Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Many visitors to the Carrizo Plain in 2018 were expecting to see the showy displays of wildflowers that earned the area the  “Superbloom” designation in 2017…but they came away disappointed. So where did all the wildflowers go? In a word:
underground. Most wildflowers in the Carrizo Plain and other arid lands around the world are annuals, a strategy in which the plants complete their life cycle in a single growing season and wait out the dry season as seeds. In the meantime, the seeds are stored in the soil not too far below the ground surface, in what is called the soil seed bank. Those seeds sprout and grow into recognizable plants when temperature and moisture conditions are just right and any additional barriers to germination are overcome.

Some perennial plants do grow on the Carrizo Plain and similar landscapes. This type of plant survives through one or more dry seasons as fleshy roots, bulbs, or similar structures—which also are underground. Among the perennials you can find on the Carrizo are blue dicks, larkspurs, and various wild onions. Even these plants may not show up every year, waiting until years of “normal” rainfall to push stems above ground and produce leaves and flowers.

Each type of annual plant needs a different combination of moisture and temperature to stimulate seed growth. Native
wildflowers (those that evolved in this region over thousands or millions of years) generally do best in years when abundant rain occurs during the cool months of mid-winter. Many native plants produce a cluster or “rosette” of leaves at ground level during the winter and do not send up a flower stalk until the weather begins to warm up in the spring.

The ubiquitous nonnative grasses—most of which evolved in the Mediterranean region of Europe—generally respond to warm fall rains. Some of the more familiar nonnative grasses are red brome, soft chess, foxtail barley, and wild oats. When this area receives early rainfall, the nonnative grasses get a head start on the native wildflowers and turn the hillsides green. By putting down roots early in the growing season, these annual grasses are able to capture and absorb any rain that falls, leaving too little available for the native wildflower seeds to grow or survive beyond the seedling stage. Thus, years when rains begin early while temperatures are still warm and rains come regularly throughout the fall and winter have been called “grass years.”

A different set of conditions is needed to produce the masses of native flowers known as “Superblooms.” These tend to occur in years with abundant winter rainfall that does not begin until the cooler months of late fall and follows several years of drought. Germination barriers can take several forms. Some plants produce chemicals in the seed coat (the outermost layer of the seed) that must be leached out by repeated wetting before the seeds can sprout. Others have such hard or thick-walled seed coats that mechanical action such as rubbing or grinding by soil particles is needed before water can penetrate. And still others—particularly those that grow in vernal pools—need to be immersed underwater for some time to allow fungi and other decay organisms to break down the seed coat. Many years—even 50 or more!—may pass before seeds of a given type of wildflower are ready to start growing again. For this reason, the endangered California jewelflower was thought to have disappeared from the Carrizo Plain entirely, until an observant biologist spotted it in the late 1980s.

In the driest years, annual plants may bloom when they are only an inch or two high, producing only one or a few flowers, and they may or may not live until the few seeds are mature. But because they do produce at least some seeds in most years, usually at least a few of those seeds are ready to grow each year. In the “off” years these small, scattered plants are hard to find, unlike the showy patches that can be seen from miles away in the wetter years. Luckily for visitors to Superblooms come along once every decade or so. We can only guess what type of year 2019 will be….

Ellen Cypher

Spring Wildflowers in Northern Santa Barbara County

Charlie Blair: Chapter Northern Santa Barbara County Liason

2018 has been a surprisingly good year for spring wildflowers. Except for the January deluge and some good March storms, this has been a fairly dry year. In late September, 2017, several spot fires burned along Rucker Rd. just north of Mission Hills near Lompoc, California. In spite of sparse rainfall, there has been encouraging (more…)

Wildflower Alert

From time to time, our chapter has talked about creating a Wildflower Alert.  Well, there is a healthy display of wildflowers this year along the new ridge trail in the Reservoir Canyon Open Space near San Luis Obispo.  From the parking lot (see map), walk along the road for 100 ft., through the fence opening on the right, and then over the new bridge at the falls.  Once across the bridge, bear right and start up the hill.  Pictured here below are some of the flowers seen the weekend of April 21st, 2018. Link: http://gis.slocity.org/Documents/TrailMaps/rescanyon_bowdenweb.pdf

To view the article, click here

April 1, 2017 Carrizo Plain Field Trip

April 1, 2017 Carrizo Plain Field Trip

OH MY GAWD!

This is an exact quote from a CNPS member on seeing the super-bloom on the Carrizo Plain. Below is Marlin Harms’ picture of our field trip. While national press has focussed on the wonderful color in the Temblors, there are great flower displays on the west side of Caliente Mt., including the largest displays of desert candle I have ever seen. Color seekers might consider the trail through the wooden gate just north of the corrals where the road comes closest to the hills after passing Wallace Creek.

CNPSSLO with Temblors

April Field Trip to the Carrizo Plain. Photo by Marlin Harms.

Desert candles

Desert candles on the west side of Caliente Mt. Photo by David Chipping.

If you are going to see the bloom in the Carrizo Plain, go quickly. The bloom is still increasing as this goes to press in mid-April, but hot days will take a fast toll. With luck the colors will hold through the first couple of weeks in May. There is a lot of yellow, so there are a few pages from the downloadable Plants of the Carrizo Plain, available on our chapter web site.

Places on the Carrizo Plain worth visiting

(1) Belmont Trail, the first paved cross street south of the California Valley fire station. About a mile after pavement ends is an area of vernal pools. Continue east, crossing 7 Mile road and ending on Elkhorn Road.

