We’re having a profusion of wildflowers in California. This year we had a lot of rain along with cool days and nights–a good formula for wildflowers.
I found an enchanting hillside of native lupine on my walk this week.
This is the genus that is famously called bluebonnets in Texas. Lady Bird Johnson, the hero of wildflowers, brought nature-loving Americans to revere this wildflower.
I have seen several hillsides of it this week. They tend to thrive in degraded soils, like after a fire or on heavily grazed land.
In California our wildflowers were given the title of “Super Bloom” this year, beckoning hordes of people creating traffic jams, and the accidental crushing of flowers as folks positioned for selfies.
I avoid those scenes, and gravitate to the quiet spots; have found hundreds and hundreds of beautiful sprightly flowers this spring.
Some wildflowers are native, and some are not. In California, two examples of native wildflowers are the lupine and poppies seen here.
Non-native wildflowers, like the wild mustard in the first photo, spread uncontrollably, and can pose a problem because they squeeze out the natives.
But invasives can be attractive to some creatures.
There’s something really special about finding native wild lilies. They are usually just a few sparse stems in the forest undergrowth.
Some years they don’t come up, or get munched on by wildlife. But other years they emerge from the earth in full bliss. They poke their little heads out after the rains stop, and day after day they grow, first their stems and leaves, then the flower heads. Then one day they’ve completely arrived.
When I come across a wild lily, I am uplifted all day. I plan when I can return to see it again, before its short life is over.
This year is the second spring after northern California’s destructive wildfires. Many of the former spring lilies and other species have vanished. The lily photos above are from earlier years.
But even after massive wildfires, the earth keeps growing. Instead of the lilies this year, we have an abundance of Indian Warriors. They are more prolific than ever before. Here’s a close-up of this ruby delight, but with a warning, a glimpse of the big picture.
In less damaged areas, natives like buttercups grace the oak hillsides.
Wild Douglas iris look like the iris you find in a floral shop. They are short-stemmed, however, and compete with the grass.
Lots of rain means lots of tall grass, so the secret to finding wildflowers is getting to them before the grass gets too long. Once the grass overshadows the flowers it blocks out the sun, and the wildflowers fade away. This is the only predictable aspect of wildflowers.
I enjoyed a hike at Angel Island this past weekend, where patches of blue forget-me-nots reminded me not to forget them.
Our native state flower, the California poppy, still remains one of my favorite wildflowers. I find their brightness infectious, cheerful, and unlike many spring wildflowers, the poppies stick around for months.
Eschscholzia californica have proliferated so much this spring that it can be seen from space!
This photo was taken in southern California via satellite.
Sweet wildflowers bring a touch of natural beauty and a gentle reminder to pause and appreciate the wonder.
Written by Jet Eliot.
Photos by Athena Alexander unless otherwise specified.