Redemption and Wildflowers

Just a quick Lagniappe (aka A Little Something Extra) Edition of BigLittleMeals.  As a follow-up to our Sonoma fire stories, we want to share with you the flowers that also follow-up fires.

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This and the 3 photos above were taken Sunday on our drive up the single-lane Nun’s Canyon road near our home.  Nun’s Canyon was the starting point for one of the four main fires in Sonoma this past October.  All of the black-ish wood pictured is burned wood.

Jeanne Wirka, who is Director of Stewardship and the Biologist at Bouverie Preserve – which suffered terrible damage to its 535 acres in the October fires and where Andy is a docent – gives a good overview in this newspaper article, which also has some great photos of the rebirth of flowers in our area.  Her article is also a perfect follow-up to our last blog on poetry.

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Eschscholzia californica – California Poppy


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Papaver californicum – Fire Poppy

Jeanne, thinking of the darkness and then the light and the beauty that has followed the fires, finds inspiration in the poem, “Poppies,” by Mary Oliver.  Admittedly, since my traumatic experience in my 20th Century Lit class, I’ve not been a big poetry fan, except maybe for Mona Van Duyn.  Van Duyn’s poem “Letters from a Father” still resonates with Andy and me and makes us smile; you’ve got to read the whole, rather lengthy, poem to appreciate it – and don’t let the “earthy” kind of language stop you. 🙂  The last line brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.  Just beautiful.

Redemption in Van Duyn’s poem seems to come from a birdfeeder,  while Mary Oliver finds it in wild poppies.  The poppies we’re seeing in Sonoma right now are not only the very common Eschscholzia californica but also Papaver californicum, also known as “fire poppy.”  Fire poppies also fit into the category of flowers often called “Fire-followers.”  The seeds of these plants actually need fire to reproduce and might survive years in the soil until that fire happens.  Then they live a few years – only to disappear – with their seeds stored away in the soil, awaiting the next fire.  If that isn’t redemption, I don’t know what is.

In Andy’s Corner  Andy tempers the wildflower excitement a little, lamenting about the foxtails that also come with the wildflowers.

Have a wonderful spring and appreciate the wildflowers –  even the foxtails – at least until they get prickly in the fall.

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Emmenanthe penduliflora – Whispering Bells – is also a Fire Follower






  1. Helen Weaver says:

    It’s hard to believe that the burnt area is so close to your home with such beautiful flowers growing there now. Great pictures. Here in Colorado we are in a high fire danger area with 50 to 60 mile an hour winds blowing today. Every thing is so very dry. We may have snow this week-end, Sure hope so.


  2. Bob Carleton says:

    We have fires here as well (in New Mexico). Rains that follow serious fires can be catastrophic. Fire scalded soil is relatively impermeable to the rain, and runoff includes ash and debris. Downslope streams become clogged, and fish and amphibians cannot breath with the filth-laden water. Reptiles and the various small mammals that live beneath the fire-ravaged area suffer as well from the lack of clean water. Larger critters may relocate if they are capable. Herpetologists at the Albuquerque Bio-Park Zoo rescued a population of rare and threatened garter snakes from one burn area a couple years ago. They recorded the precise GPS location of each critter for eventual return, and the snakes were housed in special quarters without human contact to prevent their becoming “pets”. That’s a major effort and one not easily duplicated. The damage of these fires is truly incalculable; Andy’s efforts give him special insight into all this.


    • theRaggedys says:

      Well stated.  Rain following wildfires is definitely a serious threat to the environment.  One would hope that lessons would be learned and that perhaps someday we will become better stewards of our land.  Just prior to the fires here folks at Bouverie Preserve initiated a prescribed burn program.  The wildfires came before it could be completed, so the program became sort of an experimental design where the control parcels (those not yet worked on) suffered remarkably more devastating effects than the experimental parcels.  I am now a true believer in prescribed burning. More details on the program are at this link:


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