Saturday, April 30, 2011

Edgewood Park and Natural Preserve - Wildflower Hotspot #2

Edgewood Park and Natural Preserve, Redwood City, California
Edgewood Park and Natural Preserve balances on the edge of San Francisco's suburbs and the rugged, undeveloped mountain valley that stores water for the 2.5 million humans living along the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay.  Once it was scarred by motorcycle trails and destined to become another golf course.  But a stubborn group of local botanists kept finding small, unusual plant treasures there and reversed the fate of this county park.

Edgewood Park is the most consistent and reliable place to see the spring wildflower display in the Santa Cruz Mountains and it can be easily reached from any city between San Francisco and San Jose by taking Edgewood Road east from Highway 280.  Highway 280 is sometimes described as one of the most beautiful highways in the world, and in addition to the darkly forested slopes to the west often crowned by great banks of cascading fog, the bright patches of Edgewood wildflowers to the east are likewise visible from the highway each spring and subtly remind the speeding motorists that they are following the course of a major faultline between two giant sliding landforms.

Once again, it is the quality of serpentine soils, poor in nutrients and rich in some heavy metals, that nurture the serpentine grasslands of goldfields, owl's clover, serpentine linanthus and many other wildflowers including 13 rare species.

Managed by the San Mateo County Parks Department, the enchanting nature of Edgewood has attracted a hearty group of volunteers that contribute many hours to the protection and improvement of the 500 acres.  The Friends of Edgewood lead several free docent hikes every Saturday and Sunday in the spring.  In 2011, the hikes run March 19 through June 5, start at 10 AM and do not require reservations for groups less than 10 people.  On some days, there are even two choices for docent hikes along different trails - check their website for details.  The Friends of Edgewood also spend many companionable hours weeding out invasive plants, admiring the visiting insects, or teaching school children the calling cards of local wildlife small and large.  Their website has photos of Edgewood wildflowers including a search-by-color database.

The Bill and Jean Lane Education Center recently opened at Edgewood Park to help visitors enjoy and identify the wildflower splendor, learn about the park's inspiring turnaround history, and follow the exciting story of the reintroduction of the rare bay checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha bayensis).  The unique collection of native wildflowers on serpentine soils exposed in scattered locations throughout San Francisco Bay used to provide nectar and forage for the different life stages of this orange and black butterfly.  As development wiped out some of these meadows, there were less locations with just the right exposure to provide a steady supply of food sources throughout the range of weather years, so that some bay checkerspot butterfly populations "winked" out, including those formerly at Edgewood.  Protection and restoration of the native wildflower fields at Edgewood promises to bring back a lost home of the bay checkerspot whose caterpillar, relocated via eggs from another wildflower hotspots - Coyote Ridge, has the California habit of sunbathing.

Looking from the wildflower fields of Edgewood Park to the Highway 92 gap in the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west with Highway 280 in the mid-ground.
When I was talking to Bill Korbholz, a Director of the Friends of Edgewood, on the phone in late April 2011, he readily reeled off the weekly list of flowers blooming at Edgewood: tidy tips, goldfields, blue-eyed grass, dwarf brodiea, California poppy, cream cups, royal larkspurs, and owls clovers.  He also expressed surprise that suncups were blooming in places he'd never seen them before, and recommended the Serpentine Loop and Edgewood Trails.  Because Edgewood is located on the grounded edge of the North American Plate, most of the trails are moderate hikes on flat to gentle slopes.

Bill is not a trained botanist, yet he knows the names of most of the wildflowers, can tell you when and where they are blooming, and observes weekly and yearly changes.  This remarkable knowledge and educational zeal is common among many of the volunteers forming "friends" groups dedicated to our local parks and I recommend you check out their activities and websites for rich sources of information about wildflower hotspots.  Edgewood and Coyote Ridge also have their own "mad scientist", Stuart Weiss, who researches trends and advises on the management of these biological rich areas.  When I saw Stu Wednesday night, he said "Go see Edgewood this weekend!"

The two wildflowers featured above are goldfields (Lasthenia californica) and dense flowered owls clover, Castilleja densiflora ssp. densiflora photographed at Edgewood by Toni Corelli who is the author of The Flora of Edgewood County Park.  The landscape photos were taken by Ken Himes showing the colorful flower fields with serpentine rocks typically found at Edgewood.  Ken is a leader behind weekly  projects of the Edgewood Weed Warriors who believe in "Helping hands for healthy lands".  Toni and Ken often take photos of the same park that complement each other, and I will be presenting many of their photos in this series.

This post is part of a series of Wildflower Hotspots in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

***Next up is Wildflower Hotspot #3 - Almaden Quicksilver County Park with a tip to an upcoming docent hike to the recently acquired Rancho San Vicente property.

See also:
Edgewood Park and Natural Preserve, San Mateo County Parks


  1. 4/30/2011 Edgewood update: I checked Edgewood yesterday and there are still good fields of wildflowers on the Serpentine Loop between its intersection with the Clarkia Trail and the Sunset Trailhead and thereabouts. Check the trail maps at the Edgewood Park website to determine your best route to this location regarding various trailheads, distances and parking. Remember as you head in and your anticipation builds, if you can't hear the highway, then keep hiking to reach the best views of the serpentine fields. Bill's list above for late April flowers is still accurate with the exceptions that in the grasslands, some of the tidy tips and goldfields are starting to curl up in the driest locations, the dark purple royal larkspurs (see photos on sidebar) are coming on strong, and the common muilla is just starting. Based on the bud-laden plants I saw in the wooded sections of the Serpentine Loop, in a few weeks the lavendar-white California larkspurs will be making a lovely showing. I found that being at the sunny Serpentine Loop location indicated above and also at the Serpentine Loop and Edgewood Trail intersection between 5 and 7 pm provided good conditions for sidelight photography of low flowers although a little bit breezy.

  2. Thanks for this 'tour' of Edgewood. I've been to San Francisco many times but didn't know about this park. I'll be sure to include a trip here during my next visit to the area.


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