Plant of the day: coast buckwheat

Like the pink pom-poms of an elfin cheerleader, coast buckwheat tosses little bursts of color alongside the trail. The flower heads range from fuschia to pale pink atop a grayish stem. The buds are the darker pink, and the heads turn pale as they open to reveal the lighter petals and the curious long antenna of stamens. All the leaves are gathered in a cluster at the base of the long stems.

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Coast buckwheat (Eriogonum latifolium) can be found all along the coast of California. It prefers to grow along exposed dunes, mesas, bluffs and coastal hills. It’s a member of the buckwheat family, or Polygonaceae. There are 125 different species of Erigonum in California, though only four are listed in the Marin Flora as growing in this county. In general, the group is distinguished by having clustered heads of small flowers atop a long stem that grows out of a basal mound of leaves. The five-petaled flowers generally have obvious stamens, like this species does, but sometimes the heads of flowers are smaller.

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