Sunday, November 29, 2015

Work Project

Prunella vulgaris, Sedum album, and others surround a moss-covered rock
Earlier in the year some of you may recall when I mentioned I was doing some landscaping at my work, a large cabinet manufacturer in Grants Pass. I had gone to the General Manager (remember, it is a plant with 800+ employees and two shifts) and suggested that I could fix the horrible mess outside. What I was referring to was the vast expanses of bare compacted clay around some boring and apparently struggling landscaping plants. Particularly in front of the main office where all the corporate exec's enter when they come to audit the plant, there were large areas of rock-hard clay which had been used as a walkway (employees had been walking through these areas for at least a decade). I had a plan, and the GM was willing to pay me to execute it.

In progress
This is the oldest photo I have of one of the sites. I brought the rocks in and the company paid for the gravel. The gravel has two purposes: first to serve as a walkway and landing pad for an existing bench, second reason is to hide a large slab of concrete that was the cap to the old well which has been out of use for decades. A third reason, more of a bonus, is that it brings the area up to grade with the cement sidewalk. In Winter this area has historically turned into a mud pit as the compacted clay softens and sticks to shoes like glue. For some reason, people still walked through it.

Nandina and Arctostaphylos
I took this photo as an example of the existing landscaping. Most everywhere is strewn with patchy sections of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi and filled in with a variety of boring shrubs like Nandina, Euonymus, and Escalonia with a few trees (mostly Prunus hybrids and a few Acers). Bare patches are everywhere. Part due to the poor growing conditions (much of the landscaping is in the parking lot) and the fact that much of it is walked on. This is another reason I created the gravel path, I don't want to fight the nature of people.

A few years ago, before I started this project, the Excalonias here were vastly overgrown and also partly dead from an exceptionally cold Winter we had experienced. Before they died back, they had grown over the Arctostaphylos, killing it in spots. At my request, a landscaping crew was paid to cut the beasts back. The results are seen here, boring mounds of green with a lot of death inbetween. I planted some Stachys byzantina and Hemerocallis here to see if they would fill it in. Time will tell. Also planted here is hundreds of Crocuses of different species, mostly sieberi and chrysanthus.

This is another corner that was completely devoid of life. Being a dry hot site that receives the full baking afternoon sun in Summer (and the radiant heat from the metal walls of the facility) I decided it would be best planted with some really tough plants. Rocks are used strategically to persuade corner-cutters from walking over the planting, as well as adding a rock garden feel to it. The spot is planted with hundreds of Crocus, Sedum album, Sempervivum, Stachys byzantina, and Kniphofia (which I grew from seed). There are also a few Alliums in the back with the Stachys.

Iris chrysophylla
My dream is to incorporate some natives into the planting. This Iris grew spontaneously in a seed pot at my house. Being a native it is one of the toughest plants in the entire planting scheme so if an obvious choice for this site. I'm also growing a native Monardella to plant here sometime next year (and a few other surprises).

Stachys byzantina
Stachys byzantina is an easy plant, very forgiving. If it is happy, it will produce the purple fuzzy flower spikes. If not, it adds a nice contrast to the existing plants.

Returning to the side with the gravel path, this is the corner planting. The existing substrate was the compacted clay, which I tilled by hand with a pickax, before bringing in sand to top it. I then planted Stachys byzantina, Allium cernuum, Iris germanica, Sedum album, and a seed grown Agapanthus. Of course, there are also a ton of Crocuses here too.

The sign reads "PLEASE BE RESPECTFUL, WALK AROUND!!!!!" because someone would literally walk through the planting, even going so far as to step on the plants themselves. I could tell because there were giant footprints in the sand. This is why we can't have nice things. I wanted to use profanity on the sign but felt it wouldn't be worded sharply enough. (Update: some jerk is still walking through it as of 12/3)

This large stone broke in half in my struggle to acquire it from an abandoned quarry near my house. The split has given me the opportunity to plant some Crocuses and Sedum within it. Should be interesting.

