Early February finds the fields and hills full of floral promise. The wildflower season has just begun. In valley meadows, around vineyards, scattered daintily among chaparral, and in sunny oak woodlands the first baby-blue-eyes (Nemophila menziesii) are blooming. The open-cup flowers are semi-clasped in the rain, but on bright gray or sunny days, the cups display a blue the color of a clear sky.

In 2015, it was discovered that a white flowered Nemophila growing in Hopland, in Mendocino County was actually a distinct species. The foliage is brighter green, and the bright white, lightly freckled flowers are larger than the light blue species.

When crossed, seed produced between the two species is sterile. It was named Nemophila menziesii hoplandensis, and can be found on the valley floor, hills and at the Hopland University of California Research and Extension Center.

On sunny days, small native bees avidly visit both species.

This year’s abundant and almost incessant rain has provided excellent conditions for many early spring wildflowers that grow in shady and damp conditions. The mottled green and deep burgundy leaves of the fairy-like California fawn-lilies (Erythronium californicum) are emerging strongly. The broad-leaved shooting stars (Dodecatheon hendersonii) floral stalks are beginning to elongate from the waxy rosette of leaves. Shooting stars grow on shady, moist banks and have exquisite deep lavender to magenta flowers, with black stamens thrust strongly out and the magenta petals flared back.

Kate Frey can be reached at: katebfrey@gmail.com. On Twitter @katebfrey. Or visit her at freygardens.com

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