Theodore Payne Buckwheat
Habitat-creating groundcover – This potential lawn substitute will save water, and maintenance cost/effort, and feed the native wildlife. Call it a winner. Theodore Payne Buckwheat is the lowest of the groundcover buckwheat selections. It is worthy of inclusion in our Porterville City Park at the Tule River Parkway Native Plant Demonstration Gardens! This plant will thrive in a variety of soils and conditions and our gardens, it is helping stabilize the sandy slope of the Scent Garden. Theodore Payne Buckwheat is noted for its small leaves and tight habit. Ideal for
slopes, erosion control, and coverage. The flower color is cream, turning to rusty brown as the season continues. The flower picture was taken on December 11th. This is a late bloom for Theodore Payne Buckwheat. We find that buckwheats have their heavy bloom in the spring and continue producing small produce small numbers of blooms until a freeze event. California buckwheat is an important pollinator plant. On a warm summer day, plants are alive with insects ranging in size from butterflies to tiny native bees. Buckwheats are probably our best all-round summer pollinator plants. They attract the entire range of pollinator insects: butterflies, European honey bees (honey is delicious!), native bees of all sizes, pollinator flies, beetles, and many others. Plant
native buckwheat if you’re concerned about the health and welfare of our pollinators.
If you’ve only space for one native habitat plant, let it be buckwheat. Native buckwheats are long-blooming, supplying thousands of flowers at a time. The flowers produce high-quality nectar and pollen, so they attract both pollen- and nectar-seeking insects. Many of them are larval (caterpillar) food sources for native butterflies. For example, California buckwheat provides larval food for Mormon Metalmark, Bernardino Blue and Bramble, Common and Avalon Hairstreak butterflies. Rabbits and some birds (quails) eat the flowers and foliage. Birds and small creatures take cover under the dense, shady foliage.
As if that’s not enough, the Buckwheats also produce small, tasty seeds. On a fall day, it’s not uncommon to spot a group of seed-eating birds on/near a garden buckwheat, busily partaking of the feast. Among those you may encounter are the finches, Dark-eyed juncos, and Brown towhees. Many gardeners let their buckwheats go to seed simply to attract the seed-eaters. But that’s not the only reason to hold back on deadheading your buckwheats. Buckwheats help us celebrate the cycle of seasons. Their fresh new growth indicates the height of the growing season; their flowers are the end of growth and the beginning of the dry season. And their dried flowers
and seeds – with their lovely rust and brown tones - signal the end of the dry season. The color palette of the buckwheats is an inspiration to artists and garden designers alike. The yearly cycle of the buckwheat – unchanging, unhurried, and rhythmic – connects us to the earth.
California buckwheat prefers full sun but will take some afternoon shade. While it likes well-drained soil, it can be grown in any local soil from sandy to clay. If you have clay soil, consider planting buckwheats on a small berm and be careful not to over-water in summer.
Theodore Payne Buckwheat was introduced into the nursery trade by Theodore Payne. It is a naturally occurring California Buckwheat variant grown from cuttings. There are 250+ plants in the genus Buckwheat (Eriogonum) which are native to California. The species California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fascicularis) has 15 subspecies and or variants. This article deals with Theodore Payne Buckwheat which is one of the three types of Californian Buckwheat which are growing in the Tule River Native Plant
o California Buckwheat 3’-6’ Rounded Mounding Spreading
o Eastern Mojave Buckwheat 3’-5’ Mounding rounded upright
o Dana Point Buckwheat 3’-4’ Rounded
MEDIUM HEIGHT TYPES 2’-3’ tall
o Interior California Buckwheat rounded form
o Wild Cascade California Buckwheat spreading
o Margarita FOG Buckwheat Rounded
o Sonoran Desert California Buckwheat 0.7’-1.6’ shrub
o Warriner Lytle Buckwheat 1’-2’ spreading
o Bruce Dickinson California Buckwheat 1’-2’ spreading
o Theodore Payne Buckwheat 0.5’-1’ spreading
California Buckwheat varieties vary in leaf color, height, and texture. Calscape.org is an excellent resource for gardening information when considering California native plants. Pictures and specific information on each type of buckwheat can be found by searching for the names on the above list using the magnifying glass icon on the upper left of the calscape.org homepage. Tuleriverparkwayassociation.org provides information about this plant and many others which are growing in the Tule River Native Plant Demonstration Gardens in Porterville California Buckwheat needs spring through fall once a week water during the first year after they are mature they only need water once a month. They can be trimmed to be kept at any height, but it is wise
to choose the type which fits your height needs instead of repeated pruning.
The following are just five of the plants which you can see blooming this month in a quarter-mile walk along the Tule River Parkway between Jaye Street and Parkway Drive. Enter the garden trailhead from Jaye Street when traveling south over the Tule River bridge. The parking lot entrance is at the south end of the bridge across the street from the Harbor Freight parking lot.
1. Theodore Payne Buckwheat (Eriogonum faciculatum ‘Theodore Payne’)
2. Santa Cruz Island Buckwheat (Eriogonum arborescens)
3. Woolly Bluecurls (Trichostema lanatum)
4. Coyote Bush (Baccharis pilularis)
5. Blue Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana)
Many California native plants are available at Quercus Landscape Design in Springville
https://quercuslandscapedesign.com/availability, Dry Creek Nursery 35220 Dry Creek Dr, Woodlake, CA 93286 Call: 559-738-0211x115, Luis’ Nursery 139 S Mariposa Ave, Visalia, and Alta Vista Nursery in Three Rivers which is open by appointment 559-799-7438.
Each of the Native Plant Demonstration Gardens is featured on the website
tuleriverparkwayassociation.org. The Tule River Parkway is a City of Porterville public park which provides a three-mile paved walking and bicycle path. The gardens were planted and maintained by volunteers with project management by the Tule River Parkway Association. We have volunteer garden days each month. We welcome you to come out and volunteer on December 17 and 28, January 4, 7, 14, 19, and 21, in the morning. Guided tours are available by appointment. Contact Cathy Capone if you are interested in scheduling a volunteer service day for a group. Volunteers will add over a hundred new plants to the gardens and restoration areas this season restoration areas. Follow Tule River Parkway Association on Facebook or our website for announcements. Volunteers are welcome to join us to care for the gardens. Cathy Capone, the
volunteer project manager, can be reached at 559-361-9164.
Bornstein, Carol, David Fross, and Bart O'Brien. California Native Plants for the Garden. Los Olivos, CA: Cachuma Press. 2005.
Submitted 12-14-2022 by Cathy Capone. Photos by Cathy Capone
Tule River Parkway Association – president
Alta Peak Chapter of CNPS