California Wildflowers: How to Catch the Spring Blooms

Thursday: While drought conditions won’t allow a super bloom, you can still enjoy the state’s wildflowers this season.,


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ImageA wildflower bloom near Hemet in 2017.
A wildflower bloom near Hemet in 2017. Credit…David McNew/Getty Images

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Good morning.

“Driving to Warner Springs, the hairy ceanothus is in eye-popping full bloom along I-15 between Fallbrook and Temecula,” Joe Spano said.

Mr. Spano, the Emmy award-winning actor, is the voice of the Theodore Payne Foundation’s wildflower hotline (yes, a real hotline!), which offers free weekly updates every Friday from March through May, on the best locations for viewing wildflowers in Southern and Central California.

With spring in full swing, and the idyllic super blooms like the ones that took place in 2017 still in people’s minds, you may be wondering how the state’s wildflowers will fare this year.

For now, with drought conditions returning, there won’t be a super bloom this year, said Casey Schreiner, founder and editor of the website Modern Hiker. But that doesn’t mean that flowers aren’t blooming at all, of course.

“Things are still blooming all over California and will be for months and months,” Mr. Schreiner said. “You’re just not going to get those picture-perfect fields of endless California poppies, most likely, this year.”

[See images of the super bloom in 2019.]

If you’re on the hunt for those native blooms and curious about where to start, the answer isn’t always set in stone. With California’s wide swath of microclimates and dozens of factors that can affect whether there is a bloom or not, Mr. Schreiner said it could be hard to pinpoint exactly which canyon or area is certain to put on a show. But even if you’re not guaranteed those Instagram-worthy, poppies-as-far-as-the-eye-can-see kind of blooms, don’t be deterred.

“If you limit yourself to that, as what you’re looking for in wildflowers you are going to miss so much,” he said. “We have just this amazing diverse array of California native plants that all put on a show, really, throughout the year.”

One way to stay on top of where wildflowers are blooming is, of course the wildflower hotline. There are also other resources, Mr. Schreiner said, like It includes information on nearby states as well, but also keeps track of blooms in Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley and the Mojave National Preserve, to name a few.

But even if you’re not trying to plan ahead, you can be sure you’ll find beautiful native plants wherever you go.

“When you’re hiking,” Mr. Schreiner said, “open up yourself to the flowers that you’re looking at and try to learn a little bit about them if you can.” He recommends using an app like iNaturalist, a free app that lets you take pictures of plants and tag them so other users can help you identify what you’re seeing.


The hills surrounding Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet.Credit…Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Schreiner, who has been in Southern California for 18 years, said he had the most fun this time of year doing no research at all and just checking out the trails he wanted to. “To me, with that, you get the element of surprise, you learn what you are seeing, and you’re kind of always more delighted that way,” he said, as opposed to setting expectations and then getting disappointed.

And while the state may be on track to lift coronavirus restrictions, we’re still very much in a pandemic. Mr. Schreiner recommends checking with the city or park you’re planning to visit, but count on wearing a mask (some places require it, while others do so only if you’re passing people) and keeping your distance from others on the trail.

Beyond the pandemic, there are also other no-nos if you’re heading to see some blooms. Staying on the trail is critical, Mr. Schreiner said.

“When these blooms are coming up, these are these plants’ shot to make it to next year,” he said. “So if you pick them, if you trample them, if you lay on them to get a really cool picture for your Facebook friends, you may look cool but you’re really destroying the habitat.”

“Most of these flowers only last, you know, a week or two before they’re gone,” he said. “So, let them be there.”

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A poppy field blooming in the desert in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in 2019.Credit…Etienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • Slide 1 of 9


    A poppy field blooming in the desert in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in 2019.Credit…Etienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock


The Los Angeles County Sheriff said that Tiger Woods was speeding when he crashed his sport-utility vehicle in February and that there were no signs of impairment.Credit…Patrick T. Fallon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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Priya Arora was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, and graduated from U.C. Irvine. They are currently a social media editor on the Audience team, and also write about South Asian pop culture for The Times.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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