We are approaching the early spring period (March and April, particularly) when the annual wildflowers display their blossoms for our viewing pleasure.
To be frank, however, this display is not intended for our eyes, but rather to attract bees and other pollinators so that the plants could set seeds. It’s really about reproduction, right there in the open.
But never mind, we can freely enjoy this extraordinary display and need not feel the least bit voyeuristic.
Viewing our native wildflowers provides a unique experience, an annual celebration of floral beauty, and an opportunity to appreciate nature’s bounty.
Several ways to appreciate wildflowers come to mind, each with strong points:
Gardening with Wildflowers
California native plants are fine candidates for residential gardens, and wildflowers bring all the associated virtues: tolerate drought, play well with other flora and fauna, etc. They also look great, thrive in the Monterey Bay soils and microclimates, and self-seed freely. Their bloom periods are no longer than needed for reproduction, but with planning the gardener could select species for a longer display.
Viewing Wildflowers in Captivity
Monterey Bay area gardeners and nature lovers can enjoy the 52nd annual wildflower show, a gift of the Pacific Grove Museum and the Monterey Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. This extraordinary show, the largest of its kind in the Northern and Western Hemispheres, will present more than 600 species and varieties of wildflowers that are native to California’s central coast. The cut flowers are short-lived, of course, so plan your visit during the period from Friday, April 19th to Sunday, April 21st, from 10:00 to 5:00 each day. The show is free to Museum members and CNPS members; others are asked to donate $5.00. This unique show ranks as a world-class opportunity to enjoy and learn about our native wildflowers.
Visiting Wildflowers at their Homes
Wildflowers are most spectacular in vast multi-colored sweeps in the wild. Fields of wildflowers have delighted and impressed viewers, dating from reports by the earliest explorers, notably including the naturalist John Muir, who wrote in 1916, “Looking eastward from the summit of Pacheco Pass one shining morning, a landscape was displayed that after all my wanderings still appears as the most beautiful I have ever beheld. At my feet lay the Great Central Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine, forty or fifty miles wide, five hundred miles long, one rich-furred garden of yellow Compositae.”
There are many possible field trips to the wildflowers in March and April. In the Monterey Bay area, these sites include Garland Park, the Pinnacles National Park, Fort Ord, Point Lobos State Reserve, and many others.
The website of the California State Parks provides comprehensive guidance to Discover Spring Wildflowers in California State Parks.
For nature lovers ready to travel farther afield, find wildflowers in ten western U.S. states in the AAA’s website on Wildflower Resources.
For John Muir’s writing about California wildflowers, visit the Sierra Club’s website, Quotations About California Central Valley Wildflowers.
Visit the wildflowers this year!