When first-time attendees of the upcoming 10th annual Cambria Wildflower Show — held at the Veterans Memorial Building April 25 and 26 — need specific botanical answers to their questions, they won’t have far to go for the best source.
A quick glance around the room, and they’ll easily locate a small cluster of people surrounding and quizzing a diminutive, friendly fellow in coveralls, who has all the answers for every one of the more than 350 wildflowers that will be on display.
He is Durand Roburds Miller, better known as “Doc,” and he has been identifying wildflower species by their biological names after they’re brought in by the 17 volunteer collectors to the annual show.
A graduate with a degree in botany from UC Santa Barbara, Miller had been majoring in art at Santa Barbara City College until he became “electrified” by a botany instructor. This led to a change in his course of study at UCSB and, ultimately, a new career path.
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“It was a true blessing” to have been inspired to study botany and to have served as a lab instructor for five years, Miller explained Monday, April 6, during an interview on Park Hill. And those years studying in Santa Barbara — plus several years working on an avocado ranch in Montecito — led him to his present home “on the back side of Pine Mountain,” an hour’s drive up San Simeon Creek Road and another bumpy half-hour ride up a rut-filled dirt road.
“I had wanted to become self-sufficient … for some time” and to be living totally surrounded by the natural world, Miller explained. He earned enough money at the avocado ranch to put a down payment on the remote mountain property (2,300 feet above sea level) where he has lived since 1980.
One reason he wanted to live “in nature” rather than “next to nature” was to study botany.
“I wanted to develop a flora up there. From the day I moved up there in 1980, I have kept a running record of all the flora up there,” he said.
Thirty-five years later, Miller has catalogued 762 species of wildflowers on the 9 square miles surrounding his property.
How has the drought impacted the availability of wildflowers in the county? Miller notes that last year, the pickings were so slim the Wildflower Show was canceled. This year, it will be a “challenge,” but the show will go on.
“We decided to go for it,” because it is not quite as dry as last year, Miller said. The Wildflower Show is sponsored by the Friends of Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, but the $3 entrance fee is not a fundraiser per se; it is intended only to cover the show’s costs (students and children are admitted free). About 180 species of wildflowers are indigenous to the Ranch, Miller explained.
Asked whether new species are discovered each year, Miller quickly responded, “Yes, it’s remarkable, but we do discover new species, especially along the Santa Rosa Creek.”
Seeds from wildflowers upstream get carried downstream once the creek is flowing and thrive along the creek bed.
The wildflower organizers don’t have to go out and solicit volunteers to gather species for the show. “People come to us and ask to become part of the show. Their desire to continue to learn is the whole principle of our show — as an educational and enjoyable experience.”
The Wildflower Show is set for noon to 5 p.m. Saturday April 25, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 26.
Call 927-2856 for more information.
Cambria Wildflower Show
- What: 10th annual Cambria Wildflower Show
- When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 25; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 26
- Where: Cambria Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St.
- Donation: $3 to help cover costs
- Information or to volunteer: 927-2856 or firstname.lastname@example.org