Figueroa Wildflower Update
Photo: Robert Bernstein
By Helen Tarbet, Los Padres National Forest
Figueroa Mountain Wildflower Update for May 3, 2019
Hello and happy May!
Some of the early and mid-season wildflowers on Figueroa Mountain are getting tired and going to seed, but the late season varieties are just getting started.
Let’s see what we can find, shall we?
Directions to Figueroa Mountain
Whether you are coming from Highway 101 North or South:
Get off on Highway 154 (the 154 exit closest to Buellton, not Santa Barbara)
Head east on Highway 154 (one can only go east)
About 2 miles on Highway 154, turn left on Figueroa Mountain Road (Watch for the sign at the Los Olivos
exit): One line has an arrow pointing to the right and says “Grand Ave”. Another line has an arrow
pointing to the left and says “Figueroa Mountain Road”.
Follow Figueroa Mountain Road all the way down (about 4 miles) until the road turns slightly and one
goes over a small bridge.
Keep going up a slight incline and over the cattle guard.
Beginning at the first cattle guard and continuing to the canopy area, Chinese houses and hummingbird sage is still in bloom and looking lovely. Beautiful wine cup clarkia and golden yarrow are starting to bloom along this stretch. However, buttercups, lupine and blue dicks are quickly saying goodbye for this year, while the fiesta flowers have already gone. Along the canopy area, Chinese houses, hummingbird sage and buttercups can still be seen, along with, what appears to be Italian thistle getting ready to bloom. As you continue to climb the mountain, stunning orange California poppies are still in bloom along the road and rocky hillsides. The sweet white cream cups, before the rusty gate, are done for the year.
Other wildflowers to look for as you continue your uphill drive include, Mexican elderberry, California poppies, Chinese houses,wild red onion, prickly phlox, buttercups, yarrow, buckwheat, morning glories, wallflowers, blue-eyed grass, butter lupine and blow wives. Look for beautiful dudleya (wild hen and chicks succulents) along the rocky areas and gorgeous Catalina mariposa lilies in the grassy fields. Some sky lupine can still be seen along this portion of the road, but they are rapidly seeding.
At Vista Point (large gravel turnout about 11.4 miles from the bottom), there is little left to see. Fillaree is still hanging in there, but the blue-eyed grass and goldfields are going fast.
In the area across Vista Point and along the road to the station, look for orange poppies, golden yarrow, blow wives, purple sage, Chinese houses, lupine and caterpillar phacelia.
As you pass the station, the shooting stars and fiddleneck are gone, but Mexican elderberry, blue dicks, sky lupine and blow wives are present.
Before you get to Tunnel Road, look straight and slightly to the left at the hillsides. The poppy filled hillsides are gone but have been replaced with striking bush lupine. As you approach the field to the right, check out the charming wall flowers, accompanied by blue-eyed grass, buttercups, wild onions, fillaree, golden yarrow and blow wives.
About a half mile further, the famous poppy hillside, is completely covered in different varieties of grass. Sky lupine continue to show off along the hillsides and slopes, but are slowing down. Exquisite bush lupine, on the other hand, is in full bloom along the road, hillsides and slopes. Please take a few minutes to stop and smell its heavenly aroma! From this point to the Davy Brown Trailhead, one will see more bush lupine, sky lupine, caterpillar phacelia, fiesta flowers, blue dicks, globe gilias, chia, common phacelias, golden yarrow, fiesta flowers and a few poppies.
Once one passes the trailhead, look for blue dicks, blue-eyed grass and globe gilias. The big dirt turnout on the left, has little to see. The chocolate lilies have gone to seed, along with the shooting stars. Only a few lupine are still in bloom. Past the dirt turnout to the pipe fence, look for blue dicks, sky lupine, buttercups, goldfields, wild onion, tidy tips, Indian paintbrush, blue eyed grass and wild daisies. Within the pipe fence, a few chocolate lilies are struggling to stay awake, but most have gone to seed, but blue dicks, tidy tips, sky lupine, buttercups, lomatium and fiddleneck are still in bloom.
