Eriogonum crocatum -Saffron Buckwheat, GWC Garden
Golden West College Native Garden – Plant of the Month 2011 June
By Dan Songster
This plant is native to native to Ventura County where is grows along the Conejo Pass in the area where Highway 101 climbs south from the coastal plains of Camarillo; from this location comes the alternate common name, Conejo Buckwheat.
Type: Evergreen subshrub
Soil: Well drained preferred
This is a compact mounding shrub to 1 1/2 feet tall by 2-3 feet wide with woolly silver white leaves that contrasts beautifully with its sulfur yellow to chartreuse-yellow flower heads that appear late spring through late summer and then turn a cinnamon brown color. Plant in full coastal sun (perhaps a touch of afternoon shade inland) in well drained soils with very little or no summer watering. If you have heavy clay like we do at the Garden amend with decomposed granite and plant a bit high. Then add another layer of “DG” around the plant. (This seems to work for us.) Hardy and evergreen to around 20 F but I am told it can re-sprout when top growth is frozen back.
As with other buckwheat, when the flowers lose their color they turn to an attractive cinnamon brown color before ending in a chocolate brown as seed heads develop in late summer.
Obviously a great accent plant in the garden or even as a potted specimen, this buckwheat has other uses too. It is low enough to be front and center in perennial beds, certainly one of the most attractive foliage to flower color combinations to find in that type of bed. It works well with the purple flowers of the native bulb, Tritelia laxa-Ithuriel’s Spear emerging behind and between clumps. Taking a cue from its natural location in the wild it is a stand out in rock gardens as well.
While weeding caution is needed since branches are very brittle, otherwise maintenance consists of simply removing spent flowers in late summer or fall and tipping back leggy branches. That will keep your Saffron Buckwheat dense and attractive for years.