• Spring discoveries: Two new natives

    by  • April 27, 2016 • California native plants, Wildlife

    Orange you glad to find two new CA natives in the garden?

    Yes, I am! A new bird and a new California native annual are discovered here in my garden in April.  New or just not noticed before?  Either way, I’m delighted!  And both happen to be shades of orange.

    First, what I thought was a Spotted Towhee, turned out to be an oriole!  A Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii. This is a pale orange, very noisy bird,…obviously confident wherever he finds himself.  So, in 10-15 years, this oriole hasn’t appeared in my garden so I was quite pleased to see and identify him.

    Bullock’s Oriole

    Bullock's Oriole, Icterus bullockii

    Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii

    Bullock’s Orioles dangle upside down from branches while foraging and weaving their remarkable hanging nests.


    Bullock's Oriole, Icterus bullockii

    Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii

    Adult males are flame-orange with a neat line through the eye and a white wing patch; females are washed in gray and orange.

    Bullock's Oriole (3)

    Bullock's Oriole, Icterus bullockii, male and female

    Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii, male and female

    I had heard that orioles in the mid-West like fruit and jelly, so I halved an orange and he proceeded to completely ignore it after a first look.  “What?  Are you kidding?” he seemed to say.

    He contented himself with a bath for himself and his mate.  I’m so glad to welcome this ornamental oriole to my world here.

    Sulfur Pea

    The second discovery is also orange or a rusty gold.  I found a bright spot in the natural meadow on my walks with Maggie and was, at first, too busy to be very curious.  But when I stopped to look closely this third week of April,…yes, this is something new! 

    Sulphur pea1

    With a very distinctive leaf shape, Sulphur pea, Lathyrus sulphureus is a low airy blooming vine, winding through some Bear clover.  The leaves have a very pleasing shape,  pinnate, meaning opposite each other, with sharp points and an almost papery crispness.


    Sulphur pea2The flowers will remind you of a sweet pea flower, tiny, about the size of a dried white bean.  You can see the ‘pea pods’ forming already.
    Sulphur pea3
    I plan to collect seed if I can and spread this little gem in other dry areas closer to the main garden and along paths where it can be easily seen.


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.