Gone are the spectacular wildflowers with their distinguishing features. What is left are remnants that look quite different from their flowering forms. These “leftovers” have a unique beauty of their own and are a challenge for the winter naturalist – or at least are for me.
Non-woody herbaceous plants die off completely or survive the winter by means of underground stems and roots. Any parts of the plants still standing above ground in the winter are dried remnants of stems, flowers, leaves and fruits. (The exception is biennials and winter annuals that overwinter as low-growing rosettes of living green leaves – another post.)
On our winter hikes Leonard and I try to identify these dried forms. Often we return to areas where we located wildflowers in the summer and see if there are winter remains. These examples are recent successes.
The common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) flower bracts remain in the winter as do the bracts or phyllaries of curlytop gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa). The calyces (sepals collectively) of yellow monkey flowers (Mimulus guttatus) remind us of those bright yellow summer flowers.
These sunflowers and gumweeds grow in our pastures near Lookout CA (Modoc County). Both flowers were photographed in August. The monkey flower blooms were photographed along Spring Creek in Collier Park (Oregon) while the calyx remnants were found at the Tule River boat launch near McArthur CA (Shasta County).
I am not very proficient at recognizing wildflowers in winter, but continue to learn.