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Monarch Listing Is Warranted

Monarch Butterfly, Lighthouse Field, Santa Cruz (1/16/06) John Poimiroo

Listing the Monarch butterfly as a threatened or endangered specie is warranted but precluded due to other priorities, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) announced today.

The announcement follows reports of plummeting Monarch butterfly counts in California, the specie’s western wintering grounds. Once numbering over one million butterflies, the western population of Monarch butterflies dropped in the last year from over 27,000 to just 2,000 butterflies.

Monarch butterflies are one of numerous remarkable species that migrate to and through California in autumn. The Monarchs spend winter along the California coast from San Diego north to Marin County. Prime winter roosts have included Pismo Beach, Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz. Though, scenes like this are disappearing.

Monarch Butterflies, Santa Cruz (1/16/2006) John Poimiroo

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman attributed private conservation efforts, supported by the USF&WS, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as resulting in “stunning and unprecedented” accomplishments in recent years, such as planting 500 million milkweed plants and improving 5.3 million acres of Monarch habitat.

Despite these accomplishments, at least in the west, Monarch butterflies are heading toward extinction.

Bay Nature reported Sarina Jepsen, Director of Endangered Species at the Xerces Society as saying that the decision to declare the Monarchs as warranted to be listed as threatened or endangered, “does not yet provide the protection that Monarchs, and especially the western population, so desperately need to recover.”

The butterfly population is declining because of a lack of available milkweed (the only food they eat), less overwintering habitat, insecticides (sometimes related to mosquito control efforts) and climate change, said Lori Nordstrom of the USF&WS.

In response, efforts to encourage planting milkweed and creating quality butterfly habitat, led by conservation groups and the USF&WS, are assisting private land owners, developers, farmers and ranchers and communities. Under the Conservation Reserve Program, “They do the work, we provide the seed,” explained USF&WS Regional Director Charley Wooley.

USF&WS officials admit that while other conservation efforts can be successfully led by federal and international agencies and NGOs, successes in preserving Monarchs have occurred mostly due to the efforts of private individuals and land owners who plant milkweed.

“The public has become galvanized,” Wooley said, “they’re planting milkweed in gardens and fields, pastures and along rights of way.” Organizations like the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation assist in calling the public to action and sourcing suppliers of native milkweed seed.

In concluding today, the USF&WS announced it will work until 2024 on a plan intended to propose listing the Monarch butterfly as threatened or endangered, if warranted. For now, the protection of western Monarch butterflies is in the public’s hands. Here’s a list of types of milkweed California Monarchs need to survive and where to find them. Caution: do not plant tropical (Mexican) milkweed, as it is harmful to the survival of Monarchs. Plant only varieties of milkweed native to California or they will not migrate.

HOLIDAY GIFT IDEA: Give native native milkweed seeds or seedballs as holiday gifts. Email bobby@milkweed.com or visit butterflyencounters.com to order the right type of California seeds Monarch butterflies need to survive.

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.