Berkeley in bloom: Local flora blossoming during wintertime

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Zahira Chaudhry/Staff

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The weather may be slightly dreary for the next few weeks, but never fear — Berkeley has plenty of plants in bloom to offset the gloom of the winter months. From the floral to the fungal, there is an array of species in season to indulge your inner naturalist.

Around Berkeley

While winter is not necessarily prime season for flowers, there is still a large number of plants in bloom around Berkeley. According to the city of Berkeley’s landscape garden supervisor Matthew Shogren, the notable species in bloom include members of the genus Salvia, flowering quince, bougainvillea, lantanas, camellias, princess flowers, New Zealand tea tree and several varieties of succulents.

There are also many mushrooms that should be sprouting up, brought up by moist weather from around mid-November to February. Chanterelles and candy caps are two varieties that appear this time of year and can be found at the base of coastal live oak trees, according to David Rust, co-founder of the Bay Area Mycological Society. Both are medium-sized mushrooms, and chanterelles are unique for their vibrant yellow color and irregular shape while candy caps are a darker orange shade.

UC Botanical Garden

The UC Botanical Garden is host to a wide variety of plant species — many of which aren’t native to California — that are currently in bloom.

The garden’s “Cloud Forest” area (in the Mexica/Central America section) contains a notable selection, as many of its plants flower in winter. In particular, there’s the large Salvia collection that is currently in full bloom. The Orchid, Fern & Carnivorous Plant House has some “exquisite” orchids, and on the garden’s Southern Africa Hill, many different Aloe species are “sending up their glowing orange stalks of bloom,” according to Vanessa Handley, director of collections and research at the UC Botanical Garden. In the South America section, there are princess trees (Tibouchina cardinalis), which have silky, bright purple flowers.

The garden is also home to California species that are in season, such as native pipevine and Aristolochia californica. The latter specimen is notable for its mottled brown flowers, and now is a good time to see them because their deciduous stems have not yet leafed out, according to Handley. Handley also noted that this time of year is ideal for seeing magnolia blooms in the garden, as well as on campus and in the greater Bay Area. Magnolias are identified by their large, light pink blossoms and can be found around campus, but some of the most notable are on the lawn in front of the Valley Life Sciences Building.

The UC Berkeley Botanical Garden is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and is free for all UC Berkeley students and faculty.

SOGA Garden

Campus’s own Student Organic Garden Association, or SOGA, is host to a hidden botanical gem in the Berkeley community. The group maintains a garden at the corner of Virginia and Walnut streets in Berkeley, and there is a plethora of flowering plants and produce to enjoy this time of year.

The garden’s collection of plants that are currently flowering includes Oxalis (or sour grass), rosemary, aloe and paper whites, according to Sama Mirghavameddin, head facilitator of the spring SOGA DeCal. Also in season for harvest are a variety of leafy greens, including kale, lettuce, mizuna and chard.

The garden has open hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays, and both students and community members can enjoy the garden, as well as volunteering and harvesting produce there.

Keep an eye out

According to Shogren, many plants around Berkeley will start to bloom in a couple of weeks, around the beginning of February, including flowering plums, apricots and cherries, as well as ceanothus and lavender. Additionally, popular floral locales such as the Berkeley Rose Garden will have major blooms late in the semester around May. Nonetheless, winter is still a great time to view plants both on and around campus.

Contact Camryn Bell at [email protected].

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