Hiking near Burney Creek (Shasta County CA) I noticed drooping brown clusters on manzanita plants. From a distance I assumed these were fruit and flower remnants. But on closer inspection I realized they were clusters of embryonic flower buds, also called a nascent inflorescence.
Nascent inflorescences develop in the late summer or early fall and persist throughout the winter. In late winter and early spring these nascent flower buds form the nodding clusters of white to pink, urn-shaped flowers at the terminal end of flowering stems. I find it amazing that these exposed buds survive our harsh winters to become some of the earliest blooming flowers in the spring.
There are about forty species of manzanita in the West and many of the species hybridize. (There is one species in the East.) The manzanitas are difficult to identify to species, some being separated by the slightest differences in nascent inflorescence or other characteristics. Thus for now I will not classify these manzanita shrubs beyond the genus, Arctostaphylos.
The manzanita flowers that derive from the nascent inflorescences were photographed along the lower Pit River below Lake Britten (Shasta County CA).