Opposite the path, more StachysIrises (which haven't come into growth yet), and Crocus. Strategic rock placement has curbed corner-cutters (see what I did there?)

Prunella vulgaris
Prunella vulgaris, an Oregon native, is happy here under a dwarf Acer. Given the right conditions and it will flower continuously from Spring to Autumn. It will also spread out. A good, easy, and highly underused landscaping plant.

In a shaded area under a dwarf Acer I brought in a few mossy rocks. The moss is interesting and adds something special to the planting. The use of aged rock has a lot of advantages, and makes it look like thought was put into the project. People like this kind of stuff, it adds a covert level of interest for those willing to look for it.

Viola odorata
Sweet violets are another easy plant that lends itself well to this planting. They will seed around and spread, eventually forming a carpet of blue, white, or pink flowers in Spring (and a few in Autumn).

Abelia is one of the existing plantings that I actually agree with. It is planted on both sides of the main office entrance and kept tidy. The flowers appear over a long period and are attractive to honeybees, whom I see visiting it often.

A few views of this (nearly) complete landscape. The sand patch to the left of the bench will be planted with something in the near future, and the poorly located rose leaning over the sidewalk has since been removed. It's going to be nice, and is a huge improvement over what it used to be.

I will show off these plantings again in Spring when the Crocuses bloom. Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 22, 2015


Honeybee hive, guarded by watchful eyes
It's been wet and cold, and I am becoming aware of the actuality that we will be in this for months. Temperatures in the day have been in the fifties (F) at most, and the angle of the sun is such that our house only receives a few hours of direct sunlight, which is otherwise blocked by the trees. Most nights bring with them some frost, and even ice in a few parts of the yard. Some areas will not get any sunlight until Spring. Bees are no longer active, too wet and cold for them now. In days where the temperatures will rise above something like fifty-five degrees (F) they will come out to relieve themselves (they are in fact quite sanitary when possible), and even to drink water. Hopefully they have collected enough resources to get them through the Winter. I had split the hive into two earlier this year, which led to the discovery of chalkbrood (Ascosphaera apis, a fungal infestation with no known treatment) in the hive. I didn't take any honey from the affected hive, hopefully they will get through just fine and come out stronger next year. I may give both hives some dry sugar just to make sure.

Mornings here (and during the entire day that this entry was posted) have been looking like this. I had literally just opened the back door and took these pictures (it was 7:00AM Pacific Time). I love this, being a fan of sci-fi horror, as it reminds me of The Mist (the 2007 movie based on the book by Stephen King). I expect to see a giant monstrous behemoth (like this) emerge from the trees, omnipotent and invulnerable to our desperation, only to disappear once again into the invisible horizon.

A few things remain in flower, though I'm not certain that they are of use to bees in the state of the weather as it stands. If the bees can make it outside, they will have a few things to forage, however meager, if they so choose.

Raphanus sativus
The common radish is excellent to keep around, even better if it is allowed to seed around. I would keep a watchful eye on it in coastal or otherwise mild/damp climates as it is invasive where it escapes the garden. In Bandon, on the coast of Oregon, (and surely countless other places) it grows in large drifts on the coastal buffs, stealing valuable terrain for what could be rare or uncommon beach natives. Radishes were domesticated thousands of years ago, so it is only likely (but not for certain) that they came from Southeast Asia. Letting them flower is not good for the root, which becomes woody at this point, but the crispy seed pods are delicious and mildly spicy. Good on a vegetable platter!

Verbascum thapsus
The infamous common mullein (known by some unfortunate people as cowboy toilet paper!) is one of my favorite pests. They are quite prominent figures in the garden, having attractive and gigantic (occasionally up to three feet wide) rosettes the first year or two, then flowering to a towering eight feet or taller before setting a billion long lived seeds and dying. I have seen honeybees work the small random flowers in the mornings in past years, but none this year (though I was busy, I just didn't have the time). This individual was feeling ignored so leaned out to say, "Hey dude, look at me!"

