July 2003 Archives

The northeast slope of Mount Davidson supports a wonderful population of native wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs that, when planted at home, can enrich San Francisco gardens with a sense of local identity. This is also a botanical battlefield where mankind only recently has joined the fray.

Rocky soil and high winds mean only the toughest plants survive here. Stalwart coyote bush and close-growing huckleberry struggle for primacy in the shrub community, with tassel-blossomed Ribes sanguineum and golden-orange Mimulus aurantiacus bearing up between them. The massive bunchgrass Calamagrostis nutkaensis holds its ground against vigorous Festuca californica, while checker blooms, blue dicks, yellow violets and shooting stars patiently endure the siege of summer drought, emerging again after winter rains in kaleidoscopic color.

Of particular note to color-hungry gardeners, Dodecatheon hendersonii ssp. cruciatum (our local variety of shooting star) emerges in early spring, with spectacular primrose flowers of purple and yellow held aloft on foot-long reddish stems. Shooting stars remain largely unknown to mainstream retail nurseries like Sloat and the garden section of Home Depot, but specialty native plant nurseries often carry them -- try Bay Natives in San Francisco and Yerba Buena in Woodside.