Friday, September 5, 2008

Scrophularia californica
- California Bee Plant

Today (September 4), we collected the fine black seed of California figwort, or California bee plant, Scrophularia californica. In the class of large perennials that go dormant in the late summer/early fall, California bee plant astounds me with its ability to rise up through the most trying circumstances, such as a smothering cover of cape ivy, that nasty vine considered the kudzu of the west, which easily eliminated shrubs and trees in the vacant lot next to our Demonstratiion Garden. The only other plant in sight was California bee plant.

When bee plant turned up in my courtyard garden, it was so attractive, with its large fresh green leaves and small but beautiful deep red flowers that I allowed a mass to flow around an old stump. I cut it to the ground every fall and enjoy its return with the winter rains. It spreads through underground rhizomes as well as seeds, but is easily contained by simply pulling unwanted plants straight out of the ground. They give up in a mannerly fashion.

The flowers backlit glow ruby-red, and though not usually considered for the native plant garden, it should be. Maybe the seeds are edible, as the seed of so many native species are. (I’ll let you know). Easy to grow, and the bees will thank you.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

According to LifeGarden (their Pollinators and Flowers web page), the bee plant is pollinted by butterflies.

Bee plant is a caterpillar plant for the variable checkerspot and for the common buckeye butterflies.

A U.C. Davis web page "Impact of Honey Bees on the California Environment" says honey bees are among its pollinators and another U.C. site listing Pollinators for northern California notes bees and hummingbirds as the prime pollinators attracted to bee plant flowers.