By Helen Tarbet, US Forest Service
Well, I have some good news and I have some bad news. Which should I tell first? Let’s go with the good news. There are more flower varieties blooming than there were two weeks ago. Now, the dreaded bad news…while there are more varieties, with the exception of a few, there really aren’t as many as in other years. Of course, we all expected this to happen with the dry winter we had. The flowers are doing the best they can with the late rain they received. They are trying to give us the best show they can with what they had to work with, so let’s go out and see what they have for us.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
Starting at the first cattle guard and continuing to the canopy area, shiny buttercups, blue dicks, beautiful fiesta flowers, milk maids, fiddlenecks, Johnny jump-ups, fillaree, lomatium, fillaree and miner’s lettuce are in bloom. Lovely Chinese houses are beginning to bloom along this stretch, however, the milkmaids are going away quite rapidly. You can also find wild onions and a couple of royal lupine starting to come out. The field on the right before the canopy area, is also beginning to dwindle. The shooting stars are turning to seed quite rapidly, leaving that area with blue dicks, lomatium and popcorn flowers. Along the canopy area, one can still find Johnny jump-ups, blue dicks, buttercups, fiesta flowers, fillaree, popcorn flowers and fiddleneck. The milkmaids are leaving this area as well. Mustard, however, is starting.
As you continue to climb up the hill, beautiful California poppies continue to bloom along the road and on the rocky hillsides. Grass Mountain appears to be getting more patches of orange from the poppies, adding to the patchwork quilt appearance. Right before you get to the rusty gate, look on the ground to the right. Tiny cream cups are still blooming, along with fillaree and some poppies.
Other wildflowers to look for as you continue your uphill drive include, buttercups, poppies, miner’s lettuce, mustard, fiddleneck, fillaree, blue dicks, a single prickly phlox (at least for now), buckwheat, popcorn flowers, buttercups, shooting stars, goldfields, coreopsis, fading Ceanothus and lomatium. Beautiful mariposa lilies continue to adorn the grassy fields as they sway with the wind, giving them a graceful appearance. Royal lupine are starting to show up more and more along the road and in the grassy fields. The serpentine turnout, located to the left as you go up the hill, continues to provide a wonderful picture taking opportunity, as Grass Mountain is directly ahead. On ground level, poppies can be found along with bright yellow carpets of goldfields. Popcorn flowers and shooting stars are in the grassy fields next to the serpentine area as well. Make sure the day you chose to visit is sunny, as poppies do not like to open and show off their beauty if it is cold and cloudy. The latest additions to this stretch include golden yarrow. While only a few were in bloom, the plants and flower buds are ready to open. Mexican Elderberry is also starting to bloom throughout the mountain, as is the Dudley, along rocky hillsides.
At Vista Point (large gravel turnout about 11.4 miles from the bottom), the wildflowers are simply just not cooperating. The few shooting stars that did bloom, have gone to seed and the chocolate lilies, never did quite make it. There is some blue-eyed grass in bloom, however, the plants and flowers are extremely small. Goldfields are painting patches of yellow on the ground, along with fillaree and lomatium, but aside of these beauties, nothing else is visible. Across the road from Vista Point and up to the station, look for poppies, lomatium, coreopsis, blue dicks and lupine.
As you pass the station, fields of shooting stars can still be seen to your left, but going to seed fast.
The field before Tunnell Road is starting to come alive. One can find buttercups and charming orange wall flowers beginning to bloom.
About a half mile further, at what used to be the infamous poppy hillside, more poppies have come in, but still very few and scattered. Phacelia plants can be seen, but not yet in bloom. The bush lupine are starting to bloom slowly. Maybe by the next update we’ll have more.
Continuing on this stretch to the Figueroa Campground, more poppies can be seen, as well as the start of the bush lupine.
From the Figueroa Campground to the Davy Brown Trailhead, look for poppies, sky lupine, bush lupine, chia, fiddleneck and purple nightshade.
About one half mile beyond the Davy Brown trailhead, beautiful shooting stars are still showing off, along with lomatium and buttercups. About . mile further, in the fields adjacent to the large dirt turnout on the left, lovely chocolate lilies can still be found, but going away fast, along with shooting stars, blue dicks and lomatium. Other wildflowers that can be found up to the entrance of Ranger Peak, include buttercups, carpets of goldfields, lomatium, poppies, chia, shooting stars and Ceanothus.
Right before one starts going up Ranger Peak, look to your right and see whimsical baby blue eyes peeking at you through the grass. More of these beauties can be found in shaded area as one continues up to Ranger Peak.
Ranger Peak to Cachuma is really beginning to show off. There are more and more bush poppies blooming every day. While the bush lupine have only a few in bloom, it won’t be long before they are giving the bush poppies competition. Another beauty that is currently in bloom is the exquisite bell-like flowers of the manzanita bushes. Only a couple were open, but they will be putting on a show very shortly. Other flowers that were spotted along this stretch include, purple nightshade, striking orange poppies along the road, the start of Indian paintbrush and Mexican elderberry. The purple sage, is also getting ready to bloom, but just not quite there yet.
Sunset Valley is also starting to wake up. Aside of more bush poppies, more prickly phlox are coming out to play. Small hillside of the small yellow California poppies are still in bloom, along with Mexican Elderberry and Ceanothus, purple nightshade, bush lupine, fiesta flowers, morning glories, milk thistle, scarlet bugler, fiddleneck, blue dicks, popcorn flower, chia, baby blue eyes and even a sticky leaf monkey flower (or two).
Happy Canyon, like Sunset Valley is also getting started. As you head down the hill, look for California poppies, bush poppies, royal lupine, spiny lupine, clematis, Mexican Elderberry, bush lupine, fields of fiesta flowers, phacelias, Indian paintbrush (in the rocky areas), prickly phlox, coreopsis, milk thistle, blue dicks and mariposa lilies.
In the rocky slopes to the left, beyond the shooting area as you continue down the hill, look for shooting stars, blue dicks, phacelias, buttercups, purple nightshade and fiesta flowers.
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 an emergency vehicle 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 contact Helen Tarbet by e-mail at email@example.com.