Thursday, June 9, 2016

My Favorite Wildflowers in California - A Photo Essay (Haiga Sequence)

When spring stretches its days and falls into the hot weight of the summer, it is time to visit the heroic blossoms of the chaparral  yucca, reaching up to the sky, against all odds.  This flower, so abundant in the valley where I live, is a survivor on the go. The plant with thin, blade-like spiky leaves (with extremely sharp tips, like needles), sends up one thick stem that grows and grows and grows until it starts unfurling a cascade of white flowers, off white maybe, ivory or cream, and the whole valley fills with these gigantic candle-like blossoms. Then they go to seed and die, and the seeds sprout anew nearby and a new flower points at clouds, and the cycle continues...

in a green desert 
yucca blossoms open -
a skyward ladder

tall yucca blossoms
point to cloudy desert sky -
magic without rain

spring desert delight
coconut and whipped cream  -
yucca whipplei

sharp spikes and shadows
the silver galaxy of yucca leaves -
enter at your peril

the magic of symmetry
moves in a blur of  lines
into yucca's heart

a blue jay in the blue sky
watches the world go round  and round
from the flower top 

serene after sunset -
aqua, fuchsia and violet sky
pierced by whiteness

flower triplets 
born of sand and rocks 
reach for the sky 

this dot is the moon -
prim yucca patiently explains
to disheveled clouds

yuccas at sunset -
spikes and blossoms unfold 
against the dark

here it is 
my yucca on the tip of my finger
in my valley

My other favorite flower grows here and there in the wild, but it is also planted in garden. This is the white and yellow poppy growing on two meter tall stems with silvery green leaves: The Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri). I like it so much, I put it on the cover of the anthology, Meditations on Divine Light. It does look like a sun with a corona of light, and  rays, doesn't it? Or maybe the ballerina, or Marilyn with her skirts floating on the hot air from the subway vents? But certainly not an egg, surely not an egg...

breeze lifts the skirts
of a shy ballerina -
Marilyn reborn

the thrill of frills
unfurling from a tight ball
into a sunburst

petal and clouds
float above my head - I squint, 
flooded by sunlight

Hello, Ms. Bee
we both love gold nectar and honey -
I eat yours

...but then, there other flowers growing in the wild, including the rare Plummer's Mariposa and the Humboldt Lilies (Lilium humboldtii) photographed high up in the San Gabriel Mountains by Kristin Sabo. Both lilies are endemic to Southern California and extremely rare. 

Plummer's mariposa
discovers the triune symmetry
once again

wild mountain lily -
fuzzy geometry of dusk
in three petals

twin jellyfish  -
lilies swim through the sunset
to the night's ocean 

And, of course, there is an abundance of flowers, not so wild, in Descanso Gardens, starting from an forest of camellias, imported from Japan and bought by Mr. Boddy from a Japanese nursery at the time of deportations in the 1940s.  I wrote about those camelias already and even made a collage of the Sunbloom, with a white corona and golden rays:

camellia stamens
dance, twist, wave, turn
seeking the sun

ever calling - never heard
ever seeking - never seen

But would there be flowers, if there were no leaves? We had visited the sharp spikes of the yucca already. Here are some wet leaves in the rain in Descanso Gardens. I do not know what they are, but sure they shine brightly, like polished jade.

smoothed by raindrops
emerald leaves stretch and sigh -
a green heart of spring

line after line -
the elemental breath exhales 
oxygen into air


  1. What wonderful photos and poetic/description comments. I am so glad you are documenting the beautiful place where I also live.

  2. Maja, I liked these haiku and haiga, in addition to the photos so much. They have awakened a sense in me that hasn't been there in a long time. Thank you.