Featured Flower: Sea Figs

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These native succulents can be found along the pacific coast up and down the state.  Two of the best places to view sea figs are Bodega Bay, at Portuguese Beach and Salmon Creek Beach, among others.  They are a part of the landscape and the experience of visiting the beach in Sonoma County.

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Sea Figs.  The name conjures mystic salty treats akin to Turkish Delight.  (The name likely comes from the great bulbous fruit-like section which follows the flowering stage.)  Visually, they are more akin to what one might imagine to be pastel sugar-plum fairies dancing along seaside cliffs.  But these are no fleeting flowers.  They bloom multiple times during the year and are just as at home in January as in June, and as long as there is fog and sun, they will continue to bless us with their comforting presence.

The flowers themselves are extremely delicate and intricate with small thin silken petals and great swirling reproductive organs, visually reminiscent of the passion flower.  Most often the flowers are found in shades of purple and yellow, but light conditions and the variation of nature can create the look of pale pinks and white.  Sea fig flowers are best enjoyed in nature and do not last in bouquets (the petals bruise easily).

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The delicacy of the flower is somewhat surprising given the rugged nature of the succulent plant on which it blooms.  These plants are very hardy, clinging to cliffs, growing in soil which borders or includes sand with thick spike-shaped tendrils rather than flat leaves.  Their fingers are water dense (like aloe Vera) and their roots, foot-like, carry them a good distance across the hills.  They make an excellent low and dense ground cover in coastal areas (or where fog is present).

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In many places it is not just the incandescent glow of purple of the flower that greets us at the beach, but a whole landscape painted in color.  The plants themselves change color to red and all sorts of colors in between — sometimes resembling fire or a rich tapestry of nature.

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by Nadja Masura