Sunshine and greenery abound in Southern California’s landscape, but every year the area’s picturesque canvas gets a pop of color thanks to wildflower season.
Just look around — alongside freeways, in open fields, on neighborhood slopes — and there’s bound to be Sand Blazing Star, Desert Five Spot and Desert Gold Poppy along the horizon.
“Wildflowers are miracles of the desert,” said John Purcell, executive director of the Coachella Valley-based Friends of the Desert. “They have the unique ability to survive incredibly harsh environments and come back year after year.”
Many preserves, nature parks and botanic gardens all over Southern California provide residents and visitors alike opportunities to experience this seasonal wonder. One upcoming event to celebrate these unique flowers is the Coachella Valley Wildflower Festival on March 7 at Palm Desert’s Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.
“It’s possible to see flowers you may have never seen before,” Purcell said. “It really does hit your soul and reminds you of all the diversity of life you have here. As I sit at my desk I can see brilliant reds, vibrant yellows and the cactus flowers in bloom; even with the scant rain we’ve had these plants have to come up.”
Every 10 to 12 years Southern California has had an abundance of rainfall, resulting in wildflowers blanketing the area. But since the state has experienced serious drought conditions in the last few years, instead of widespread coverage people should expect to see pockets of wildflowers, Purcell explained.
“It’s like having a new experience every time you go out,” he said.
Each area is home to unique species of wildflowers best suited to its enviromental conditions. At the Linden H. Chandler Preserve on the Palos Verdes Peninsula visitors can hike along trails and see blankets of Coast Fiddleneck, a native winter annual that blooms yellow flowers from March through June.
“And the monarch butterflies are all over it,” said Chandler staff member Ann Dalkey. “It’s just been amazing to see.”
Dalkey, who authored the guidebook “Native Wildflowers of the Palos Verdes Peninsula” with fellow staffer Yvetta Williams, cautions that the state’s drought may affect the Peninsula’s foliage.
“Wildflowers are blooming right now, but if we don’t get rain soon things are going to shrivel up,” she said, adding that while larger plants may fare better because there’s more moisture at the root, smaller plants will have a harder time thriving.
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont offers yet another scenic perspective into what’s growing in Southern California, particularly along the San Gabriel Mountains.
“Wildflower season is really less dependent on what the weather is doing at that moment, than the seed production from the past few years,” explained Eric Garten, director of visitor services and community education for the center.
“Seed banks can lay dormant for many, many years, then because of the timing of the rain in previous years, they can bloom. We are currently experiencing a wildflower explosion, but if we don’t get more rain, it may peak a little early.”
Though wildflowers can be seen year round, the season goes from February through May with the abundance of blooms traditionally bursting through in March and April.
“Spring is my favorite season,” Garten said. “It’s a time of rejuvenation. There’s just something about seeing that first flower, or first nest full of eggs, that fills you with new hope. It’s about all special firsts of the season that we all like to see, and it’s just so amazing that it starts with the plants.”
©2015 the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.)
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