Verbascum thapsus
Borago in strawberry bed
I was surprised to find all this borage still in bloom in the strawberry bed in our vegetable garden. This would no doubt be an excellent resource for any bees willing to venture out. This annual is not frost tender, but it will die in the first hard freeze and will certainly not survive prolonged ice or snow. There will be a ton of seeds and next year I'll probably have a bunch of plants in the path (which is just fine).

Borago officinalis
The flowers are sweet and cucumber like when eaten. I have repeatedly offered them to my daughter, but the response is "that's yucky."

Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus'
The first year I have seen blooms on the rosemary, it continues to flower although I am sure the flowers are not durable enough to endure a freeze. Honeybees do work it, but it gets so little direct sunlight right now that it is not of any value to honeybees (who prefer flowers in the sunlight, understandable in cold weather).

Aside from flowers, a lot of other interesting things are going on with the increase in moisture. Fungi are a sign of a biologically active soil. Rot is an essential part of life. When plants and animals (including microfauna, insects, et cetera) grow they absorb, , use, and create a wide range of stuff that is mostly carried around until they cease to be alive. Fungi, as well as millions of microscopic arthropods, bacteria, protozoa, and a range of other organisms are the greatest and often some of the very least appreciated of the world's recyclers, feeding on the dead and decaying organic matter left behind. There is a constant seething mass of life in a handful of healthy soil, everything trying to eat something else whilst simultaneously trying to defend itself from the imminent death machines which are their neighbors. This is probably where many of the worlds antibiotics come from as antibiotics are naturally produced by fungi (penicillin et al) and soil bacteria (tetracycline et al) as a defense against fungi and bacteria that would otherwise eat them.

Panaeolus sp.
Mycena strobilinoides (?)
Hericium erinaceus
Hericium is a genus of edible mushrooms called lion's mane or bearded tooth fungus. I've seen them before, always on dead or dying wood. They are reputed to taste like fish. No idea why I couldn't convince Anna to taste it.

Mold attack
Interestingly, this mushroom seems to be under attack by some type of blue/grey mold. Hopefully the beautiful icicle-like fungus can send out some fertile spores before it is devoured by the mold.

Rubus laciniatus
The cut-leaf blackberry, a Northern and Central European native (invasive here in America), is a less aggressive and more attractive of the handful of nonnative blackberries here. The berries, in my opinion, are sweeter and better tasting than the infamous Rubus armeniacus, anthough R. laciniatus grows smaller and produces fewer berries. The leaves of all the blackberries are attractive up close (and even from afar, but for some reason not in between) as they change from green straight to red. For those trying to rid themselves of these invaders, now is the time to apply herbicide if that is your way. I am normally opposed to such extreme measures but blackberry is surely the exception as the living plants are far more destructive in the long run.

Rosa eglanteria hips
A nonnative rose, Rosa eglanteria, has produced a lot of hips this year. It flowered well, too, partly because I did not mow it over when I mowed the field behind our house earlier in the year. It is far less aggressive than the blackberry, and I would not be upset to see a few more of these plants in the field. Currently, there is one. The flowers are an excellent pollen source. There is no definitive [published] evidence that roses produce nectar. Not to say that there aren't other floral secretions. The scent alone could be an attractant for pollinators, possibly a form of deception?

Diplolepis rosae
This rose is covered with galls. They are produced by a tiny gall wasp, Diplolepis rosae. Like the oak gall wasps seen here, these wasps live only to mate, produce eggs, and die. The tiny stingless wasps use an ovipositor, a bit like the one used by the alien queen in the movie Aliens (1986) and the facehuggers of the same series (I am a nerd), to inject the eggs into the immature leaf nodes of the rose. Some sort of chemical secretion distorts the growth of the leaf buds into this fuzzy mass which the dozens of small larvae live in until emerging some time later (weeks or months, I do not know). Not enough is known of the small wasps to know if they serve any role as a pollinator. They have been said to be the pollinators of some orchids (source).

