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IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO SPOT WILDFLOWERS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA


Matilija Poppies. Late Spring bloomers

This year was a rough season for wildflowers in Southern California.  Minimal rainfall, warm temperatures at odd times, and even a few early wildfires stunted this year’s wildflower season.  In all but a few places, we did not witness meadows and rolling hills carpeted in periwinkle or orange.  The Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve barely experienced a showing, and issued a statement on April 29th stating that the wildflower season had ended early.

Don’t give up hope just yet.  For those of us who are willing to get out there and look for wildflowers, they can be found.  Although California’s main spring bloom may be over, there is a second wave taking place in late spring and into the summer.  Here are some of the species to look for, and where to find them.


California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) in summer

California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum)

This dense, bushy native produces flowers in late spring which gradually turn pink over summer, and then rust-colored in the fall.  Despite the fact that we’ve received scanty rainfall this year, California Buckwheat is still due to bloom, as it is highly drought-tolerant.

California Buckwheat occurs through most of Southern and Central California in Chaparral, Coastal Sage Scrub, Creosote Bush Scrub, and even Joshua Tree Woodland.  In the Santa Monica Mountains, it has been reported at Circle X Ranch.  It is highly prevalent in Ojai.



Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri)

Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri)

The Matilija Poppy, also aptly referred to as the “Fried Egg Flower”, has the largest flowers of any plant native to North America.  The crinkly white flowers can reach 1 foot in diamter, although they average around 5 or 6 inches.  Believed to be named after the Chumash Chief Matilija of the hills of Ventura County near Ojai, this poppy is only found in a few areas of Southern and Baja California.

Look for them in Chaparral and Coastal Sage Scrub communities below 4,000 feet and away from the immediate coast.  Areas where they are known to occur include the Santa Monica Mountains (Malibu Creek State Park in particular), the Ojai and Sespe areas, the Santa Ana Mountains, and throughout San Diego County.



Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera)

Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera)

Although not native to California, Mexican Hat or Prairie Coneflower has naturalized in certain parts of the state.  It is native to much of the Southwest, Central United States, and the East Coast.

This deeply-colored flower, with petals either crimson, yellow, or a combination of both, blooms from late spring through late summer.  Look for them on slopes, in grasslands, arid areas, and roadsides in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, and San Luis Obispo Counties.



Giant Coreopsis (Coreopsis gigantea)

Giant Coreopsis (Coreopsis gigantea)

Now is the time to catch the sunflower-yellow Giant Coreopsis in bloom.  This woody plant, with leaves and flowers sprouting up from a 5 -8 foot trunk, blooms from March-May, and then loses its flowers and foliage over summer.

Look for Giant Coreopsis near the coast.  Some great sites include Point Dume, Point Mugu State Park, and Leo Carillo State Park.

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The Havasi Wilderness Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to heightening awareness and appreciation of the natural environment.

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