By Helen Tarbet, US Forest Service
Greetings everyone and happy Spring of 2021!
Much like last year, the wildflowers are off to a late start, and more than likely ‘short lived’ due to a fairly dry winter. The rain we had came in January/February and pretty much all at once, which is really not ideal for wildflowers. I took a trip to see what was out there and found that the flowers, which we normally start seeing in late January and early February are the ones in bloom at this time and there’s not very many of them. Grass Mountain is bare…while it has some grass on it, it was not fully covered and there are no blooms on it whatsoever. There are some poppies blooming throughout the mountain, not in large patches but rather in small clumps and mostly lightly scattered. The only place where the poppies are quite prolific is at Chicken Springs on Happy Canyon. They are quite lovely in this area, but I believe it is mostly because they have water since this area sits on a spring, as its name indicates.
Let’s get started!
Starting at the first cattle guard and continuing to the canopy area, shiny buttercups, beautiful fiesta flowers, blue dick, fiddlenecks, Johnny jump-ups, fillaree, sky lupine, lomatium, popcorn flower, miner’s lettuce and a few milkmaids are in bloom. Right before entering the canopy area, look to your right and find a small field of shooting stars, popcorn flower and lomatium. Also, look to your left as you enter the canopy and find some sky lupine and blue dick. Along the canopy area check out the lovely Johnny jump-ups, fiesta flowers, blue dick, fiddleneck, miner’s lettuce, fillaree and Ceanothus.
As you continue to climb the mountain, stunning orange California poppies are blooming along the road and along the rocky hillsides. The Ceanothus is also in bloom, giving the appearance of snow covering its branches. Right before you get to the rusty gate, look on the ground to the right and find some adorable cream cups. You will also see fillaree at this location. If you look to your left, you will see that Grass Mountain is bare for the exception of grass covering portions of it.
Other wildflowers to look for as you continue your uphill drive include buttercups, prickly phlox, miner’s lettuce, fillaree, shooting stars, coreopsis, blue dick, fiddleneck and an occasional morning glory.
When you get to Vista Point (large gravel turnout about 11.4 miles from the bottom), take this opportunity to stretch a bit by taking a short stroll along this area and while doing so look for beautiful chocolate lilies hiding within the grass, shooting stars, fillaree, fiddleneck and goldfield. Notice how small the chocolate lilies are this year. While the flower is of normal size, the stalk is quite short in comparison to years with much more rain. You will notice the same with the shooting stars.
In the area across Vista Point and along the road to the station, look for the beautiful orange poppies, yellow coreopsis and Ceanothus.
As you pass the station, find a few shooting stars. As you approach the field on the right, just as you get to Tunnel Road, notice that there are very few flowers thus far. One can see a few buttercups and wall flowers starting to appear.
About a half mile further, the famous poppy hillside is quite bare, except for of a sprinkling of small tuft poppies. From this point to right before the Davy Brown Trailhead, there is nothing in bloom except for a few poppies and a couple of bush lupine that are starting to bloom. At the Davy Brown Trailhead, look for some shooting stars and chocolate lilies. Beyond the trailhead, look for more shooting stars and lomatium, as well as in the field adjacent to the large dirt turnout to your left about 1⁄2 mile further.
As one continues down the road beyond the turnout, there are quite a few shooting stars. There is also a short stretch of road where one can see patches of large beautiful orange California poppies, but as I mentioned, the stretch is short and nothing else is in bloom for a while.
Along Ranger Peak, the only flowers in bloom are a few shooting stars.
The stretch between Ranger Peak and Cachuma Saddle is just starting to wake up! There really isn’t much to see yet. The bush poppies are starting to bloom and a few bush lupine have blooms on them as well but not many. There is another small stretch of poppies along the road and a purple nightshade fully in bloom.
Sunset Valley has little to report at this time. Aside from shooting stars, a few prickly phlox and a handful of coulter lupine, Sunset Valley is just waking up as well.
Happy Canyon is slowly getting started. In the higher elevation a few small yellow tuft poppies, arroyo lupine, golden yarrow and morning glories are starting to bloom. The clematis, however, is in full bloom. Right before the creek crossings, the field on the right has a few patches of beautiful poppies and continuing along the road in the shaded areas, stunning fiesta flowers are in bloom, accompanied by blue dick and fiddleneck. On the rocky areas, beyond the shaded fields, prickly phlox is in bloom and gorgeous red Indian paintbrush is beginning to bloom as well.
Continuing down the hill, arroyo lupine, a scattering of poppies, coreopsis, blue dick, popcorn flowers and fiddleneck can be found. Mustard is also starting to bloom.
The Chicken Springs area is absolutely gorgeous at this time. This is the only place on the mountain where the poppies are really putting on a show. As mentioned earlier, this area is an underground spring, therefore, the poppies are certainly taking advantage of the moisture that is found at this location. Other wildflowers in bloom in this area include blue dick, Ceanothus and Mexican elderberry.
Beyond the shooting area, to the bottom of the hill, look for shooting stars, buttercups, fiesta flowers, Johnny jump-ups, Ceanothus, poppies, Mexican elderberry, a handful of arroyo lupine and, if you look closely, you will also find a couple of fuchsia flowering gooseberries.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.