As you go up and over Ranger Peak, look for sky lupine, fiddleneck, bush lupine, baby blue-eyes, fillaree and poppies.
The stretch between Ranger Peak and Cachuma Saddle is quite lovely! While the patches of poppies have diminished, bush lupine, bush poppies and monkeyflowers are making quite a presence along the road and rocky hillsides. Other beauties to look for include blue dicks, purple nightshade, caterpillar phacelia, popcorn flower, scarlet bugler, globe gilias, chia, Mexican elderberry, common phacelia, vetch, Chinese houses, Indian paintbrush, purple sage and a few wallflowers.
Sunset Valley has new performers and some that are continuing with their routine from two weeks ago. The continuing performers include, globe gilias, chia, goldfields, blue dicks, common phacelia, poppies, Chinese houses, Nuttle’s larkspur, wild canyon peas, Colter lupine, popcorn flowers, stinging lupine and caterpillar phacelia. Mexican elderberry is really getting started, along with sticky monkey flowers, bush lupine, bush poppies and prickly phlox. The clarkias are getting their act in gear. Wine cup clarkia, farewell to spring and elegant clarkia are making their grand entrance. Golden yarrow, milk thistle, morning stars, buckwheat and scarlet buglers are joining the cast of these glamorous performers. The wild cucumber is past its prime and
quickly taking a final bow. Beautiful clematis is performing its majestic final transformation act. It’s changing from its gorgeous flower form to the mysterious pompom looking seed pod.
Happy Canyon has also lost most of the poppy luster. While there are still a few scattered poppies, other late season blooms are taking their place. When you first start going down Happy Canyon, look for blue dicks, vetch, milk thistle, Nuttle’s larkspur, chia, common phacelia, Colter lupine, golden yarrow, purple sage, clematis, bush poppies, bush lupine, morning glories, stinging lupine, Chinese houses and fiesta flowers.
As one goes past the gate, along the rocky hillside to the right, look for vetch, morning glories, wild canyon peas, Chinese houses, Indian paintbrush, sticky monkey flower and Mexican elderberry. Once you pass the rocky hillside, look for poppies hiding within the tall grassy pastures. You will also find milk thistle, mustard, purple sage, butter lupine, red onion, blow wives and gorgeous Catalina Mariposa lilies swaying among the grassy hillsides.
Beyond the shooting area, to the bottom of the hill, look for mustard, Indian paintbrush, cactus flowers, purple sage, Mexican elderberry, Nuttle’s larkspur, blue-eyed grass, butter lupine, prickly phlox, blue dicks, Chinese houses, death camas, golden yarrow, whimsical fairy lanterns, sticky monkey flowers, farewell to spring, wine cup clarkia, wild canyon peas, fiesta flowers and some occasional royal lupine.
A reminder to all wildflower viewers...when stopping to take pictures or to take a hike, please do not block the road at any time nor double park. As you all know, this is a hazard and makes it impossible for emergency vehicles to get through if their assistance were required.
That’s all for this update. Look for our next wildflower update in two weeks. Until then, happy viewing! If you would like to be added to the Figueroa Wildflower Update email list, please send your request to Helen Tarbet by email at [email protected].
Los Padres National Forest, Santa Lucia Ranger District Spring Tour
Figueroa Late Season Wildflower Tour May 11th, 2019 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. Meet outside the front gate of the Figueroa Station at 9:00 am.
No sign-up necessary, just show up! Tour led by Dr. Charles Blair of the Native Plant Society.
* * * * Bring comfortable shoes, sunscreen, plenty of water and your lunch. For more information, contact Helen Tarbet by email at [email protected]
***Please be advised that large displays of California poppies are no longer in bloom. Wildflowers seen on the tour will be the late season varieties.