Juniperus sp. male cones
A male specimen of some type of juniper, I am not familiar with the taxonomy of this genus (along with many trees, particularly gemnosperms) so I am unaware of the species, or if it is even native here. The tiny male cones produce pollen through Winter, and I have suspected honeybees may occasionally or rarely collect pollen from it. Pollen of conifers is relatively low in protein content compared to most angiosperms (which include the majority of insect/animal pollinated plants). Noting that conifers are predominantly wind/gravity pollinated, it makes sense that the plants that required pollination by an animal/insect would evolve more nutritious pollen to further entice the creatures they have become dependent on for survival. (See sources: A and B)

Juniperus sp. bark
Can anyone identify this juniper? This bark is of the same tree as the scales and male cones above.

Hypochaeris radicata
Last but certainly not least (especially with the billions of new seedlings appearing, yeesh!) is the infamous Hypochaeris. I hate it. But the bees love it, so I can just deal with the fact that I do not have the time to deal with it. Eventually, maybe in a thousand years, equilibrium will be achieved in nature and we'll have figured out how not to spread around invasive species. Or we'll be extinct. Yup.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Just today as I write this post I have received some seed from the Pacific Bulb Society seed exchange, a member supported seed and bulb exchange program available only to Pacific Bulb Society members. Seed is the best way to introduce plants into your garden primarily because the seedlings that survive will be the best suited individuals for your gardens conditions. Also of some importance is the source of the seed, by which I am talking about the conditions and climate of the parent plants. Some species can be very widespread and live in both mild and harsh (by comparison) climates, yet still have nearly identical DNA enough to be considered the same species. If the seed is from parent stock in a mild climate, such as a maritime climate, I would question its ability to perform well here in my garden. Bloom times can also vary considerably depending on the locally adapted species (by locally I mean one population as compared to another far away). Fritillaria affinis is one such widespread species which varies considerably in growth habit, flowering time, and perhaps even hardiness though I have not had the experience to test the last claim.

Zigadenus fremontii seed
Toxicoscordion fremontii (Torrey) Rydberg seed
Toxicoscordion fremontii (syn. Zigadenus fremontii) is native to Coos and Curry Counties in SW Oregon south to Northern Baja California. It is found growing on grassy and wooded slopes and flowers from April to June, according the the newly published Flora of Oregon. Part of my goal is to have an easy yet interesting garden. Toxicoscordion is very appealing to me because all parts of the plant are highly toxic (above and below ground), so no protective caging is required! This has unfortunate consequences. We have been lucky that we have never had an issue with our daughter putting things in her mouth, but we are expecting another daughter at the start of next year (woohoo!) so we must be vigilant in teaching her not to eat plants (unless they are vegetables, of course). The second concern, albeit mild in comparison to the first, is that the nectar and pollen are both toxic to bees. The paradox is that Toxicoscordion and related Anticlea (both included in the former Zigadenus) have been observed to be bee pollinated. There is surely a lot we do not know about this strange anthecological relationship.

Acis autumnalis seed
Another plant that may be too toxic for herbivores is Acis autumnalis (syn. Leucojum autumnale) which is a member of the Amaryllidaceae, a family that is supposedly toxic but perhaps only variably so. A. autumnalis is native to  the Iberian Peninsula and grows to 4-8 inches tall. It is an Autumn blooming species, which for me is a great asset and a highly desirable plant. I had acquired a few small bulbs of this species a few months ago from the PBS bulb exchange, but the somewhat recent vole activity at the site of their planting has made me question their resistance to herbivory. Either way, I thought it would be interesting to try the plant from seed to grow a strain best adapted to my garden. The resulting plants will be caged or kept in pots.

Allium carinatum ssp. pulchellum f. album seed
This Allium, not from the SX but rather from my own garden, has been a good performer and easy to grow, yet was taken out by voles earlier this year. Luckily I had collected a ton of seed. Cages. They will survive. All the seeds seen above were sown at or near the surface (I sprinkle the seed then aggitate the surface with my finger before tamping and topping with grit), labeled with durable aluminum labels (complete with species, date, and SX# if applicable) and placed either out in the open or under lights. The resultant seedlings (hopeful thinking!) will be fodder for a future post... grow strong, little seeds!

