Mountainside purple hues

The mountainside between Tehachapi and Keene are full of purple hues.

Paula Alldredge took this photo recently of the mountainsides between Tehachapi and Keene as they were carpeted with the purple hues of millions of Farewell-to-Spring (Clarkia cylindrica) wildflowers.

Paula took this and other photos from a 1955 Beechcraft T-34A Mentor aircraft piloted by her husband, Ron. The Alldredges use their plane, which was a military trainer used first by the U.S. Air Force and later by the Indonesian Air Force, for recreation flights as well as for participating in parades, fly-ins and memorial services. This restored warbird and the Alldredges were profiled in last week's Pen in Hand column.

There are nine different species in the Clarkia genus that are native to Kern County, according to the late botanist Ernest Twisselman. His Flora of Kern County is the definitive compendium of plants from our county, which at more than 8,000 square miles is the third largest county in the state, and is home to close to 2,000 species and subspecies.

The aptly-named Farewell-to-Spring, also known by the older name Speckled Fairyfan, appears in May and June each year as spring is ending and the wildflower season is winding down. There is quite a range in color of the petals, from very pale pink in some flowers to much more purple in other colonies, depending on where they are growing.

With just over three inches of rain in the Tehachapi Mountains during the month of May, this was the wettest May in 120 years of recording keeping by the National Weather Service. Late spring wildflowers could be expected to benefit the most from this prolonged moisture, and Farewell-to-Spring responded accordingly with the biggest flowering in living memory.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.