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Wildflowers of California

Wildflowers of California: A Month-by-Month Guide

Laird R. Blackwell
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 588
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  • Book Info
    Wildflowers of California
    Book Description:

    In this photograph-driven field guide to California’s spectacular wildflowers, Laird R. Blackwell expertly provides several ways to find them in bloom: by month, by place, and by flower. The month-by-month descriptions—found in no other statewide guide—suggest what to see and where to go throughout the state during the blooming season. The author also supplies more than 300 locations arranged in 10 geographical regions, highlighting 67 of his favorite places with detailed driving and walking directions and difficulty, blooming times, and lists of predominant wildflowers as well as a featured flower. The guide contains more than 650 color photographs by the author, including 600 species arranged by flower, with natural history notes and places and months to find the flower in bloom. Throughout, experienced wildflower guide Blackwell shares his love of the beautiful places and flowers he has visited throughout California.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95147-1
    Subjects: Botany & Plant Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. 1-9)
    Laird R. Blackwell

    There is something about wildflowers that touches us in a place too deep for words. A single flower, especially one at home in the wild, can take us back to seeing with the fresh eyes of a child; a whole landscape bursting with bloom can move us to laughter and tears of gratitude. It’s almost impossible not to smile in the presence of a flower, not to feel more vital, more real. There is something about wildflowers that calls us to be more human, to live more honestly, to focus on what really matters, to laugh more, to care more....

  4. Map of Special Wildflower Places
    (pp. 10-10)

      (pp. 14-17)

      East of the coast ranges and west of the Cascade Mountains in northern California is an amazing and fascinating jumble of mountain ranges going in all directions, crisscrossing the northwest corner of the state. The Siskyou, the Klamath, the Trinity, the Scott, the Marble, the Salmon: mountain ranges everywhere, creating a vast, wild mountainous region. It is easy to understand how the last member of the Yahi—Ishi—and whole tribes could remain hidden for so long in this country.

      Great rivers—the Smith, the Klamath, the Salmon, the Trinity—cut canyons through dense forests and bring sparkling life. This...

      (pp. 18-33)

      Whenever you draw near the Pacific coast, it feels different, it smells different, it tastes different—even the air changes to a softer, more languid caress, spiced with the pungent odor of salt and the sea.

      The flowers, too, are different on the coast—beach “strollers” staying clear of the incoming tides and flourishing in the sand and salt, tenacious hangers-on gripping shifting dunes with all their might, bluff dwellers with their “hair” streaming in the sea breezes. The narrow strip of beach and bluff boasts many fascinating species found in few other places. Perhaps it is the sea spray...

      (pp. 34-37)

      To stand on a beach on the southern California coast anywhere from Santa Barbara south to San Diego is to experience the drama of worlds colliding, of barriers and edges. Looking west, you see the waters of the Pacific crashing on the beaches; looking east you see steeply rising mountains cutting the coast off from the inland desert. The Transverse Ranges—from the Santa Ynez Mountains just north of Santa Barbara, to the Santa Monica Range bisecting the greater Los Angeles area, to the San Gabriel Mountains, San Bernardino Mountains, and Little San Bernardino Mountains—and the Peninsular Ranges—from...

      (pp. 38-42)

      This long, broad valley, nestled between the foothills of the Sierra and southern Cascades to the east and the coastal ranges to the west and running much of the length of northern California (where it is called the Sacramento Valley) and central and a bit of southern California (where it is called the San Joaquin Valley), provides a huge, nearly flat palette for nature’s floral artistry. The Central Valley also, however, has proved to be fertile ground for agriculture, business, and settlement, so what used to be an endless floral sea is now just a few scattered islands—preserves, sanctuaries,...