Road Trip

Mt. Shasta
So I have now as of November fifth reached a threshold that has for my entire life seemed a lifetime away. I have after three decades reached the age of 30 (see what I did there?), both relieved and disappointed to be out of my "twenties." Just a number I suppose, but it is a tick in the clock of life that chills me to the bone. It is a reminder that I cannot wait to fulfill my dreams until I'm ready or some other excuse, but to work towards them now, as I have been doing with this blog and various other activities.

Mt. Shasta panoramic
One such activity that I have been wanting to do is to take my family to the Bay Area in California. Specifically I wanted to go to Marin County to visit my parents and revisit one of the many places that make up the chaos that was my life. We drove down on a Friday and returned on the following Monday. It was brief but we made the most of the time. On our drive South we stopped at a rest area by Mount Shasta to have lunch and stretch. That area is beautiful, the rolling hills surrounding Shasta are dotted with volcanic debris creating islands of rocks among what is now used as cattle land. It stirs the botanical adventurer in me to wonder what types of flowering plants are native to such a landscape?

Ericameria nauseosa
While our stop was brief, I was able to briefly examine a single specimen of rubber rabbitbrush. Ericameria nauseosa, my best guess as the identity, was very common in the landscape surrounding Shasta. It filled entire fields and dotted distant hillsides as far as I could see. They had all set seed (I wish I had collected some of it!) but there is no doubt in my mind that it was teeming with pollinators at the peak of its bloom.

Ericameria nauseosa
The seeds are apparently distributed by wind, as suggested by the fluffy pappus. This is common in the Asteraceae, of which it is a member. This is one of the thousands (no doubt) of species of in the sunflower family that would confound those who aren't familiar with the taxonomy of the family. This species produces no ray florets (the "petals" of a daisy: stereotypical of the Asteraceae). Each inflorescence is composed of five tubular disk florets. Like Solidago and Euthamia, the individual inflorescences are borne in a dense multi-branched panicle (or perhaps more accurately a compound corymb, or both) creating very large mostly flat-topped inflorescences. Exerted stigmas while the plants are in flower receive the pollen as soon as the pollinator lands.

Ericameria nauseosa
It was interesting to compare the seed on different parts of the bush. Some had already dehisced while other flowers seemed to have been younger, perhaps in flower only a week or two prior.

Ericameria nauseosa

Many hours of driving led to our inevitable arrival at the hotel in Marin County. The next day, Saturday, we went to the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens where I met up with some family that I had not seen in quite a while. My daughter had a great time. Nothing makes me happier and more content than to make my daughter happy.

The gardens of the San Francisco Zoo are filled with many interesting African and Australian plants, little that would survive outdoors in our harsh Southern Oregon zone 7 climate. But I enjoy opportunities to see a different mix of flora, particularly when I am unable to recreate the effect at home. A little bit of context: the SF Zoo is literally located across the street from the ocean, so it benefits from the cool currents of the Pacific Ocean. Considered a cool-summer Mediterranean climate, San Francisco typically reaches a max of around 80°F and dips to 50°F (record  27°F) in January. This marks San Francisco under the USDA 10b Plant Hardiness zone, perfect for many tropical plants.

Leonotis leonurus
Leonotis leonurus, AKA lion's tail or wild dagga, is a relative of mint from South Africa, where it is surely pollinated by sunbirds (African relatives of hummingbirds) and Lepidoptera. Hardy to 20°F, it would not survive my garden but is close enough that it is occasionally sold at nurseries. The plant is used medicinally, the breadth of its usefulness described on this page: Horizon Herbs: Wild Dagga.

Protea magnifica (?)
The magnificent Protea from South Africa (naturalized elsewhere) are prevalent in the SF Zoo and represented by countless species and hybrids. This very tall specimen of what I am somewhat certain to be Protea magnifica (please correct me if I'm wrong) caught my eye when I observed these two pollinators visiting this single flower. I know very little about Protea, except that they are very rich in nectar. They are so rich in nectar that they are known as sugarbushes in the vernacular. I had read somewhere that the flowers were so rich in nectar that they were once collected and boiled down in a pot of water and filtered to create a very sweet and edible syrup. In fact, I found a recipe here.

