloom season (for you and the bees).

Geranium sanguineum
Unlike Gerenium macrorrhizum, G. sanguineum (AKA bloody cranesbill) is eaten by deer, so I have it planted under some dead branches fallen from a hardwood tree. The branches act as a physical deterrent, blocking the deer's access to the "snack", as well as being an attractive garden feature in the Winter when the plants die to the ground.

Cornus sp. with fly
Dogwood's everywhere are blooming now, the tiny florets visible here are open and being actively pollinated. The most frequent visitors that I have observed were tiny beetles, as I predicted. Flies were next most common, while I did see a single small solitary bee foraging during a brief observation.

Syringa microphylla with large butterfly
When grown in full sun, lilac's are very attractive to a range of insects from bees to butterflies, as seen here. Bees will often "steal" the nectar by biting a hole at the base of the tube because most (if not all) do not have tongues long enough to reach the nectar. S. microphylla is easy to tell from S. vulgaris (below) by the flowers, more pointed and smaller in the case of the former compared to the latter. In S. vulgaris, the petals are wide and conceal the flower tubes.

Syringa vulgaris
Triteleia crocea
Triteleia crocea is native to Southern Oregon and Northern California. It is one of the many species of Triteleia here in the Rogue River area. Bees are the suspected pollinators of most Triteleia species, though there is a severe lack of evidence and documentation to support this. Interestingly, there is a small fly inside the flower on the right, and I do suspect in at least some cases, flies do contribute to the pollination of some species of Triteleia. Most of the closely related T. hendersonii in my yard set seed on almost all the flowers, signaling either efficient insect pollination regardless of infrequent pollinator visits, or possibly autogamy or apomixis are at work (self fertilization or asexual seed formation, respectively). If I had the time and resources I would set up cameras to record the plants for a few days of good weather to catch any pollinators "in the act".

Castilleja sp. (?)
Indian paintbrush, some of my favorite wildflowers, are coming into bloom now. They are semi-parasitic, obtaining additional nutrients from the roots of surrounding plants (trees or grasses, I am not sure which). They grow is a few small groups at the forest edge in a small area near our house. They are difficult for me to identify to the species level, I might have to dissect one to be sure and I'm not sure I'm willing to do that! They are likely hummingbird pollinated (or possibly moth/butterfly), based on the long red floral tubes (concealed in red bracts), typical morphology of bird pollinated flowers.

Calochortus tolmiei
Calochortus tolmiei is still in full bloom here, much more floriferous than in years past. Some plants I have seen have had at least four or even five flowers open at a time! I probably say this a lot, but this is one of my favorite wildflowers here. Seed pods (below) are forming now. The seeds develop quickly, and the pods open while still green making seed collection very difficult. In many native bulbs/corms, the pods open but do not automatically spill the seeds out like these do.
Calochortus tolmiei seed pods
Allium schoenoprasum with small bee
Also known as chives, this is one of the only (if not THE only) Allium native to both the Old and New World's. Incorrectly labelled as the "the smallest species of the onion genus" on Wikipedia (I can think of many that are smaller, including one in this post), it is a rhizomatous species that prefers regular garden soil that does not dry out, unlike some Allium species. Honeybees and small solitary bees were interested in the flowers. I have seen similar tiny blackish bees as pictures above on other Allium's in recent years, I will have to keep an eye on them to see if this species of bee is in fact the same type, and has a preference for Allium's.

Allium amplectens 'Graceful'
Allium amplectens is native to the Sierra Nevada in California and reportedly into Oregon and possibly Washington. I have not yet seen any floral visitors on this onion yet, though maybe as I grow my collection of ornamental onions, they will become more enticing to pollinators. My goal, over time, is to observe if Allium's differ in their attractiveness to pollinators, and if different types of bees or other pollinators have preferences for different species of Allium's.

Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation'
Allium hollandicum (syn. Allium aflatunense) is native to Iran and Kyrgyzstan, naturalized elsewhere. This is perhaps the most common of the ornamental onions, available wherever bulbs are typically sold in the Autumn. They do not seem to grow to well here, but it may be because I have them growing in a fairly dry area that doesn't receive irrigation consistently. I am sure this species needs regular moisture, as in a typical garden bed. I will have to remember to transplant it this fall.

I had collected some seed from this plant last year, and it germinated in late Autumn. The seedlings are still alive and well, and I am hoping they will stay alive until they reach flowering size which could be years from now. I was planning on collecting more seed, but my daughter, a flower lover as well, picked this flower ball a few days after the photo was taken (arg!), so no seed this year.

Allium trifoliatum 'Chameleon'
Allium trifoliatum is a pretty species native to much of the Mediterranean and north into France. This selection is on its way out, hopefully setting some seed for me to collect in the process. I did not see any bees visit the flowers, and the earliest individuals to bloom do not appear to have set any seed. I did however see some beeflies attaining nectar from them, though due to their disposition as "hoverers" there was probably a lack of contact between them and the anthers.

Allium oreophilum
Allium oreophilum is a small species from Central Asia, the smallest species I have (definitely smaller than chives!), though probably not the smallest species, reaches a height of five to six inches. I will attempt to collect seed from this as well, not surprisingly! Allium's are probably one of the easiest bulbs to start from seed, and to me a very rewarding one (though to date none that I have grown from seed have flowered). Seed scratched into the surface of the soil in a seed pot (no weed seeds, please!) in the late Autumn or Winter and left in the elements will most likely germinate well in the Spring, assuming it is one of the hardy species. The plants are not touched by deer, and at least here, not touched by rodents either. Hopefully next time I 'll have some more pics with floral visitors! That's all for now, cheers!