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California wildflowers

Keith Robison robison1 at husc10.harvard.edu
Wed May 27 21:46:49 EST 1992


GELLMORE at PEARL.TUFTS.EDU (BIOHEAD) writes:

>Having lived in both CA and MASS, I wonder if the commercial bias 
>toward CA wildflowers is due to their less exotic reputation as pretty
>and seemingly non-allergenic. For example, one can list any number of
>attractive CA wildflowers, but how many can we list from the East?
>Goldenrod? Joe Pye Weed? Aster? My sense is that the East has fewer
>varieties of attractive species such as Lupines, Bluets, and Irises then
>than does CA, drenched as it is is MANY species of Lupinus, Mimulus, poppies,
>Larkspur, composites (Layia, Blenosperma), Limnanthes, Dodecatheon, and
>Orthocarpus. I think sheer numbers of conspicuously attractive species
>in CA greatly exceed those in the east.

The answer to this is to remember the types of habitats present in both
regions in pre-Columbian days, as well as what most people want in 
flowers.  The answer to the second question is that most people look
for flowers with long blooming periods and bright colors.  These
are (to a first approximation) the characteristics of grassland plants.
Hence, most of the popular wildflowers are natives of the great plains
and mountain meadows.
Since the NE was largely covered with woods, you'll find very few
such plants native to the NE.  Many northeastern plants bloom early and
briefly (trilliums, lady-slippers) and do not have huge showy flower
clusters.

	This is not to say that some real gems can't be found.
I have a personal fondness for great blue syphilitica and cardinal flower,
which I believe are NE natives.  Joe-pye weed is nice, but a bit big
for many gardens.   I recently visited The Garden in the Woods near
Framingham, and they had no problems displaying a lot of great 
northeastern plants (and they propagate and sell many of the species too!)
	On a related note, I have heard that the supposed allergenicity
of goldenrod is a myth.  Does anyone have any references either way?





Keith Robison
Harvard University
Program in Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

robison at ribo.harvard.edu 



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