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Wildlife Spotlight: California Buckwheat

PictureCalifornia Buckwheat

Of all the native plants on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, Eriogonum fasciculatum is one of the most beguiling. Commonly known as California buckwheat, this shrub is native to the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico and is likely a familiar sight if you’ve spent time on the Landmarks or at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s Native Seed Farm. This type of buckwheat is recognizable for its densely-clustered white and pink flowers, which grow to an arresting rust-red as they dry and mature. Red clusters denote the perfect time to harvest buckwheat, which volunteers can do at the Native Seed Farm in the fall. The seeds grown at the farm are used to repopulate restoration areas with native plants.

California buckwheat isn’t just pretty: it’s edible! California buckwheat differs from Fagopyrum esculentum, the type of buckwheat most of us are familiar with: a pseudograin used for making porridge, noodles, and crepes. While California buckwheat is not a part of modern human diets, it is edible when prepared correctly and has been used by Native American tribes to make tea and bread. While humans today might find little use for the edible parts of buckwheat, insects can’t get enough of the stuff! It is a food source for some butterflies and is highly attractive to bees and other pollinators. More honey comes from pollinated buckwheat than any other native plant in California.

​As a food source, honey maker, native species, and eye-catching part of the coastal landscape, it’s easy to the see the beauty of California buckwheat. You can show this plant and its fellow natives some love by signing up for stewardship activities at the farm or on the land.