      (pp. 43-50)

      For many people, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of the foothills of the Sierra is gold—the gold rush, the Forty-Niners, gold country. For flower lovers, these gradually sloping hills running much of the length of northern and central California between the nearly sea-level Central Valley to the west and the rugged mountains of the Sierra high country to the east may also bring thoughts of gold: but the color, not the metal, and riches for the eye and soul, not for the pocketbook. “Gold fields” describes hillsides of radiant, golden-yellow composites, and “49er” is...

      (pp. 51-53)

      After running for over 400 miles along much of the length of southern and central California, the Sierra Nevada begins to taper off north of the Tahoe Basin and eventually is supplanted by the Cascades that then continue up through Oregon and Washington to the Canadian Border. Although the Cascades continue the line of the Sierra, the two ranges are vastly different. While the Sierra range is an upraised block of granite nearly uninterrupted for its entire length, the Cascade range is a necklace of discrete volcanic pearls. And what glorious pearls these are—Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount St....

      (pp. 54-62)

      Running for about 400 miles from northwest to southeast for much of the length of California near the Nevada border, the Sierra Nevada mountain range is certainly one of the most dramatic features of the state’s landscape. Gently rising from the Central Valley to its west through rolling foothills, the Sierra gradually reaches its crest at about 9,000 feet in the north and consistently well over 10,000 feet in the south, peaking at 14,494 feet at Mount Whitney. For most of its length, but especially in the south, the eastern side of the crest drops precipitously, most dramatically in the...

      (pp. 63-65)

      East of the great mountain spine of the Cascades and Sierra, and north of Susanville and Lassen National Park, lies the little-known “northeast corner” of California. Most of this area is a high plateau of about a mile above sea level with wide expanses of sagebrush scrub and pinyon-juniper woodlands, but also with a considerable number of bodies of water (lakes, ponds, reservoirs) and mixed conifer forests. In the extreme northeast of this area are the Warner Mountains (with Eagle Peak reaching 9,892 feet)—a mountain forest oasis in the middle of the high desert. Key highways are SR-139, SR-299,...

      (pp. 66-71)

      In the tahoe basin, the Sierra crests just west of the western shore of Lake Tahoe, leaving the western part of the lake between it and the Nevada border. As this mighty “Range of Light” (the Sierra) heads southeast from Tahoe, it gets even higher and more dramatic and a bit farther from Nevada, leaving more California terrain to its east. And what terrain this is—vast expanses of the Great Basin, and farther to the south, the Mojave Desert and the White and Inyo Mountains.

      In the south especially, the eastern escarpment of the Sierra is incredibly dramatic, rising...

      (pp. 72-78)

      Much of southern california east of the coast and the Transverse and Peninsular ranges is desert. The lower, hotter Sonoran Desert covers only a small area, including Anza-Borrego and the eastern half of Joshua Tree; the vast majority is the higher, somewhat less hot Mojave Desert, which reaches all the way up to the Gorman Hills and the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve west of the Sierra, and even farther up the east side of the Sierra to Death Valley. In southeastern California, especially interesting parts of the Mojave Desert include the large Mojave National Preserve and the Whipple Mountains in...


      (pp. 81-155)

      Although there are a few non-natives and garden escapees as well as a few natives that (especially in years of good winter rain) may be in bloom between November and January, the first significant blooming of native wildflowers in California occurs most years in late January and February. While the peak of the spring explosion of flowers along the coast and in the coast ranges, in the Central Valley, and in the Mojave Desert is still a few weeks away, late January and February bring us some lovely early bloomers in many of these low-elevation locations—delicious appetizers for the...

    • MARCH
      (pp. 156-258)

      What a marvelous time to be out and about in the lower elevations of California. Spring and its flowers are exploding all around you. The broad, open fields of the Central Valley (or at least the small, wild remnants and ecological preserves that survive), the beaches, the coast ranges, and the southern deserts are already in splendid bloom, while the rolling, green foothills are filled with rushing water and the beginnings of another spectacular wildflower season. And in the small band of cold desert east of the Sierra, especially in the Topaz Lake area, the Great Basin flowers, too, are...

