Posted by: Sandy Steinman | September 24, 2011

Beyond Traditional Fall Color

Guest Post and Photos by
Rob Sheppard
Editor-at-large, Outdoor Photographer
Fellow, North American Nature Photography Association

When anyone thinks about fall color, they usually think of boldly colored maple trees of the Northeast or bright aspen in the West. They are great parts of fall and wonderful to experience.

But there is another fall color in Southern California that is rich and bold, just not tall and in a forest! That is the rich red-brown seed heads of California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasiculatum) and is also called Mojave buckwheat.

Buckwheat is an important low native shrub that grows throughout Southern California and a little into the north. It is common to the coastal sage scrub, valley grasslands, into desert areas, as well as along the edges of the chaparral. It is obviously very adaptable!

California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasiculatum) by Rob Sheppard

It has wonderful white spheres of flower clusters that make a great display starting in late spring and last through the summer. Bees, butterflies, wasps and other pollinators use them heavily. By the end of summer, these flower heads mature and start changing to the rich red-brown color of fall.

When whole hillsides are covered with these plants, the color can be quite dramatic. The dark seed heads can be challenging to photograph because the darkness can easily be overexposed by a camera, washing out the color. Also, backlight doesn’t always work because the seed heads are opaque.

The shots here were taken in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Right now there are many areas throughout the Santa Monica Mountains showing off this really fine fall color.

California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasiculatum) by Rob Sheppard


  1. […] If you follow Natural History Wandering you know that my favorite photo subject is flowers. I just learned of a new flower photography class by Rob Sheppard. Rob is a very knowledgeable photographer and naturalist. He is the former editor of Outdoor Photographer and has written some of the best practical articles I have read on nature photography and digital darkroom. I find his Nature and Photography blog  an interesting and informative nature photography resource. Rob has also been a guest contributor on Natural History Wanderings Beyond Traditional Fall Color. […]


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