Social Distancing

Royal Goldfields, Diamond Valley Lake (3/22/20) Jeff Brown

Visitors to Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet had no difficulty maintaining ten feet of social distance this past weekend, during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Photographing wildflowers, Diamond Valley Lake (3/22/20) Jeff Brown

The few that visited Diamond Valley had lightly-tread trails to hike, Lightning trout lunkers to land and a scattering of wildflowers to photograph.

Red-tailed Hawk, Diamond Valley Lake (3/22/20) Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown reports that this spring’s wildflower bloom is nowhere near as spectacular as the super bloom that carpeted Diamond Valley’s hills with poppies, goldfields and lupine last year.

Though, red-tailed hawks didn’t seem to mind as their prey is easier to see without as many floral distractions.

Since this was first posted, Diamond Valley Lake – as have many park and recreation areas – has been closed in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

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Yosemite Wildflowers

Abundant displays of white and pink to rose-colored blossoms now appearing on flowering pear, plum and almond trees and shrubs in the Central Valley and Sierra Foothills have Californians anticipating the state’s ten-month wildflower season.

Newly released by Falcon Guides, Yosemite Wildflowers (written by Judy and Barry Breckling) describes more than 1,000 species to be seen in the national park during that long bloom.

My previous go-to guide for wildflower identification in Yosemite National Park and the Central Sierra was Lynn and Jim Wilson and Jeff Nicholas’ Wildflowers of Yosemite, published in 1987. Though beautifully illustrated with recommended wildflower sites and hikes, in comparison, it had just 224 color plates within it.

Yosemite Wildflowers is a more than able replacement. Its authors are well-qualified to author the guide. The Brecklings are lifelong plant enthusiasts who have lived in the Sierra not far from Yosemite for a dozen years. They lead Sierra Foothills chapter California Native Plant Society wildflower field trips and created a Yosemite wildflowers app in 2014.

The book categorizes wildflowers into six color groupings, based on the most vibrant color: white to cream; yellow, red and orange; pink, rose and magenta; blue, purple and lavendar; and green and brown flowers.

Within those sections, 895 color photographs, common names, scientific names, families, informative descriptions, flowering periods, habitats/ranges and similar plants are described.

At 26.4 ounces, Yosemite Wildflowers – though a paperback – is sufficiently heavy to give pause to a backpacker as to whether it’s too much to carry. Though, for anyone who has been frustrated with thinner guidebooks which failed to include flowers they hoped to identify in the field, it’s sure to solve that problem.

Yosemite Wildflowers is comprehensive. As an example, 24 varieties of lupine are described within it. In most field guides, only one or two examples are included.

I’ve often been asked why CaliforniaFallColor.com doesn’t do for California wildflowers what we do for autumn color. There are many reasons why we don’t.

Time is a big part of it. Elsewhere in North America, autumn is a two-week peak display. However, here peak color first appears near 10,000′, then gradually drops to sea level. That takes four months.

California’s wildflower bloom happens in reverse and over a longer period. Flip the pages of Judy and Barry Breckling’s new field guide, Yosemite Wildflowers, and it’s amazing that they finished the book only 12 years after relocating to the Sierra.

Yosemite Wildflowers (978-1-4930-4066-7, March 2020) is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores. Falcon is an imprint of Globe Pequot.

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Backroad Beauty

Drummond’s Cinquefoil (Drymocallis glandulosa), Baker Creek, Eastern Sierra (4/24/19) Gigi De Jong

The Eastern Sierra is now airbrushed with vibrant yellow, pink, blue, white, lavendar, crimson and purple wildflowers, reports Gigi De Jong from Bishop.

Gigi says most of the creeks leading out of the Sierra are feeding a flush of color along the foothills that is filling the sweet air with wild floral scents.

Flower types vary according to their proximity to the water and the soil and elevation where they’re growing, including cinquefoils, lupine, exotic bachelor’s buttons, tickseed and others.

Many are sprayed across the hillsides. The predominantly yellow flowers growing close to the ground are often obscured by sage and rabbit brush, until you get out among them.

This is a great time of year to explore by off-road vehicle or by hiking, as many dirt roads and trails travel near the drainages.

