Vibrant pops of color have been sprouting around Orange County. But what does this year hold for enthusiasts who set out to marvel at the wildflower blooms?
With little rain this year, don’t expect a mega explosion of color. But there has been enough rainfall to kick off the season with early bloomers already taking root, and splashes of wildflowers spotted across the region.
This is shaping up to be an average spring, said Kelley Brugmann, resource specialist for OC Parks. “There’s still fun finds to search for as you’re out exploring the trails.”
Part of the fun, she said, is simply strolling to soak in the sights, whether it’s a 3-mile hike or a 100-inch exploration.
“Slowing down and being able to see what’s hidden in the brush – slowing down is so vital to immerse yourself in nature,” she said. “For me personally, it’s kind of like a chance to see old friends you only get to see a little bit through the year. A lot of our annuals are seasonal, it’s always a fun surprise to see who pops in for the season.”
Brugmann said she has seen more curiosity among people about wildflowers in recent years, especially as outdoor exploration surged during the pandemic.
“There’s definitely been an influx of folks who are curious just to know more and are having a chance to relearn the parks they’ve known for a long time, to understand the trails and see what we come across,” she said.
So far, Brugmann has spotted common varieties: plenty of California poppy, the state flower; a variety of lupines, the tall purple plant that blankets hillsides; and the fiddleneck, named after the musical instrument.
Irvine Regional Park has been showing fiddlenecks and lupines, with Roadrunner Trail a great route to explore, she said.
Sunny Saroa, program coordinator for Irvine Ranch Conservancy, said some early flower species are already ending their cycle, including the California lilac and the California peony. But others start to bloom in their place.
He’s seen buttercups flowering and California golden violets in Baker Canyon, nestled against Silverado Creek and Black Star Canyon Wilderness.
His personal favorite are the chocolate lilies, featuring a bell-shaped brown flower that points down, the insides a mix of green and brown colors.
“It’s very beautiful, it’s kind of odd,” he said.
O’Neill Regional Park and Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park have been showing lupines, wild hyacinths, bush sunflowers and other flowers scattered along the trails. Santiago Oaks Regional Park has had some surprises with small fields of fiddlenecks and lupine coming in, according to OC Parks.
Avian flu’s grisly reality: How to kill millions of poultry
Southeast threatened again by dangerous storms
UN: Countries that go green on climate rake in the green
21 sea lions found dead on OC coast are a mystery in an otherwise seeming normal year for rescues
California once prohibited Native American fire practices. Now, it’s asking tribes to use them to help prevent wildfires
Quail Hill in Irvine has had goldfields growing in dense patches, an important native plant species for butterflies. Bommer Canyon has had a lot of the wild hyacinth called schoolbells growing that can be seen from trails.
“There are some things we won’t see in a drought year,” Saroa said. “If we get more rain, we might have more sustained species, but if not, their floral season will end early.”
Exploring does come with a warning, however.
“If you don’t know the plant, don’t touch it,” he said. “Don’t take the plant.”
Explore on your own:
At Upper Newport Bay, some spots that have been showing color if you want to explore, according to OC Parks, include the west bluff along Irvine Avenue, which is a great place to spot sunflower, common fiddleneck and lupine; the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center’s roof and butterfly garden have examples of many wildflower species planted by OC Parks; and along the Bayview boardwalk just east of the Muth Center, golden yarrow and wishbone bush have been growing.
Also, wildflowers have been carpeting from the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve to Huntington Central Park, according to Visit Huntington Beach. A few more popular spots include Huntington Central Park’s cherry blossoms, urban forest and Shipley Nature Center.
A great resource is “Wildflowers of Orange County and Santa Ana Mountains” by Fred Roberts & Bob Allen or “Flora of the Santa Ana River & Environs” by Oscar Clarke.
Common plants that have been blooming:
California morning glory
Source: Sunny Saroa/Irvine Ranch Conservancy