Friday, April 22, 2011

Wildflower Hotspots of the Santa Cruz Mountains

On cloudy days, some flowers stay closed.
I will be making a presentation Wildflower Hotspots of the Santa Cruz Mountains on Sunday, April 24, 2011 from 11:00 to noon at Mission College in Santa Clara, California for the 39th Annual Wildflower Show of the California Native Plant Society - Santa Clara Valley Chapter. Below is my list of 20 wildflower hotspots. Each has a link to the park website with directions, trails and other logistics.

Many generous local plant people have nominated their favorite hikes and allowed me to use their wonderful photographs which I will be sharing at the show.  Over the next few weeks, I will be posting some of those photos here with more details on spring hikes, giving you tips on how to find and enjoy wildflowers and providing links to some of these great photographers.  Go to the "Search This Blog" window in the middle of the right-hand column and enter "wildflowers" or "hikes" to find the updated posts about wildflower hikes.  Please add your observations and check the comments for the most recent information.
Hairs on leaves of the same plant collecting dew.
This is a general list of areas that usually have good spring wildflowers. Conditions can vary from year to year, often as a result of the amount and timing of the winter rains, and how quickly the days warm up.  The spring wildflower bloom on the central California coast generally occurs in March, April and May.  Don't forget late winter (January through March) when there are often good wildflowers on forested trails, and early spring (March-April) when the chaparral shrubs are in their fragrant bloom.

The 2011 wildflower bloom is about 3 weeks behind most years because of the cool spring weather we (and the plants) have been experiencing. Different types of flowers will bloom early in the spring than those that will bloom a few weeks later, so go back to your favorite places to see the progression. Flowers start opening sooner in the southern parts of the peninsula where it is warmer and drier, and then the bloom progresses northerly up the San Francisco peninsula. Parks very close to the coast can stay cool and foggy, and the spring wildflower bloom may be slightly later and more prolonged there.

Respect Mother Nature and her variability. Not every year, every spot and every day are going to provide spectacular displays of wildflowers. Some of these photos are going to astound you, but remember when in nature, it is being in the right place at the right time, absorbing all the gentle moments in between. If you slow down and enjoy the hike, you are sure to find an ever changing exhibition of spring liveliness.

Without the showiness of petals,
you might notice the delicate hairs on the sepals of the flower bud.
And now, the List of 20 Wildflower Hotspots of the Santa Cruz Mountains:

Further Out
Soon, when the spring sun comes out,
these cream cups (Platystemon californicus) will expose
their multiple stamens to the insects of Russian Ridge.
Enjoy!  If you want just one blue-ribbon recommendation this spring, join one of the docent hikes at Edgewood Park which run through June 5th and you will be flower-happy. UPDATE: enter "wildflower hotspots" in the search window at the upper lefthand corner of this blog for links to updated and more detailed wildflower posts.


  1. Thanks to my geographically astute editor - Miri - I made some minor revisions of the categories above, but the hotspots themselves have not actually moved.

  2. I normally never attend these kinds of things hyped by other bloggers, but it would have been nice to attend your presentation. You have a generous, open-minded knowledge base, which I very much appreciate. As it is, we're attending our annual Easter shin-dig that is serving double-purpose this year as a memorial. I hope your presentation experience exceeds your expectations. Best wishes.

  3. Having the w/f show on Easter weekend this year means there are lots of conflicts but sometimes the dates just match up that way. I consider this presentation more for the folks who don't know where to go hiking but are just getting interested in discovering our local native plants. 25 years ago when I first came to California from Florida ("what's a chenopod?"), I immediately joined the local CA Native Plant Society hikes and learned buckets. The CNPS members have always been so generous with their enthusiasm, it is time for me to give back. The blogosphere is a new arena for sharing info and Katie, I am learning lots from your postings. When you share what you see and I compare it to my local area and knowledge, it turns into new information and I really enjoy it.


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