Chasing Plain Wildflowers: Super Bloom at the Carrizo Plain

April 19, 2017

California’s native plants are getting a lot of attention this spring, thanks to some of the best wildflower displays in decades. The recent rainy season is a gift that keeps on giving, with once-brown hillsides now carpeted in a rainbow of colors. Heeding a friend’s advice to drop everything and go, I headed to the Temblor Range on Easter Sunday with a few plant-loving pals. We were hoping to catch scenes like this:

Temblor Range Wildflowers, photo by Tim Fross.

And this:

Common hillside daisy, photo by Tim Fross.

The Temblors define the northern rim of the Carrizo Plain, hugging the boundary between San Luis Obispo and Kern counties. Although peak bloom was just past, Nature’s splendor was still worthy of gasps and swoons. Here are a few of the highlights from our day.

Common hillside daisy up close, Monolopia lanceolata.

We were definitely impressed!

A painterly tapestry of California poppy, tansy-leaf phacelia, and Fremont pincushion.

Pink and orange rub some people the wrong way, but Nature doesn’t follow rules when it comes to color combinations. Satiny orange San Joaquin blazing star (if you look really close, you can see beetles nestled in the petals) comingle with mauve pink Parry’s mallow.

San Joaquin blazing star (center) and Parry’s mallow.

I’ve never seen such exuberant displays of Parry’s mallow and will hunt for a seed source to sow in the Museum’s Nature Gardens next fall. I’m sure it will be wonderful in bouquets, judging by how well its desert relatives – Indian and apricot mallow – have performed for us. And a good source of pollen for bees and other insects.

Apricot mallow, Sphaeralcea ambiqua in the NHMLA Nature Gardens

But perhaps the most stunning display of the day was huge swaths of desert candles, Caulanthus inflatus. This bizarre member of the mustard family, with its swollen chartreuse stems and deep maroon flower buds, is truly spectacular. Solitary plants are a marvel, but seeing acres of them was simply incredible. I wonder if they glow in the dark!

Desert candle, Caulanthus inflatus, with two crane flies on the candle-like stalk.

Although we’re a long way from France, one can imagine scenes like these inspiring George Seurat to perfect his pointillist painting technique.

Our spirits restored by all that beauty and in awe of the massive seed bank that created these jaw-dropping scenes, we reluctantly turned toward home, stopping to coax this tarantula off the road and out of harm’s way.

California ebony tarantula, Aphonopelma eutylenum.

**All photos by Carol Bornstein unless otherwise noted.




(Posted by: Carol Bornstein)

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