Almost all of Tehachapi's spring wildflowers are associated with bright, sun-drenched days — California poppies won't even open on overcast or windy days. But one of the prettiest wildflowers of all doesn't appear until the sun heads down and the day yields to night.
This unusual and beautiful little wildflower is called Evening Snow (Linanthus dichotomus). The best spring wildflower seasons are ones that include lots of these beauties.
Evening Snow flowers were called Four O'clocks by settlers, due to their insistence on opening at that time of the afternoon, or even later. By day, Evening Snow is a totally inconspicuous plant, blending right in with the grasses that cover most slopes.
But then the magic happens as the sun sinks: Evening Snow blossoms, which are russet-colored when rolled up, unfurl to reveal their porcelain white interior. As low-angle sunlight and lengthening shadows produce shade on hillsides, the Evening Snow awakens. Within minutes, hundreds or even thousands of funnel-shaped white flowers appear.
This transformation can be startling, especially if you travel the same route before and just after they open. When the same green slope you passed earlier is now frosted with snow white flowers, you ask yourself "Now how did I possibly miss that earlier?"
When they open for their nightly dance beneath the stars, Evening Snow blossoms release a sweet fragrance reminiscent of gardenia or night-blooming jasmine. So these likeable flowers are surprising, beautiful AND they smell good.
Although Evening Snow's five petals are milk white, the outside of each petal has a curving reddish stripe, like a fresh lipstick mark on a wine glass. When the flowers close as the morning sun begins to brighten the sky, the petals roll up around each other like the pleats of a compact umbrella.
This conceals the main white portion of the petals, leaving just the reddish edges showing. And this is how Evening Snow spends their days. The flowers are rolled up into little tubes that almost no one notices.
Many of life's surprises are unpleasant. But some, like finding a $20 bill in a jacket you haven't worn in months, or someone returning a tool or a serving dish you'd thought was gone for good, are happy and cheering. Evening Snow is totally in this second category of pleasant surprises. Look for them to start appearing in the late afternoons.
Have a good week.
Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.