I took this picture on a June 2007 trip to San Francisco. Crissy Field is on the Bay very near to Golden Gate Bridge (seen in the background). Apparently this saltwater wetland had been covered over to make way for an airfield sometime ago but has been recently resurrected and replanted with natives. I have no idea what the plant is in the foreground. There were lots of unknowns planted there. Visiting places like San Francisco is a humbling reminder of how many plants I don’t know and how much more is out there to discover.
That’s what makes these sorts of trips so fun! The first time I went to San Francisco in the mid 90s was the furthest trip I had ever taken from home and my first time in a southern climate. The plants all seemed so exotic and exciting. I teared up hugging palm trees. I ran around the city touching and smelling everything, marveling at the giant jades, monstrous geraniums and citrus trees. Before that trip it had never occurred to me that a common garden geranium could be so gnarly and wonderful unlike the sad little annuals people grow here. I was so excited to see everything and walk everywhere that I screwed up my knee going up and down all those steep hills and had to hobble around with a knee brace for my last few days there.
And it hasn’t changed really. I’ve been to a few southern climates now, San Francisco 4 times, and it never gets boring or repetitious. It’s always a thrill. I still tear up at the sight of a palm tree. And the same monster geraniums and giant jades are just as intoxicating as they were that first time.
I took this picture back in April on that trip to San Francisco. That one where I ate all the sushi. Delicious sushi. Good god, I’m hungry right now.
And here’s where I admit that I have absolutely no idea what this is. I’m at a total loss. Anyone know?
This is an Echium (I don’t know which species), a large, towering flower related to borage that is so prolific around San Francisco you can’t seem to turn a corner without bumping into one. I must have taken several dozen photos in a variety of media (digital, polaroid, film, macro) as evidence. Another plant thoroughly documented and recorded.
My attraction to this plant lies in the fact that it reminds me of one of my favourite local wildflowers Viper’s Bugloss (Echium vulgare), which is not surprising since they are in the same genus. These enormous San Francisco echiums are basically monster-sized versions of the same plant.
FYI: This is what passes for an impatiens in San Francisco. If you live in a warmer climate you will be unimpressed by my discovery. If you are from my neck of the woods your mind will have been blown wide open! In case you didn’t get the memo, San Francisco is a Utopian paradise where plants grow larger than life. Everything is bigger and better there, and I’m not just talking about the marijuana cigarettes. Our Northern version of an impatiens is a dull flowering annual commonly tossed into a monochromatic ring underneath small trees and accompanied by a border of decorative plastic edging. They rarely grow taller than 10 inches before they are dug up and tossed out at the end of the growing season.
It reaches as high as the bottle brush!
As you can guess from my unflattering description, I’ve never been a fan of these lackluster flowers. Really the only thing that makes them even marginally interesting is the fact that they are edible, and even that is nothing to write home about. But I think I can respect the impatiens I saw in San Francisco even if that respect is born out of the fear that a plant that can grow with that kind of vigor from out of a sidewalk crack could probably eat me for breakfast.
While walking in San Francisco. The blue flower is Lobelia.