Los Padres National Forest
March 16, 2017
Greetings and happy almost spring! Welcome to the 2017 wildflower season! Because of the much needed rain and the colder weather on Figueroa Mountain, the wildflowers are getting a late start. This is very common for a wet year. With this said, while the wildflowers are starting to bloom, there really arenít that many yet, but finally enough for a short report. Keep in mind that most of the wildflower that are currently blooming are in the lower elevation, below 3,000 feet, with the exception of the south facing slopes, which get the sun shine most of the day.
A friendly reminder before we begin. When you stop to look and take pictures of all the beauties, please make sure that you park on the shoulder of the road and not on the road itself. If there isnít a place to stop, find a turn-out and walk back to the area. Please do not block the road at any time as this will be enforced.
Ready to start our tour? Letís go!
Starting at the first cattle guard, shiny buttercups, milk maids, blue dicks, delightful fiesta flowers, fiddlenecks, Johnny jump-ups, fillaree and miners lettuce are in bloom. In fact, I even spied a lomatium, 2 lupine and golden yarrow hiding among the tall grass. These same flowers can be spotted all the way through to the enchanting tree canopy area, only add popcorn flowers to this lovely mix.
As you continue up the hill, beautiful California poppies are beginning bloom. In fact, look to your left and see the stunning orange patch work on the top portion of Grass Mountain. Grass Mountain put on quite a show last year. Letís see what it does this year. Right before you get to the rusty gate, look to the right and find some tiny cream cups in bloom, along with fillaree and a few poppies.
Other wildflowers to look for as you continue your uphill climb include, Ceanothus, buttercups, fiddleneck, fillaree, blue dicks, a few lupine, carpets of goldfields, stunning orange wall flowers along the rocky hill on the right, shooting stars, and coreopsis.
At Vista Point (large gravel turnout about 11.4 miles from the bottom), everyoneís favorite, the exquisite chocolate lilies are in bloom, be careful not to step on them so that other may enjoy them. Also look for shooting stars, goldfields and fillaree. I even spotted a couple of wild onions.† In the serpentine area across Vista Point and along the road leading to the station, youíll see California poppies, buttercups, blue dicks, coreopsis, golden yarrow and wild onions.
As you pass the station, fields of gorgeous shooting stars can be seen, ranging in color from deep magenta to purple to the occasional white blooms. Buttercups can also be spotted here.
In the field to the right, before Tunnell Ranch Road, look for poppies and buttercups.
About a half mile further, the infamous poppy hillside is about one quarter filled. This year the poppies in this area appear smaller, but still beautiful. It also seems as though they will be sharing the spotlight with lovely lupine this year.
As we continue on Figueroa Mountain Road to the Davy Brown trailhead, there is little to see. Look for a few poppies, Ceanothus and a couple of purple nightshades, which can be seen on the hillside, right before the trailhead.
About one half mile further, you will find some colorful fields, housing beautiful shooting stars, lomatium and buttercups.
From this point, there is very little to report. From Ranger Peak to Cachuma Saddle, because of the higher elevation, the flowers are just starting to bloom. One might see an occasional bush poppy, few California poppies, a couple of bush lupine, some wild canyon peas can be spotted in a few locations and some purple nightshade towards the Cachuma Saddle side. While just starting, the bush lupine should be putting on quite a display in about 3 weeks or so. Stay tuned!
Sunset Valley has even less to report for right now.
At this point, because of the damage incurred to the dirt section of Happy Canyon Road by the heavy rains, it is recommended that only high clearance vehicle exit the mountain through Happy Canyon Road. People in low clearance vehicles are advised to turn around and exit the mountain via Figueroa Mountain Road.
As for the flowers on Happy Canyon Road, like Sunset Valley and the stretch between Ranger Peak and Cachuma Saddle, the wildflowers are just waking up. One can see a few California poppies, an occasional bush poppy and purple nightshades. Unfortunately, the section of road that really is spectacular is the two mile dirt portion of Happy Canyon that is only recommended to high clearance vehicles. Because this two mile section is at around 2500 feet elevation and is south facing, one can see California poppies in both brilliant orange and bright yellow. The yellow ones can be seen in large patches towards the top of the hillsides. There are also coreopsis, blue dicks and shooting stars blooming in this area.
I realize that everyone is wondering when the road will be fixed. Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one. With the amount of damage that occurred forest wide to numerous roads due to the massive winter storms, it is very difficult to say when this road will be fixed. We apologize for any inconvenience. However, while this section might not be passable to many, keep in mind that the Figueroa side of the mountain will have magnificent displays in the upcoming weeks.
Thatís all for this update. Look for our next wildflower update in two weeks. Until then, happy viewing!† If you would like to be added to the Figueroa Wildflower Update email list, please contact Helen Tarbet by e-mail at email@example.com.
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