Tag Archives: Kaweah Brodiaea




Lost in a thatch of brittle stems,
foxtails and grasses ripe
with seed, we are not extinct

despite extremes: grazing hoofs
and rising floods of rain—
the four-year drought

before they finally came
and all the honest mistakes
the ignorant have made.

We are tough and may outlast
your conceit, your
Endangered Species List.





Thought extinct, it survives
grazing hooves and drought
to stop development.



“Discovering Kaweah Brodiaea” May 5, 2012

WPC(1) — “Texture”

Kaweah Brodiaea 2014

Brodiaea Insignis - April 11, 2014

Brodiaea Insignis – April 11, 2014

With drought conditions, the rare and endangered Kaweah Brodiaea bloom is early and rather difficult to find this year. Go HERE for the history of the Kaweah Brodiaea on this ranch or follow the tags below.

Kaweah Brodiaea 2013

April 14, 2013

April 14, 2013



Yesterday, while checking our bred replacement heifers, I noticed some Harvest Brodiaea (Elegans) in bloom and wondered if the Insignis, the Kaweah Brodiaea, was blooming yet. Usually not due to bloom until about the 10th of May, their purple patches were easy to see in our short feed, an indication, perhaps, of the stress this dry spring. I will try to monitor their bloom this year to test my thesis that the period is short, about a week.


April 14, 2013

April 14, 2013


April 26th Update: Not a trace of the Kaweah Brodiaea this morning. Too many other things going on during the period for me to monitor these wildflowers close enough to draw any solid conclusions other than if you want to see the Kaweah Brodiaea, you need to be in the right place for a fairly short time.

Kaweah Brodiaea Bloom

I’m attempting to document my unsubstantiated thesis that the bloom period for the Kaweah Brodiaea is extremely short, making it pretty tough to find and identify. Additionally, I’ve found it blooming in the canopy of other grasses. I could only find the wildflower in one place this morning, the number in bloom substantially decreased, none at all in the other three locations I’ve been visiting. Temperatures have been in the mid-90s. I suspect in a day or two, their bloom will be over. Meanwhile the Harvest Brodiaea is popping up everywhere.

Kaweah Brodiaea – May 11, 2012

Kaweah Brodiaea – May 11, 2012

See ‘ODDS & ENDS’ for more current photos.

Kaweah Brodiaea

In the early 1980s, I got a call from Larry Norris who was conducting a Biological Assessment of the area below Terminus Dam on the Kaweah River for the US Army Corps of Engineers, in the early stages of exploring alternatives to increase storage of Kaweah River runoff. Over the phone, Larry was trying to obtain permission to access a flat area of about 300 acres in Section 26 that, according to the maps he was given, belonged to the USACE where he had found a large population of Kaweah Brodiaea, a species that had been presumed extinct since the 1920s. We agreed to meet and go to the site together.

In the late 1950s, my father and grandfather were embroiled in a condemnation action with the Feds over the initial construction of Terminus Dam in which they prevailed, requiring the USACE to revest some of the condemned property back to the family. Larry Norris had been given one of the old maps for his survey. As was typical of Corps projects in those days, the take was more than needed for the clay core of the dam.

Since Norris’ discovery, the Kaweah Brodiaea has been found elsewhere in the Kaweah River watershed, especially in the Three Rivers area, where it halted or slowed both private and public development and construction, even home remodeling. Though most people could not identify the wildflower, or distinguish it from the plentiful Harvest Brodiaea, Brodiaea Elegans, it was an unpopular species in the Kaweah River watershed nonetheless.

It was early summer when Larry and I went to the site and the Brodiaea had already gone to seed, which he identified for me, scratching through the dead debris of fillaree and foxtails, the details of an exercise I can no longer remember. But to have a large population of a rare and endangered plant listed by the California Native Plant Society and the State of California on the ranch, I thought it important to be able to identify it, but it wasn’t until the first of May in 2011 that I actually found and photographed it, aided by the memory of where Larry Norris had found its seeds. Though the Jepson manual cites livestock grazing as a threat to the Kaweah Brodiaea, its seeds survived the Drought of 1977 when Section 26 was grazed down to the dirt.

Part of the difficulty of finding the Kaweah Brodiaea is that it blooms prior to the Elegans or common Harvest Brodiaea and that its blooming period is much shorter, depending on temperatures in the first week in May. In 2011, the bloom period for the Insignis was ten days, where as the Elegans can last over a month, quite showy over dry grasses. Secondly, its on a much shorter stem and oftentimes difficult to find or see among all the other grasses.

I have included photographs below to help distinguish the Insignis from the Elegans. Noticeable differences are the flat petals and convex stamen of the Insignis. Also note the differences in the two species as the petals break into full bloom.

Kaweah Brodiaea – May 4, 2012

Kaweah Brodiaea – May 4, 2011

Kaweah Brodiaea – May 4, 2012

Harvest Brodiaea – May 4, 2012

Kaweah Brodiaea

Kaweah Brodiaea (Brodiaea insignis), Dry Creek, 5.8.2011

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.*

Elegant Brodiaea (Brodiaea elegans), Dry Creek, 5.8.2011

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.


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.