Approaching the super bloom was like spotting snow while driving up a mountain. It started with a first observation, “Look! A patch of gold on the hill!” Around each turn, an additional color decorated the roadside. Denser blooms of more intense hues greeted us, and with it, a growing excitement. Tinted patches became larger belts of color, turned to broad stretches of mosaic and culminated in a sweeping tapestry across the plain between the two fringing ranges.
Anticipation built up the desire to be part of the super bloom landscape; to run and jump with the background of color, bask in the ephemeral glory of the season, gently touch the soft petals.
Visitors refer to parts of the preserve in terms of color – down the road is a “sea of blue”, in that valley in the east range is a lovely display of POG (purple, orange, gold). Eventually the focus turns from the landscape view to recognizing individual species and their defining features.
Appropriately named “goldfields” – small daisy-like flowers – form dense mats visible from miles away. Orange “fiddlenecks” are coils of tubular flowers on 4-foot tall stalks. Striking purple “phacelia” bell flowers on deep forest green stalks sway in the wind. Butter-yellow “tidy tips” grow low to the ground.
A veritable checklist of spring blossom desirables fill the plain: tall spikes of purple larkspur, bursts of blue dicks, owl clover, poppies, baby blue-eyes, lupines.
Signs of the past drought remind us of less abundant years. Between the lush foliage and florals, the ground shows a repeating pattern of sun-cracked mud. Dried tumbleweeds line the fence along the road – a row of tangled, dead, brown branches that contrast with the surrounding life. The banks of the seasonal lake stand out white along the shimmery blue water; in dry years, the blue evaporates to salty, pallid flats.
This year’s seasonal bloom spectacle has created wildflower enthusiasts. On this Earth Day 2017, may we realize the importance of preserving a diversity of natural habitats – for a desolated, dry basin one year can become a paradise of diversity and life over time. Preservation, awareness, research, restoration and connection are vital to a future where generations are inspired to run, jump and play in fields of wildflowers.
Happy Earth Day! Stay connected and go visit the Carrizo Plain National Monument!