For Brian LeNeve, Monterey Bay chair of the California Native Plant Society, the last seven days have easily become one of his busiest weeks of the year. He’s one of a handful of volunteers that spends dozens of hours locating and picking flowers in preparation for the annual spring wildflower show, happening this weekend in Carmel.
Most of the hard work is done the week before the show to preserve the health and appearance of the flowers—they cannot be harvested too far in advance. This year, about 10 CNPS volunteers split into pairs and started picking flowers last Sunday, each of them putting in 12- to 15-hour days for the next couple of days.
The plants are then wrapped and stored in cool environments to help keep them protected, then a team starts identifying each plant one by one using microscopes and flora books.
“Our biggest goal is to educate the public,” LeNeve says. “Monterey County has more plants than some states do. It’s a very diverse environment and we want people to know about the variety of flowers here.”
The Monterey Bay CNPS has hosted this show for 62 years, only skipping one year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s one of the largest and longest-running wildflower shows in the country, according to CNPS, and features more than 600 sub-species of flora or taxa.
“My favorite part is collecting the flowers,” LeNeve says. “There is nothing better than being outside and seeing these flowers in their habitats.”
Watching guests learn something new from the show is also an experience LeNeve cherishes.
“I really appreciate all the people that show up each year. Seeing someone get excited over what they see—those are the ones we really connect with.”
There is also a large social aspect to the CNPS event, as many of the volunteers have been a part of the wildflower show for decades. LeNeve says he may only get to see some volunteers once or twice a year, so the wildflower show lets them spend more time together and catch up.
The Spring Wildflower Show happens from 10am-5pm Saturday-Sunday, April 22-23 at the Carmel Woman's Club, 9th and San Carlos, Carmel. Free; $5 donation suggested. More information at chapters.cnps.org/montereybay.
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