If Lady Gaga were Poppy instead of a pop star, she’d probably do a multi-week residency in Death Valley instead of Las Vegas.
Or not. Some years, starting in mid-February, Southern California poppies and dozens of other wildflowers appear for a few weeks, blooming and delighting the masses. Some years, they don’t.
This year, by most accounts, they do. In fact, after describing a series of weather events that old-timers called “the rains,” some of the region’s best wildflower spots can reach the rare and self-explanatory status of being called “extremely spectacular.”
For the record, it’s not a lock, just a legal privilege. Superflowers are variable and experts say the conditions that produce them range from lots and lots of rain to nothing too much Rain, when it rains.
“A spectacular bloom is basically a once-in-a-lifetime event, maybe once every ten or two,” said Tim Baker, director of horticulture for the Theodore Payne Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes the conservation of California’s native plants and operates the San Fernando. A nursery that sells a variety of native species.
According to Baker, the term generally applies to parts of flowering plants that bloom at the same time in an area, especially in areas with more seasonal rain and humidity. So inland and desert areas can sometimes experience an abundance of blooms, while coastal areas tend to produce regular (if slightly more spectacular) wildflowers.
But California is a very big place; “It’s flexible as you go.” Baker added. “If you want to see more flowers, look at the rainfall record for that area to date.
And of course, call our hotline.
Every year, starting in early March and running for three months, Theodore Payne Foundation’s weekly Wildflower Hotline (818-768-1802, ext. 7) offers tips on where to check out the latest blooms. The hotline is narrated by longtime actor Joe Spano — “Hill Street Blues,” “NCIS,” Chuck-E-Cheese (of course) — and offers real-time updates based on information from citizen nature lovers.
RELATED: These are the best wildflower spots in Southern California
For places with lots of flowers, the joy of flowers can be taxing. More people mean more people wandering off the roads, causing long-term damage to habitats. The crowd means a lot of garbage or other environmental insults. Flower enthusiasts say that problems can be avoided by following certain rules: strictly following the paths, obeying the rules of the parks and generally treating the landscape with respect.
Baker also pointed out that people shouldn’t be hung up on accounts. This spring, super bloom or not, promises to be great for wildflower viewing.
“You never get old to see wildflowers in their natural habitat,” Baker said. “Nothing hits the senses like an ecosystem in full bloom.”
Here’s a list of a few regional flower hot spots, where flowers can be grown, and some things to see if you do.
Chino Hills State Park
Poppies? Check. Violet Owl Clover? Lupins? Mustard? He checks around.
The 14,000-acre park is one of the region’s best, most accessible wildflower areas. And with nearly 60 miles of trails, there are hikes for everyone. (For information on flower-friendly trails, go online and search for “best wildflower trails in Chino Hills State Park.”)
For what it’s worth, the rain was heavy enough to close some roads in early January. That has changed for now, but be sure to check conditions before visiting. Also, to avoid crowds, weekdays are the best.
Black Star Canyon
The first part of this 6.7 mile (round trip) hike in the Cleveland National Forest is fairly easy, mostly on soft dirt trail. The second section, an 800-plus foot elevation gain, involves muddy or wet streams and lots and lots of rocks, and it’s not easy.
But, many years from now, you will see flowers. California lilacs and bright yellow collards are the stars, but everything from poppies to mustards will bloom in the next four to eight weeks. Dogs are allowed but leashes are required. (Also, the rocks are very large. Your dog may not accept some of the climbing options.)
For information, go to alltrails.com and check out Black Star Canyon.
Malibu Creek State Park
As you walk through this 8,100-acre park and notice how many of the movies and TV shows have been filmed here, you’ll see one of the most spectacular wildflower displays in the region. Cudweed Asters, Golden Bush, White and Purple Nightshade, Deer, Morning Glory, Bushmallow, Mulefat; All these and more emerge for several weeks, most years, beginning in mid-February or earlier.
Fires have scorched some landscapes, although vegetation is recovering from burned lands. Also, in other areas, the rains were heavy enough during autumn and some places were already blooming by early January. More rain over the next few weeks could mean an especially long season.
But even in a year with no or low flowers, the place does not disappoint. Don’t just bring your dog; Dogs are not allowed.
Walker Canyon, Lake Elsinore
A few years ago, an overabundance of blooms in the Lake Elsinore region caused massive traffic jams, a riot of color that was close to rioting for flower enthusiasts. This season, conditions are set for the same. Flowers (poppies are a big draw) are already starting to bloom, and this year the flowers can last until April.
Want to keep the crowd away? Bring some hiking boots and take the 9.2-mile, moderately difficult Walker Canyon Trail. It takes you to what is considered the backcountry in this region. Photos posted online show the area is already lush, with flowers and grasses tall and streams flowing. To avoid the biggest crowds, try a weekday. Also, if you bring a dog, bring dog bags and a leash.
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
The California poppy is the state flower and the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is protected by state law, so maybe there’s some kind of kismet here.
And, by many accounts, this poppy bloom is pretty consistent statewide, the happy result of location (15 miles west of Lancaster, close enough to the desert’s influence, but temperatures can be unbearable at times) elevation (2,600 to 3,000 feet) and rainfall. .
The place even has a poppy camera.
This time of year, the bloom — which typically begins in late February and lasts until early May — can be marred by summer rains and storms from November to January.
The show is not limited to poppies. Other flowers include owl clover, lupine, goldenrod, cream cups and coreopsis.
There are 7 miles (11 kilometers) of trails, including a paved section for wheelchair access, that cross the poppy fields.
Palos Verdes Peninsula – Point Vicente
Baker says most of Southern California’s coastal ecosystems are cool and wet enough that wildflowers grow year-round. But peak wildflower season—February through April—is especially lush along the coast.
The Palos Verdes Peninsula has several trails, some more difficult and long than others. One easy one — and one that offers ocean views as well as views of currently blooming mustard and dozens of other wildflowers — includes the Point Vicente Lighthouse. It is partially paved, wheelchair friendly and only 1.6 miles long. If you bring a dog, bring a leash.
The national park named after the holiday, located 260 miles northeast of Los Angeles, attracts tourists from around the world, with annual (that’s a scientific term) wildflowers that are postcard-worthy. Last year’s flower was very. And the previous year is no longer discussed. But this year the conditions are very good so far.
Flower options in Death Valley are as varied as anywhere else on Earth. Early-season, low-elevation varieties include desert gold, golden evening primrose, and desert five-spot. Mid-elevation (3,000-5,000 ft) species include desert dandelion, brittlebush, desert paintbrush, indigo bush, and desert globemallow. And at higher elevations (5,000-11,000 feet) species include desert mariposa, purple sage, pink sage, panmint penstemon, fantastic lupine, and inyo lupine.
Death Valley wildflowers bloom from mid-February. In low areas, they continue to bloom until mid-May, and in high areas, they can go into July. For details, go online and search for Death Valley National Park.