California Buckwheat (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

California Buckwheat (sold)  |  Richard G. Tiberius

24 x 21 in | 61 x 53.3 cm

The best time to visit the semiarid Southwest of the United States and Northern Mexico is said to be after the rains, around February or March. During this brief wet season the deserts and coastal areas are ablaze with color. However, I had an opportunity to hike in this region in October, one of the driest months of the year.  As the last rays of the days sun were hitting the shrubs at a very low angle, the orange color of the shrubs was accentuated. The effect was striking.

But what could be flowering in October? On closer inspection I found that these rusty globes were the dry remains of what were once the white or pinkish flowers of California Buckwheat. Some of the flower heads were still white but most were a rusty color, greatly enhanced by the evening light.

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From an artistic perspective it was a perfect moment. The dry branches turned into bluish purple ghosts in the shadows offering a striking contrast with the brilliant orange. It was a study in dried flowers, an interesting change from the lush, dank swamps that I have been painting near Miami.

California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is the dominant plant in this area. It looked so dry that I wondered why the fires that frequent this region had not completely incinerated it. When I read about it I found that it is one of the earliest perennials to regenerate after a fire, providing food for birds and small animals and important in fixing the soil against erosion. California Buckwheat grows on the hillsides and coastal meadows from Santa Barbara California to Cabo San Lucas in Baja California. This particular clump lives in Griffith Park in Los Angeles County.

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