Sunday, April 12, 2009

Elusive Bay Area Wildflowers

We’ve been out hunting wildflowers for the past few weeks. This is the time of year when nature rolls out its secret festival of regeneration by displaying its mysterious seasonal artisanship for the private enjoyment of its true admirers. Of course, this merriment is only private in the sense that only those who are willing to seek it out will ever discover it, or indeed appreciate it. However this year’s celebration is proving to be a bit more muted than other years, at least in the local areas. If it’s true that “Earth Laughs in Flowers” as quoted by Ralph Waldo Emerson, then it seems that Earth is finding it difficult to have much of a sense of humor right now. I don’t know if it’s still just too early, or if this is just not a good year. But so far, the displays I’ve been seeing are a far cry from the joys of times past.

Two weeks ago we found ourselves up on Empire Grade with some time to kill so we decided to hike some areas of Fall Creek and UCSC that have been good prospects in past years. Fall Creek usually has quite a few Western Trilliums and lots of Milk Maids and blooming sorrel amking it a fine spring venue. We are also accustomed to finding fairly interesting displays of wildflowers at UCSC, even though I never hear anyone else says so. These coastal hillsides, meadows, and groves usually produce a good mix of species, making for an interesting spring stroll. The dirt road trails there are wide and fairly smooth without much elevation gain making them very popular with mountain bikers. The wildflowers are really wasted on them though, as even when displays are much better, they all seem to just fly by without even noticing. This year was very sparse though. I usually find prime examples of Siskiyou Iris scattered around in the more shaded areas. This year I spotted exactly one that was in full bloom. All other varieties were also sparse and disappointing. Fall Creek had a few fledgling trilliums near the creek only. The Milk Maids and sorrel are always a pretty decent show to catch, but apart from that, not much happening.

I had been talking to Dave, my brother in law, about the wildflowers at Henry Coe. They don't usually go there, but after my brilliant reomendation we made plans for a hike first week of April which is usually quite good. We can usually do a nice casual headquarters loop to see great displays of many species. Middle ridge, Flat frog, Fish trail, Spring trail, and others can be used to bring hikers past profusions of Ground Iris, Larkspur, carpets of Gila and Goldfields, and a whole tantalizing variety. These trails in close to park headquarters are all easy trails which anyone can hike. But, this year’s hike was quite disappointing in comparison. We saw most of the same varieties, but far less than I have ever seen there. Many species were in evidence, but still not blooming despite the fairly good sunshine. My reputation in tatters, we made the best of it and had a good time.

This week Sue and I chose to hike the skyline trail through the south skyline region of MROSD, also part of the BART. This route is also quite interesting when in full bloom. I can usually spot many Giant Trilliums among the mix as we hike through oak woodlands, open hillside meadows, and forest groves. I’d have to say this is the scarcest offering I can remember. It didn't help that the sun didn't really come out until well after noon. The temp was 38 degrees when we parked the car at Grizzly Flat, it was overcast, and the wind seemed unseasonably chilling. I did find some really nice trilliums, and there were scattered flourishes of Red Maid, Meadow foam, Miniature Lupine, and other common species. But overall I am left wondering what to think. We also had an interesting little misadventure which I will write up in a different post. I collected some of the more interesting photos from these recent hikes in a single photoset on flickr. Click here to view.

Click here to view photos from our Coe headquarters hike in 2007
Click here to view photos from my MROSD hike in 2007

No comments: