Prior to the mid-1980s, the Kaweah Brodiaea was thought to have been extinct. Larry Norris, who was conducting a Biological Assessment for the USACE surrounding the Lake Kaweah Enlargement Project, rediscovered it on the ranch. Thinking he was on USACE lands as first mapped during the initial construction phases of Terminus Dam in 1959, he contacted me to get easier access to the location so that he might assess the population of this rare wildflower, that he later determined to be 300,000 – 500,000 plants on ground we graze. Kaweah Brodiaea is now an Endangered Species, and since has been identified in the Kaweah River drainage upstream from Lake Kaweah in the vicinity of Three Rivers. The wildflower has been cussed and discussed profusely as an obstacle to any kind of development in the area.
The wildflower blooms around May 10th, a few days before the more common Elegant Brodiaea and Harvest Brodiaea, and is a paler purple, smaller than the elegans, with petals unlike a wine glass, but of helicopter blades instead. Though I’ve tried for years to photograph the Kaweah Brodiaea, this is my first sighting.*
The Brodiaeas are tough. The largest population of Kaweah Brodiaea in the world is thought to exist within our 300-acre flat that has been grazed for 150 years – and from where the imagery for one of my first cowboy poems was drawn.
DROUGHT OF SEVENTY-SEVEN
It was dry in the fall of seventy-six
and the cows were calvin’ in the dust,
nothin’ to see but acres of chips,
a drought year when cowmen went bust.
Their hides were rough ‘n’ just cover’d bone
‘n’ ribs caught most of your eye,
spindly calves seemed to wander alone
as if lookin’ for a place to die.
Cows were bringin’ two-bits a pound,
a hundred bucks less than the spring,
and all you could do, was throw hay on the ground,
and pray to God it would rain.
Their toes would clack like castanets
in the cloud that’d boil ’round your truck,
the bawlin’ skeletons and weak silhouettes
would bring tears to the drought of good luck.
Reckon Ma Nature’s showed me who’s boss,
as she’ll do some time and again,
but she’s never caused me half of the loss
that politicians create with a pen.
* * * * * *
* May 16, 2011 – I revisited the Kaweah Brodiaea to discover that they are no longer in bloom. The Elegans are just getting started. With less than 10 days of bloom, no wonder I had so much difficulty finding them.