Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mountain Driftwood

This is a close-up photo of the blossoms of a Arctostaphylos pringlei, ssp. Durpacea, commonly called Manzanita here in California. The individual blossoms are tiny, only about a quarter of an inch long. I've always thought they look like little lampshades that faeries would use.  Or, maybe they turn them upside down and use them as cups...

They grow all over these mountains, from about the 4,800 foot level to around the 7,600 level in altitude. This sub-species, Durpacea, is only found in California. Manzanita means 'little apple' in Spanish. The blossoms form little red berries which, if you use your imagination, sort of look like little apples. The birds and the bears love them. All Manzanitas, also called Madrone, are members of the Heath family, which includes blueberries, huckleberries, cranberries and, most surprisingly, rhododendrons and azaleas!

The Yuhaviatam (people of the pines) used the berries to make a cider-like beverage. The Yuhaviatam are known now as the Serrano Indians, but that's the name the Spanish invaders gave them, not the name they chose for themselves. Unfortunately, the Yuhaviatam had no written language, so I don't know what they called the Manzanita.

Manzanitas can grow up to six feet tall. This picture doesn't do the beautiful reddish bark justice. The branches are prized for their twisting, curving shapes. However, it's illegal to cut them unless one has a permit from the Forestry Service, and even then there is a strict limit on how many can be harvested. When a Manzanita dies, over a period of years the wood is bleached to a silvery grey by the sun; then it's called 'Mountain Driftwood.'


  1. How beautiful! I wonder if it's related to blueberries? Blueberry blossoms, though white, have a similar shape.

  2. They are related, Vicki. I meant to put that in the post, but I edited and forgot to put it back in. So I went back just now and added that information. Better late than never, lol.

  3. well said they are really like little lampshades, i have seen first soothing and eye refreshing..


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  5. What a rich habitat you have up there. Those flowers aren't lampshades! The fairies us them to store their mead.

  6. What a beautiful post, Victoria ~ I "met" you over at Jeff's lovely blog ~!~ I wonder if we might be neighbors? Those manzanita remind me of ones I've often seen in my neck of the Sierra Foothills woods. Carpe Diem!

  7. That is absolutely stunning. Beautiful in life and beautiful in death.

  8. Thanks, Seema!

    Jeff, I think you're absolutely right! I should have thought of that...

    Shayna, I wish we were neighbors, but I live farther south, in the San Bernardino Mountain range of Southern California.

    Thanks, Carolyn, I'm glad you liked it!

  9. Here we go with names again. 'The San Bernadino mountain range of Southern California.' We have the Manchester Ship Canal and Wigan Pier. America has such lyrical names. The Sierra Madre. Santa Fe. Minessota Fats (Minessota Fats?) Well, you know what I mean.


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