For the Jeep roads that climb into the Eastern Sierra foothills, high-clearance vehicles are often needed. CLICK HERE for a list of OHV Roads in the Inyo National Forest.

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Owens Valley Coming Out

Chuckwalla (Sauromalus),Owens Valley (4/13/19) Gigi De Jong

It’s springtime in the Owens Valley and wildflowers are appearing first from the lowest elevations to the highest.

Gigi De Jong sends these images with a report that wildflowers are abloom in the southern Owens Valley and marching north.

Even the lizards are coming out.

Flawless Diamond Valley

Super Bloom, Diamond Valley Lake (3/17/19) Alena Nicholas

A flawless super bloom is being seen at Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet, California where California poppies, lupine and other native wildflowers are carpeting the hills.

Alena Nicholas visited on Sunday, sending these images. For more information about visiting Diamond Valley Lake, visit dvlake.com and dvmarina.com.

  • Diamond Valley Lake – Peak Wildflower Bloom (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Super Bloom Spring

Superbloom, Temblor Range, Carrizo Plain National Monument (Sumikophoto |Dreamstime.com)

With above-record rainfall drenching California this winter, wildflower super blooms are possible this Spring in Death Valley (late – Feb.), Anza Borrego State Park (mid-Mar.), the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve near Lancaster (early-Apr.) and the Carrizo Plain National Monument (early-Apr.).

Tiffany Camhi of KQED, San Francisco’s public television station, reported today that with a little more rain, a super bloom of poppies, lupine, owl’s clover and other wildflowers is possible.

The National Park Service reports that “The best blooms are triggered by an early, winter-type rainstorm in September or October, followed by an El Niño weather pattern that brings above average rainfall to the Desert Southwest.”

What’s needed for this rare profusion of wildflowers are preceding years of drought and massive winter rainfalls. Both have happened, so it’s “possible.”

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Earth Day Wildflowers

Winter Mustard (file photo) Bob McClenahan, Visit Napa Valley

It was a beautiful Earth Day weekend to be out enjoying California’s spring wildflowers.

California poppies and California lilac (file photo) Bob McClenahan, Visit Napa Valley

In the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma counties, the last of late winter’s yellow mustard blossoms have given way to populations of poppies, lupine and all varieties of colorful wildflowers, between the vines, along their edges, beside roadways and on open land.

The colorful springtime display, particularly showy in areas where last fall’s wildfires opened overgrown woodlands to wildflowers, has been nourished by the nutrients left behind by the fires. This will be one of the best years to see big displays of wildflowers because of last fall’s wildfires.

Western Wildflower  lists 17 trails in Napa County to hike for dazzling displays of flora. One of California’s best areas is the Missimer Wildflower Preserve, a protected native grassland. Across its acres of open meadows grow several species listed by the California Native Plant Society as endangered, including the narrow-leaved daisy, Napa western flax, Colusa lavia and yellow Mariposa lily, Calochortus luteus.

Sonoma County Tourism lists 10 Great Wildflower Walks with a colorful array of orange poppies, deep blue iris (now in bloom), purple lupine, white woodland stars, yellow columbine, pink shooting stars, golden fairy lanterns, red larkspur and lavendar clarkia (June) splashed throughout Sonoma County.

California poppies, Gwinllan Vineyards (5/22/18) John Poimiroo

In Sierra Nevada foothills, orange, red and golden California poppies are at their most glorious anywhere grassy slopes face the southern sky. The South Fork of the Merced River, from Mariposa to Yosemite National Park along CA-140 is considered to have one of the best shows, though the upper areas of the Merced River Canyon peaked in mid March.

HIKE OF THE WEEK – The 6.5-mile Hite Cove Trail, leading from Savage’s Trading Post (midway between Mariposa and Yosemite) is spectacular right now with profuse displays of wildflowers growing beside the trail.

If you plan to hike this famed wildflower trail, start early and carry a large bottle of water – you’ll need all of it. The trail is moderate to strenuous, though it has a bonus if you make it to the end… an abandoned mine.

Sierra foothills are carpeted with wildflowers (5/22/18) John Poimiroo

When you capture great images of California’s wildflowers, send them to us and we’ll post them here.