    • APRIL
      (pp. 259-337)

      What march promises in the foothills, April delivers. The explosion of spring color that began in most places in the foothills in mid-March reaches its culmination throughout April. The hills and flats become canvases of gold, blue, purple, or white, painted artistically with patches, ribbons, and dabbles of all the colors of the rainbow. The warm April sun ignites the colors and liberates the fragrances, bringing to life not only the fields and hills but the insects and birds and the human eye.

      But April’s gifts are not limited to the foothills: slopes and high valleys in the coast ranges...

    • MAY
      (pp. 338-419)

      With the coming of May, the Central Valley bloom is mostly over; but the coast, the coast ranges, and the foothills are continuing to peak, complementing the carryover of the spectacular April bloom with a new wave of gorgeous flowering. In the foothills and in the coast ranges, this is the month for the rich blue or blue-purple brodiaeas and the startling pink or red-purple clarkias (many of which are endemic to California) bidding their farewells to spring. May is also the month for stunning thickets of azaleas and rhododendrons on brushy slopes and in forests along the coast. Now,...

    • JUNE
      (pp. 420-467)

      If you seek wildflowers, with the coming of June, you will shift your attention to mid-mountain elevations. Although there will still be some blooming along the coast, in the coast ranges, and in the foothills, the flowers will largely have left the Central Valley with the arrival of the searing summer heat. For you and the flowers, the band of greatest blooming will now be between about a mile and a mile and a half above sea level—mid-mountain meadows and slopes and the high Great Basin desert along the eastern edges of the state. In the far north, the...

    • JULY
      (pp. 468-517)

      With the searing July heat in the deserts and the Central Valley, the flowers there are only a memory, but in mid-to-high elevations in the mountains across the state, the summer blooming has reached its peak, and the mountains are vibrant with lush gardens of color and fragrance.

      This is the month to see the shoulder-high rainbow gardens that the coast ranges, the northwest mountains, and the great spine of the Cascades and Sierra are famous for—those wet meadow and seep gardens where scores of species of robust, rambunctious plants clamor with their bright flowers for your attention and...

    • AUGUST
      (pp. 518-525)

      August is a time of continuance and transition for the California flowers. In the beginning of the month, most of the high-country blooming that peaked in July is still in fine form, but toward the end of the month it is definitely winding down toward fall and winter. However, nature gives us a special gift as abundant recompense for the passing of another year’s wildflower season—a few spectacular species that wait almost to the end to come into their glory.

      These late-summer bloomers are dazzling indeed—deep, rich blue gentians and asters, blazing scarlet fuchsia, soft rose or pink...

      (pp. 526-527)

      The colors are muted, browns and golds replacing the wider spectrum of summer. There is a crispness in the air even on the warmest days, and a tinge of moldering and passing. The spectacular golds and yellows and oranges of the turning trees (most notably the aspens) are still a few weeks away, but the flowering herbs and shrubs are already creating their own miniature version of the fall colors.

      Especially in northern California, a few of the plants that started blooming in August may still be in their last phases of blooming, but most of the year’s blossoms have...

      (pp. 528-528)

      The flowers are gone, but the brilliant golds, bronzes, yellows, and oranges, and occasional reds of the leaves of the mountain deciduous trees—aspen, willow, alder, cottonwood, maple—are a warm farewell to another colorful wildflower year. The glorious turning of the leaves eases us into winter and its joys before the flowers stir again in only a few months. With the endings always come beginnings and another turn of the great circle of life.

      Oh Earth, such a gift you bring to us all—

      The leaves are the wisdom of plants,

      So green in the spring and so gold...

    (pp. 529-532)
    (pp. 533-536)
    (pp. 537-537)
  10. Map of Other Flower Locations Indicated in the Text
    (pp. 538-540)
    (pp. 541-550)
    (pp. 551-554)
    (pp. 555-556)
    (pp. 557-566)
    (pp. 567-574)
    (pp. 575-575)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 576-576)