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Wildflower Update
updated: Mar 18, 2011, 5:58 AM

Source: Los Padres National Forest

Figueroa Mountain Wildflower Update - First Update of the 2011 Season

Greetings and welcome to the 2011 Wildflower Season! The wildflowers on Figueroa Mountain have been quite perplexed, largely due to the spring-like and snowy winter weather combinations that we have been experiencing this year. Regardless, Figueroa is still managing to provide its infamous and beautiful wildflower displays.

Starting at the first cattle guard, look for popcorn flowers, blue dicks, buttercups, fiddlenecks, Johnny jump-ups, fiesta flowers, miner's lettuce, fiddlenecks, a few sky lupine, a wild onion here and there, and even the early arrival of some Chinese houses. As one makes the turn along the second bend, look to your right and find vivid, Red Indian paintbrush on the rock formation, along with Johnny jump-ups and fillaree. About 20 yards further on the right, you'll find shooting stars, Johnny jump-ups, lomatium, miner's lettuce and fillaree. Another 25 yards down the road will take you to a slope on the left where miniature lupine and sky lupine are beginning to color this area. As one continues under the tree canopy, sky lupine, miniature lupine, Johnny jump-ups and fiddlenecks are making their presence known. The shooting stars and milk maids in the lower elevation are quickly turning to seed as they were extremely early this year. These two beauties began blooming in early January.

Continue up the hill and one will encounter the beautiful orange California poppies. Other wildflowers to look for as one continues on the uphill climb include buttercups, fiddlenecks, shooting stars, blue dicks, popcorn flowers, fillaree, royal lupine, lomatium, coreopsis and the start of lovely wallflowers and prickly phlox. If one looks to the left at Grass Mountain, notice that the hillside is rapidly turning orange as California poppies start to carpet the magnificent landscape.

The charming and beautiful chocolate lilies are beginning to become visible at Vista Point, a large gravel turnout about 11.4 miles from the bottom. Shooting stars, fillaree, goldfields and buttercups can also be found there. Continuing up the road, one will find golden yarrow, buttercups, shooting stars, goldfields and coreopsis.

Less than a mile beyond the Figueroa Fire Station, look to the right, just before Tunnell Road, and find a beautiful display of wall flowers and shooting stars.

About half a mile further, the slopes on the left are rapidly beginning to fill with California poppies, but wait, the sky lupine is slow at arriving. Only a few are currently intermingling with the poppies. This popular display is early this year, at least for the poppies. The peak for the poppies should take place within two weeks. However, the lupine peak should take place later than that. You will notice that a fire swept through this area during November of last year. Because ash releases fertilizer qualities into the soil, perhaps this prompted the early arrival of these beauties. Whether the carpets are mostly orange or mostly purple, such exquisiteness still makes these popular hillsides most delightful.

Keep in mind, winter storms are still arriving. Snow showers are a possibility for this weekend. When the weather is overcast, cloudy or cold, the poppies refuse to open up and show off their magnificent colors. It is advisable to plan one's trip on sunny and warm days.

The Lookout Road is not quite ready yet. One will only find a few lupine and California poppies at the very start of the road. Remember, the higher elevation of this road will have its' beautiful displays in about a month.

As one continues on Figueroa Mountain Road to Ranger Peak, the wildflowers have really slowed down. This, of course, is due to the higher elevation. However, one can still see a few buttercups, fillaree, goldfields, shooting stars, and an occasional California poppy. As one goes just beyond the gate at Ranger Peak, a handful of very confused baby blue eyes are peeking through the tall grass, on the right hillside. Brrrrr……it's still too cold for their friends to emerge.

From Ranger Peak to Cachuma Saddle, one will find a poppy here and there along with fiddlenecks. As you begin to reach the lower level of the mountainside, look for lovely red Indian paintbrush to your right, as well as the arrival of more and more bush poppies.

Sunset Valley has very little to see at this point. Aside from a few California poppies, bush poppies, golden yarrow, several prickly phlox bushes, and one perplexed Nuttles Larkspur, the wildflowers are not yet in bloom.

As you start your descent down Happy Canyon, the first part has little to show with the exception of a lovely clematis bush at the right of the cattle guard. As you near Cachuma Campground, look for the first bush lupine and a fuchsia-flowered gooseberry on the left. As you begin to approach Cachuma Campground, California poppies are becoming more visible. About a mile past the campground, the grassy hillsides and fields are quickly coming alive with yellows and oranges protruding through the tall lush green grass. One can see a blend of coreopsis, California poppies, and buttercups. As you continue with the last few miles of your wildflower journey through Figueroa Mountain, you will find shooting stars, miner's lettuce and Johnny jump-ups.

As you travel on Figueroa Mountain Road, please drive safely, slowly and stay on your side of the road. We get many visitors this time of year and weekends can be very busy. Also, remember that you will need an Adventure Pass while recreating on Figueroa Mountain. That's all for this update. Look for our next wildflower update in late-March. Until then, happy viewing!

For more information, please contact Helen Tarbet at 805-925-9538, ext. 246, or by e-mail at htarbet@fs.fed.us


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