Monday, April 30, 2012

Discovering Wildflowers in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Discover trails - Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve
The winter season was on the dry side this year, so the wildflowers are blooming several weeks late in spring 2012 and not as abundantly as in wet-warm years. But the time is now - go for a hike and you will still find the beauties scattered about and maybe some surprises.

Here is a list of places I recommend for wildflower viewing in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, primarily in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties with a few farther locations added at the end. Edgewood Park, Coyote Lake, Santa Teresa, and Russian Ridge are particularly recommended through May.

This is the same list I presented at the Spring Wildflower show for the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the California Native Plant Society on April 29, 2012. Click on the place names for a link to the park website. Some additional links are provided.

A field of discovery
Southern Santa Cruz Mountains, San Jose Area - these are warmer areas and bloom sooner
Northern Santa Cruz Mountains
Coastal Parks - can still be blooming in June. For all these coastal parks, may sure to check the San Mateo Coast Natural History Association website.
Further Out - worth the day roadtrip or weekend campout
The white crown inside helps me ID bluedicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
To help you further discover our local native wildflowers, tomorrow I will provide recommendations for numerous relevant websites and a few books - just click the Links tab at the top of the page and then scroll to the Wildflower section. I've included sites where you can get help identifying wildflowers such as plant lists for each park, photographs arranged by names, searches by colors and other features of the flower, even a listserver of photographers reporting on realtime wildflower bloom locations throughout the state.

Elegant madia, Madia elegans
The most important part of discovering wildflowers is going on hikes to see them in their natural environment.  Don't get too caught up in names and lists. Enjoy your time outside, observe the ecological context of the flowers (cool bug visitors!), and you can look up the other stuff later.

Denseflower willowherb, Epilobium densiflorum
Last summer at Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, I found a flower I have never seen before. Even though I spend a lot of time at Russian Ridge, including doing botanical surveys, it was such a thrill to discover the denseflower willowherb.

From the Earth Day Parade, tierramor is right, the seedlings are from shooting star, Dodecatheon hendersonii

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