Protea magnifica (?)
The two pollinators, one a honeybee and the other some sort of vespid, were apparently oblivious to each other and to me.

Protea magnifica (?)
Protea flowers are made up of many individual florets surrounded by large colorful bracts. I am curious if the "fluff" is part of the stigma or has some other function?

Clivia miniata
The envy of many gardeners I am sure, the SF Zoo boasts large plantings of Clivia. Most were not in bloom at the time, but a few were. The large waxy flowers were in odd salmon-orange shades. These are strange members of the Amaryllidaceae because they do not form bulbs and they prefer shade. Instead of bulbs they grow from fleshy roots. Clivia are expensive in the horticultural trade, from $40 and up for plants and often over $5 for a single seed!

Clivia miniata
Most Clivia species are pollinated by African sunbirds, yet Clivia miniata is speculated to be insect pollinated (I suspect both). Various bees and flies have been seen visiting the plants (read this). Flies make sense, being more active in the shade than bees. My best guess is that the flowers of C. miniata are open and available for any pollinator, maybe even beetles. The truth, at least in the United States, is that the most likely pollinator of the species is humans resulting in the countless hybrids and selections available from specialists.

Limonium perezii
Perez's sea lavender, as it were, is native to the Canary Islands. It is also naturalized along the Southern California coastline. I have seen it in La Jolla CA, where it has integrated itself among the beach flora. Not at all related to true lavender (Lavendula), it has thick fleshy [mostly basal] leaves and grows from a woody rhizome. The flowers open purple and age to white.

Limonium perezii
This butterfly was actively moving from floret to floret, despite being irritated by my presence.

Hemerocallis hybrid
Daylilies had their place in the SF Zoo gardens as well. Being moth and butterfly pollinated, I was tempted to sell this fly as a possible pollinator although it is much more likely it was taking advantage of the heat reflected by the flower than by the floral rewards.

Helichrysum sp.
One of the countless "dusty millers" with downy leaf surfaces and tiny yellow buttons that are the inflorescences held well above the foliage can be found within the genus Helichrysum. These are actually members of the Asteraceae, which is not that hard to believe when viewed up close. The inflorescences are similar to sunflowers and other "daisies" by having ray florets on the outside and fertile disk florets in the center, the latter of which opening last.

I must remember that these individual sunflower-like inflorescences are around ¼" across. Scale is one of the challenges of photography, particularly when the subjects are botanical, because the uninformed could easily assume that the scale is far off from the reality. In other forms of photography this is a great asset, misleading the viewer into a perception that does not really exist in the real world. For me, I like to make small things big in a photo in order to fully appreciate the intricacy of its structure and perhaps gain insight about the way it functions. A photo can help me experience the natural world. There is elegance in the tininess of the reproductive machines that are flowers.

Azalea rutherfordiana 'Alaska'
Rhododendrons were planted all around the Zoo. Many weren't in flower, and had probably flowered earlier in the year or in Spring. This selection (hybrid?) was in full bloom. The floral morphology (exerted reproductive structures) suggests a pollinator with long feeding parts, like the beak of a hummingbird or the proboscis of a moth or butterfly. However, like the Clivia, bees and flies have been recorded as the most common visitors and perhaps the most effective. Bumblebees are the most frequent floral visitors of the local Rhododendron occidentale, also known as the western azalea in the local vernacular. The bumblebees land and vibrate with such force that the pollen figuratively explodes into the air creating a small yellow cloud. The pollen then is attracted to the bee by a slight difference of the electric charges of the bee and pollen, the former positive and the latter negative.

Azalea rutherfordiana 'Alaska'
The leaves in this variety are interesting to me, far removed from the common varieties with large Arbutus-like leaves of most of the commercially available hybrids.

