Seven years ago I had the unique opportunity to do some aerial photography over the Carrizo Plains National Monument, and always wondered what it would have been like to see it from the ground. Well, this year the plains and Temblor Range finally experienced a similarly profuse wildflower bloom. I made two trips out there to wander Monet’s painting palette, and was not disappointed. Unfortunately, I think I might be flower-jaded for a few years!
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From 2010 - an aerial image of the wildflower displays in the Temblor Range of the Carrizo Plains National Monument.
Hikers enjoying the surrealistic view of the 'superbloom' wildflower display in the Carrizo Plains (Temblor Range). The hills are covered in phacelia (purple), san joaquin blazing star (orange), and hillside daisies (yellow). I'm fairly certain this is the same patch of orange and yellow/purple gully pictured in the above aerial near the top left.
Aside from the flowers, and their insane density, I was struck (again) by how the flowers largely seem to be grouped together in patches of monocultures. This is most evident in the long distance views – I tried to find the rare mixtures of species for more colorful foregrounds for my wide angle images. Why do they form these patches? It likely has a lot to do with slope angle, amount of sunshine, drainage, soil, etc. Still, it seems to me like many of the patches inhabit remarkably similar slopes. Perhaps there is something more interesting going on.
Some people get excited about the red carpet. I get excited about the flower carpet. Phacelia (purple) and hillside daisies (yellow) shown here, in the Temblor Range of the Carrizo Plains National Monument.
Looking down towards the Carrizo Plains through a gully covered in flowers, primarily phacelia (purple) and hillside daisies (yellow).
Given the huge swaths of flowers, I would have expected similarly dense swarms of insects. But, I hardly saw any. A few bumblebees, and lots of crane flies, but not much more. Where are the pollinators? Maybe by not being plugged into facebook, twitter, and the media, they haven’t heard about the “superbloom”? (that’s a joke)
Late afternoon sunshine illuminates the flower covered hillsides of the Temblor Range as a couple wanders through the fields of hillside daisies (yellow), and phacelia (purple).
A remarkably diverse view from the Temblor Range in the Carrizo Plains National Monument. The hillsides here are briefly covered in Desert Candles (purple topped green stems), san joaquin blazing star (orange), hillside daisies (yellow), and phacelia (purple).
While the carpets of flowers were astonishingly beautiful, I was most struck with the strangeness of the desert candles (Caulanthus inflatus). These bizarre flowers are actually members of the cabbage family (Brassicaceae). They seem a little less out of place when considering that this family also includes the mustards, which also have long stems topped with florets. As their latin name implies, the desert candles are essentially mustards with inflated stems, with a consistency like the floating air sacks of kelp that wash up on shore.
A healthy stand of Desert Candles (Caulanthus inflatus). These alien like plants are related to cabbages, but have stalks filled with air, keeping them stiff and erect.
A healthy stand Desert Candles (Caulanthus inflatus). These alien like plants are related to cabbages, but have stalks filled with air, keeping them stiff, strange, and erect.
While this bloom is mostly over by now, you can probably still find some flowers here and there. Next up will be the Sequoia and Redwood forests, followed by what will almost certainly be a spectacular (and mosquito laden) alpine summer.
First light on a hillside covered in yellow hillside daisies flowers with a few splashes of purple contributed by phacelia. From deep in the Temblor Range of the Carrizo Plains National Monument.
A few phacelia (purple) enjoy the first rays of sunshine, surrounded by a hillside covered in yellow hillside daisies flowers. Deep in the Temblor Range of the Carrizo Plains National Monument.
A blooming lupine enjoys the first rays of sunshine on a frigid morning in the Temblor Range of the Carrizo Plains National Monument.
Tags: carrizo plains, carrizo plains national monument, flowers, foothills, open spaces, spring, superbloom, superbloom 2017