(2) Go south on Elkhorn Rd., pass under the large PG&E power lines, pass the Wallace Creek San Andreas fault site until the road turns east right up to the edge of the steep Temblor Range. This is where the “big color” is that has attracted international attention.

(3) Continue south to Hurricane Rd., and drive east up to the top of the Temblor Range (high clearance recommended). The bluepurple colors are Phacelia and the orange Mentzelia. A redder purple is Eremalche. Yellows are the two Monolopias and Leptosyne.

(4) return to Elkhorn Rd. return past Wallace Creek, under the power lines again and turn west on Simmler Rd. Many of the species of the Temblors are here plus blue Delphinium and Lasthenia. Cross the south end of Soda Lake.

(5) Reach paved Soda Lake Rd., go south to visitor center.

(6) explore southward along Soda Lake Rd. or (7) drive to the top of Caliente Mt, next road (dirt) south of visitor center. (high clearance strongly recommended).

(8) From summit continue west past the avionics tower a couple of miles, before returning. This is a “don’t miss” mass of color and one of the largest displays of Desert Candle ever seen.

Don’t be just a ‘big color’ person. It is likely that there will be a lot of later flowering species through the summer and into the fall.

Carrizo Plain April 1 2017

Carrizo Plain April 1 2017

Carrizo Plain April 1 2017

Images submitted by Nancy Chalk who attended the CNPS-SLO annual field trip to Shell Creek to view the Carrizo Plain wildflowers

Images submitted by Steve Schubert who attended the CNPS-SLO annual field trip to Shell Creek to view the Carrizo Plain wildflowers

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Just fill out the form below and include a link to your Google Drive or Dropbox images.

Please send only pictures you took yourself to observe copyright laws, and tell us where and when you snapped your photos. If you can, please also include the name of the flowers shown either in the title of the image or in your email.

You may also wish to email them to our webmaster directly at info.cnpsslo@gmail.com.

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Carrizo Plain March 23 2017

Carrizo Plain March 23 2017

Carrizo Plain March 23 2017

Ken & Gina Robinson report from Elkhorn Road, March 17

“Found this specimen on March 17, 2017 along Elkhorn Road – Desert Candle (Caulanthus inflatus)”

 

Allison Gong also sent an image taken on the Carrizo Plain on March 23, this one of Fiddlenecks

“Hello, I took this picture of young fiddle necks (Amsinckia menziesii var. intermedia) on Soda Lake Road on 23 March 2017.”

M.O. sent this image of Soda Lake overlook, taken March 23

Yes, that blue is water in Soda Lake!  Baby Blue eyes (Nemophilia menziiesii) as reported earlier remain on the overlook hillside facing Soda Lake. Distant yellow swaths of color above Soda Lk. are presumably the same as that pictured above.
Sorry I cannot recall exactly which hillside we surveyed many years ago and found the greatest plant diversity of all our many many miles of transects across all of the NM.  It was near the entry into the NM, on R side of Soda Lk rd.  as one enters from Hwy 58.  A 3 member crew, Jeremy took the vehicle to the far side of the hill in order to pick us up at the end of our transect.  But then he rejoined us to ask what was taking us so long.  It was all the plant names we were recording–the longest list of any of our hundreds of plots–such reflected the diversity of plants at that transect.  There were a few grasses there, but mostly wildflower annuals

Nancy Chalk sent these images from Shell Creek Road, Highway 58

“Still building out. Not peaked. Creek is flowing nicely! The baby blue eyes are just emerging. The creek is flowing nicely. I saw a few wild alliums, baby blue eyes, purple owls clover and desert dandelion. I walked the creek as I look for lillies. Those are elusive! Anyway, besides gold fields and tidy tips and fiddlenecks … we are a couple weeks out from peak.”

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Carrizo Plain April 2006 and more

Carrizo Plain April 2006 and more

Carrizo Plain April 2006 and more

Richard Pradenas has shared his images from the Carrizo Plain

Many of these images are from April 2006, some from August or October to show contrast of seasons.

“I’m fairly certain I have the names of the flowers correct for all but #13 “WildPurpleGila”; if anyone can identify this please let me know.”

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Carrizo Plain Wildflower Report March 12 2017

Carrizo Plain Wildflower Report March 12 2017

Carrizo Plain Wildflower Report March 12 2017

HERE’S WHAT’S BLOOMING ON THE CARRIZO PLAIN THIS WEEK

Many people have asked when the wildflower season will peak. One guess is in two-four weeks, but we really can’t say precisely as each season is different.

“Still a little while until the peak, but getting better. Last year it was mid March to Late March but it varies year to year. Looking better each week and continued warm weather and rain will help.” – Carrizo volunteer Ben R.

In Bloom

Fiddleneck – Various places on valley floor.

Goldfields – Soda Lake Road between Washburn Admin. Site and KCL Campground, Goodwin Education Center. Starting to see other spots on the valley floor.

Filaree – Valley floor throughout the monument. Just popping up, not showy.

Baby Blue Eyes – Soda Lake Overlook.

Hillside Daisies – Small parts on the hillsides going to Selby Campground Road.

Poor Blooming

Red Maids x various places on valley floor.

Fremont’s Phacelia x various places on valley floor.

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Carrizo Plain Wildflower Report March 3, 2017

Carrizo Plain Wildflower Report March 3, 2017

Carrizo Plain Wildflower Report March 3, 2017

HERE’S WHAT’S BLOOMING ON THE CARRIZO PLAIN THIS WEEK

Right now we are starting to see Goldfields, Fiddleneck, and Filaree  (Erodium cicutarium) pop up, but no wildflower color yet. Here are some images from previous years to whet your appetite.

Images courtesy of (and copyrighted by) Marlin Harms

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