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Wildflower excursion to southern California

Yesterday I joined some friends on an impromptu day trip to southern California to see the spring wildflower bloom. The El Niño rains had brought forth a "superbloom" this year, and while we didn't have time to go all the way to Death Valley we thought we'd be able to see lots of flowers in closer locations.

Stop #1: Tejon Pass, Tehachapi Mountains

California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) on hillside of Tehachapi Mountains. 2 April 2016
California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) on hillside of Tehachapi Mountains.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong
California poppies (E. californica) on hillside of Tehachapi Mountains.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong

It was interesting to note that we saw poppies only on the south-facing slopes. Wanting to get a closer look we continued on our way.

Stop #2: Cerro Noreste/Hudson Ranch Road above the Maricopa Flats

We stopped briefly in Gorman and got our first close-up look at wildflowers. I got to see my beloved California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), but they were not nearly as abundant as I had hoped.

California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) on roadside hill in Gorman, CA.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong
California poppy (E. californica) on roadside hill in Gorman, CA.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong
California poppies (E. californica) and baby blue eyes (N. menziesii) on roadside hill in Gorman, CA. 2 April 2016 © Allison J. Gong
California poppies (E. californica) and Phacelia ciliata (the purple flowers) on roadside hill in Gorman, CA.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong

The flowers in Gorman weren't as spectacular as we had hoped, and in the interest of expediency we didn't take much time to explore a site that didn't look promising. We crossed I-5 and headed west through Frazier Park and onto the Mil Potrero Highway, which at some point becomes the Cerro Noreste/Hudson Ranch Road. And along this road we saw purple and yellow/orange flowers.

Purple flowers along road in Gorman, CA. 2 April 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Purple flowers along Cerro Noreste Road above the Maricopa Flats, CA.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong
Purple wildflowers along Cerro Noreste Road above the Maricopa Flats, CA. 2 April 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Purple wildflowers along Cerro Noreste/Hudson Ranch Road above the Maricopa Flats, CA.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong

I took some close-up shots of the purple flowers, hoping to be able to identify them when I got home. They're very pretty! And I was able to determine that they are Phacelia ciliata. They were by far the most abundant blue or purple flowers we saw yesterday.

Baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) in Gorman, CA. 2 April 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Phacelia ciliata along Cerro Noreste/Hudson Ranch Road above the Maricopa Flats, CA
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong

Our other orange flower was fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii:

Fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii) on roadside hill in Gorman, CA. 2 April 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii) along the Cerro Noreste/Hudson Ranch Road above the Maricopa Flats, CA
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong

Stop #3: Carrizo Plain

Wanting to check out conditions on the Carrizo Plain, we headed northwest on Soda Lake Road. Our first views of wildflowers on the hills looked like they were part of a pastel painting.

Wildflowers on hills of Carrizo Plain. 2 April 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Wildflowers on hills seen from Soda Lake Road, Santa Margarita, CA.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong
Wildflowers on hills of Carrizo Plain. 2 April 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Wildflowers on hills seen from Soda Lake Road, Santa Margarita, CA.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong

On the Carrizo Plain itself, the most abundant flowers were baby blue eyes (N. menziesii) and goldfields (Lasthenia californica). They made large colorful patches on the plain. So pretty!

Fields of goldfields (Amsinckia menziesii) on the Carrizo Plain. 2 April 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Fields of goldfields (L. californica) and Phacelia ciliata on the Carrizo Plain.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong
Fields of goldfields (Amsinckia menziesii) on the Carrizo Plain. 2 April 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Fields of goldfields (L. californica) and Phacelia ciliata on the Carrizo Plain.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong

Goldfields are not called "goldfields" without reason:

Goldfields (L. californica) on the Carrizo Plain. 2 April 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Goldfields (L. californica) on the Carrizo Plain.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong
Goldfields (L. californica) on the Carrizo Plain. 2 April 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Goldfields (L. californica) on the Carrizo Plain.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong
Goldfields (L. californica) on the Carrizo Plain. 2 April 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Goldfields (L. californica) on the Carrizo Plain.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong
Goldfields (L. californica) on the Carrizo Plain. 2 April 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Goldfields (L. californica) on the Carrizo Plain.
2 April 2016
© Allison J. Gong

I had never made a trip specifically to see wildflowers before, and although it was a 16-hour day and my allergies and asthma are horrible today, it was totally worth it. The fleeting spring wildflower bloom is one of the things that makes California special. In a state with a Mediterranean climate, this short period of blatant reproduction before the onset of the dry season is a pretty magnificent thing to witness.

3 thoughts on “Wildflower excursion to southern California

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