Wildflowers to start a-bloomin’ in the SoCal

Feb 25, 2010 by Sean Belk

Springtime is getting closer and you might want to get your camera out for this one.

Apparently, the recent heavy rains atop lots of barren hillsides— ravaged by last year’s set of fires in California— is expected to make for an especially colorful wildflower season this year.  Hence, the often-spectacular natural floral arrangements of orange, yellow, and purple are at least a piece of good fortune after the same circumstances recently caused especially devastating mudslides for homeowners—proving that good things do come to those who wait.

Orange

Whether you’re in Los Angeles or Orange County, starting next month these hidden floral gems are sure to be a wonderful sight on hiking and biking trails, or able to be seen in many of our state’s gorgeous parks.  Soon, brightly colored plants like the purple nightshade, Canterbury bells, and the state’s own California poppies will soon blanket the land.

Some of these hillside flowers are known as “fire followers,” which re-sprout from the ash left on the ground from each year’s fire season.

Purple

There were a total of 63 wildfires in 2009 across California, with the largest fire being the Station Fire, north of Los Angeles, that lasted two months, scorching 160,577 acres of land–the last time Orange County received this amount of catastrophic set of fires was in 2007, one being the Santiago Fire that burned 28,000 acres.

These fire conditions that occur throughout the state on an annual basis create incalculable open landscapes that become prime with just the right ground soil for native plants to thrive.  In fact, the exotic vegetation is specific to the Southland, and can only by found in five parts of the world due to the area’s coastal climate zone, an arid habitat that rains an average of 13 inches per year.

Yellow

Other parts of the world where these conditions exist include southwest Africa, southwestern Australia, Chile and the Mediterranean basin.

With all the heavy rain we have been receiving, totaling more than 30 inches in some higher elevation canyons and valleys, there could be more wildflowers than usual. Because of our state’s four-year drought conditions that still aren’t quite over  yet are also a contributing factor to the perennial flowers.

Flowers are Popping

These yearly blooms usually start popping up by March, but some could already be reaching for the sky.

Here are some Wonderful Places to go to view the Wildflowers

Famous Wildflower sites in Los Angeles

Many Los Angeles parks  are prime sites for viewing wildflowers, such as Griffith Park , Charmlee Wilderness Park in Malibu, Los Angeles State Historic Park,  and the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.

Irvine Ranch Conservancy

The Laist.com points out that the Theodore Payne Foundation  will be operating a Wildflower Hotline starting on March 5, for enthused sightseers to call and hear “updated details about more than 90 wildflower sites.”

Orange County’s hidden landscape of Wildflowers

The Irvine Ranch Conservancy , is one of the largest spots in all of Orange County’s parks to see wildflowers. About 37,000 acres of the wild-lands at the Irvine Ranch were designated as a National Natural Landmark by the US Department of Interior in 2006.  The Irvine Ranch offers day and moonlight hikes, community activities, and events.

Tucker Wildllife Sanctuary

The Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, is also a small but common spot to view the wild exotic plants.  It’s located on a 12-acre nature preserve located in the heart of Modjeska Canyon adjacent to the Cleveland National Forest. Many students can be seen studying and researching the area, since it’s owned and operated by California State University, Fullerton.

What aren’t native: Mustard Plants

A yellow weed, known as a mustard plant, is a non-native invasive growth that can literally take over hillsides by pushing out the more colorful wildflowers and native species. The mustard plant is also a fire hazard when they dry out and leave clusters of brittle twigs.  Ergo, again creating the cycle of fire seasons and fires that are, unfortunately a continuum in the Southland.

In fact, often times dissidents and ecologists rip the non-native weeds out of the ground since they out-compete other plants and can grow very rapidly.

When Travelin’ Local, since native wildflowers only show off their magnificence once a year—which make Southern California truly unique–you might want to pack your camera, put on your walking shoes, and go to a local spot to check out Los Angeles and Orange County’s natural physical beauty.

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