Gagea sp.
Gageas are a common sight in well planted landscape designs in the Bay Area. They are closely related to Iris and grow from rhizomes. They have thin Iris-like foliage and are mostly winter growing, except tend to be less hardy than Iris. The method of pollination is similar to Iris, pollen being picked up and subsequently deposited by the backs of bees rubbing under the style arms where the stigma and anthers are located.

The following photos are of some interesting plants which I know little about, yet still felt compelled to share with you. Each undoubtedly has a unique method of attracting pollinators. Being in the mild climate at the waters edge in San Francisco, the array of subtropical plants (they are wildflowers, somewhere) is fascinating and instigates my botanical imagination. Countless studies indicate vertebrates as the primary pollinators of many tropical and subtropical ecoregions. This isn't to say there aren't bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, beetles, moths, or other insect pollinators in those regions. I can visualize the potential for greater abundance of food in tropical climates for vertebrates, particularly the birds bats, rodents (yes, I said rodents), reptiles, and perhaps primates (yup, lemurs) that will serve as the pollinators. Where will your imagination lead you now?

Salvia sp.
Hedychium sp.
Bromelia humilis
Grevillea sp.
Callistemon sp.
Westringia fruticosa
Impatiens sodenii

Tulbaghia violacea
After the SF Zoo we had a day of fun at Bolinas, an off the beaten path beach that is not too far from Stinson (both north of the Golden Gate Bridge). There I first saw what I guessed was an Allium. Again, on a stop while on the long drive home I saw the plant again. Both times it was used in diverse landscaping schemes: first in a beautifully planted park at Bolinas, then in the parking lot of a hotel in Santa Clara. With the guidance of those who are more knowledgeable than I, I was given the proper identification: Tulbaghia violacea aka society garlic.

Tulbaghia violacea
Tulbaghia violacea grows from small bulbs, though it is evergreen and maintains permanent fleshy roots. All parts have a strong alliaceous scent, which led me to think it was an Allium. One feature that made me unsure was the presence of a corona, appearing as small appendages at the base of the perianth at the mouth of the floral tube. The seed pods also differ from Allium. They are another African native from the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, north as far as Zimbabwe. They are somewhat tender, so I'm not sure if they will survive my garden (though I did find a few unripe seed pods). Most of the clones I saw were of a dwarf variegated form, as seen here.

Tulbaghia violacea
A few must have produced some fertile seed, because the taller plants with darker green foliage appear to have been seeded directly into the variegated clump.

Tulbaghia violacea
SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute) wrote a good page on the species, including details of the species natural pollination ecology. Have a look here:

Nerium oleander
One more conspicuous angiosperm was seen for miles up and down the California Interstate. Oleander (Nerium oleander) is utilized as a median plant from close to the Mexican Border north to Corning and beyond on Interstate 5 (and surely other mass transit roads as well). For much of the drive it was in flower, and it flowers throughout the year, so it would seem they would be good pollinator plants, yes? But what I have learned is that they do not produce nectar, but instead use deception to attract pollinators. Only a single pollinator visit is required because the sticky pollen is aggregated into clumps, similar to an orchid the pollen is delivered as a grouping of pollen thus increasing the seed produced.

Nerium oleander with Aphis nerii
Upon inspection of a single flower, I discovered a family of oleander aphids, Aphis nerii (orange, toward the base of the tube). This could account for beekeepers observations of bees visiting the flowers of oleander. Aphids, like most sap-sucking insects, produce honeydew (their sugary poop) which is occasionally collected by honeybees and other pollinators in a dearth (when more preferred floral resources are unavailable). I speculate that these aphids may be an important facet to the anthecology of oleander, producing a [less desirable] reward for floral visitors. Meanwhile, the plant is saving resources by not producing nectar (a taxing resource in a droughty climate) and instead sustaining the life of the aphids. In a balanced ecosystem, say perhaps the oleanders native Mediterranean Basin range, the aphids would be kept in check by whatever their natural predator(s) are. Hmmm...

Then, hours later, we arrived back home.