Spring 2024 Wildflowers -- What's going on??

Today I was hiking in Annadel State Park with two friends. We met two acquaintances who asked about the wildflowers this season: what's going on? After such a wild and wet winter we often expect to see "super blooms."

My casual observations right now suggest several things are happening. I will be the first to say that around Sonoma County we don't really have "super blooms" in the sense of what media coverage often exclaims about (those huge solid-color meadows crowded by lookie-loos stomping the flowers to get the best selfies). Here we typically have large patches of flowers, and when you get down to it -- literally -- they are more of a bouquet of wildflowers than one single species. I digress.

Right now, second week of April 2024, it appears that some of the typical wildflowers are rather late getting going, perhaps because it's been dark and gloomy and wet. Others appear to be choked-out by the lush annual grasses growing fast and tall. Another observation is that following the catastrophic 2017-2019-2020 wildfires we saw an abundance of fire followers. Now several years out, there is more tree canopy shading some of those species that enjoyed more sunlight, some true fire-followers have recessed till the next fire, the nutrients from ash and fire debris has diluted the farther we get from the actual event, and we need to adjust our expectations. We won't be seeing the Whispering Bells like we did immediately following the fires. Some bulb species (Fremont's Star Lily, Checker Lily, Golden Fairy Lanterns) might not be getting as much sunlight as the first two years following the fires, and now being more shaded again are quietly retreating.

However I do notice some wildflower species seem to be having a "mast" year (that's what we call it when referring to tree species, what do we call it with wildflower?). Today we noticed huge patches of Western Blue-eyed Grass -- massive masses of them, huge expansive single plants reaching many feet in diameter and just covered with blossoms and buds. California Goldfields are blanketing meadow areas we don't remember in years past, while in some meadow areas they are already dried out and done blooming (remember a couple of weeks ago we had warm dry wind).

Something I hear people say is "where is the big/super bloom?" Well, for one thing, stop talking, pause and look down! How many different flowers do you see? There is a complete rainbow bouquet if you just stop and look. Don't be constricted by looking for a huge field of orange poppies. Engage the child within and look at all the little flowers -- use binoculars if you can't physically get down to the ground. Start noticing all the shapes and colors and types. I counted 53 species on a hike today, and that isn't all that is blooming in Annadel right now! That was only a small portion of the 5,500 acre park.

You know what is super cool about Sonoma County? We have such a diversity of habitats and soil conditions that every park and trail offers a different mosaic of vegetation and flower species. Some flowers have evolved with a certain soil type over millions of years, and you will only see those flowers in those places (serpentine is a perfect example -- Hood Mountain, Sugarloaf, Lake Sonoma, The Cedars if you get the chance).

So, go out and explore different places to see different flowers. Don't forget the coast! Kortum Trail is always a good bet and another example of a specific habitat -- salty, cool, moist, coastal prairie. And remember that whatever the weather patterns give us between now and then, there is always next Spring to look forward to -- what is blooming where and when?

Publicado el abril 11, 2024 01:25 MAÑANA por wildmare64 wildmare64


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