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Home » Santa Clarita News » Environment » SCV Outdoor Report » SCV Outdoor Report: Stalking The Wild Peony

SCV Outdoor Report: Stalking The Wild Peony

By Wendy Langhans

When I was a child (about the same time that dinosaurs ruled
the earth), we used to play marbles
after school.  I remember we had a
"marble hole" in our driveway.  It was in
a shady spot, right next to my mom's peony bushes.  Maybe that's why I've always had a special
love for peonies:  their vibrant color
and sweet scent remind me of warm spring afternoons playing marbles with my


A peony from my Aunt Garnet's garden in Wisconsin.


So I was disappointed the
first time I came across a wild California peony.  OK, so the
flowers were a dark maroon color.  But
there was only one row of petals and the blossoms were droopy and hidden in the
foliage.  And as for smell – well – I
certainly couldn't detect any.  What kind
of self-respecting peony has droopy flowers and NO SMELL?


Wild California Peony (Photo courtesy of S. Ioerger).


But the more I learned
more about them, the more respect I developed for them.  Wild California peonies are pollinated by beetles, the blue-color
workers of the pollination industry. 
Beetles don't gracefully flit from flower to flower like butterflies;
they mostly commute on foot, trudging along the ground.  So there's no need for the peony to wave
"in-your-face" blossoms and waft sweet scents to get pollinated. 


Wild California peonies are hardy. 
They blossom when the winter rains fall – January through April – and
then go dormant during the dry summer and fall. 
And they are tough survivors; I saw many plants last month in Wilson Canyon, an area that was blackened in the Sayre fire last November.  Their underground roots were insulated from
the heat of the fire by the dry soil.


Wild California peonies are useful plants too.  The Chumash made a tea out of peony roots, which they used to treat
menstrual pain and other conditions. 


A thrifty, hardy, tough,
and useful plant that focuses more on results than on "looking good".  Yeah, I can respect that, both in people and
in plants.


This wild California Peony was just getting ready to open last weekend in Wilson Canyon.


Upcoming Outdoor Events: 


Saturday, February 21, 8:00-10:00
AM.  Morning Bird Hike in Towsley
Canyon.  Towsley Canyon is a year-round home for birds. 
They like our Mediterranean climate, the local bounty and the California sunshine. 
Bring your binoculars and meet at the entrance.  Heavy rain cancels.  For map and directions go here.

Sponsored by the Mountains
Recreation and Conservation Authority.


Saturday, February 21, 10-12
AM.  Wildflower hike at East
& Rice Canyons.

Heavy rain cancels.  For map and directions go here.

Sponsored by the Mountains
Recreation and Conservation Authority.


Saturdays, February 14 and 28, and every Wednesday, 8:00 AM. 
Trail Maintenance Volunteers at Towsley

Come join our trail maintenance
volunteers for camaraderie and a heart-thumping workout.  For more
information contact Steve Ioerger at 661-291-1565.


You can listen to stories
like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio
station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation


For the complete MRCA hike
and activity schedule and for trail maps, click here or go to

SCV Outdoor Report: Stalking The Wild Peony

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