The blooming season has passed for almost all the wildflowers. The spectacular flowers are gone. Often in their place are winter remnants with their own unique beauty – unpretentious and simple. Although more difficult to identify in the winter, the winter remains of stems, sepals and fruits provide clues to the plant’s identity. When uncertain I often note the location of the plant leftovers and return in the spring when leaves and flowers make identification less of a challenge.
Tongue clarkia (Clarkia rhomboidea) fruits are pod-like, curved capsules with four chambers holding small black seeds. This form reflects the four lobes of the stigma (top part of the pistil). The reddish remains of the upright capsules resemble little flowers along the stem. These winter leftovers were along Ash Creek between the Lower Campground and Dan Ryan Meadow (Modoc County CA).
An ovary with three cells and three stigmas matures into the three-chambered capsule of the mariposa lily (Calochortus macrocarpus). When mature, the light tan mariposa lily fruits are cylindrical, beaked and appear three-angled. Once opened the capsules reveal lens-shaped achenes (single dry seeds) stacked one atop another in each chamber. The trail to Symbol Bridge in Lava Beds National Monument (Siskiyou County CA) was littered with mariposa lily remnants.
Blue flax (Linum lewisii) plants growing along Forest Road 49, also in the Lava Beds, leave lovely remains that resemble dry, ecru flowers once the small, shiny brown seeds are released. The sepals and styles form these leftovers.