Wildflowers of California

California is blessed with an abundance of colorful wildflowers that grow all across the state — along its coastal bluffs, high in the alpine, in the shade of redwood forests, even blooming en masse in the desert. This page is my attempt to photograph and catalog every species. (I’m doing the same thing with mushrooms).  

Beavertail Cactus

Opuntia basilaris

Most of the time, you won’t notice the beavertail cactus, even though it’s common across California’s high desert. It’s always just sort of there, blending into its surroundings, being pretty meh. But it’s a different story in the spring. Between March and June, the beavertail cactus bloms, unleashing a surreal splash of hot pink. Some cacti will have a dozen or more flowers popping off at once. I’m talking about blossoms so bright, theyll grab your attention as you drive, beckoning you to pull over for a photo. And I promise you won’t be able to resist. A week or so earlier? You never would have known they were there. 

Bird’s Eye Gilia

Gilia tricolor

I believe these are Bird’s Eye Gilia — a favorite of bees and hummingbirds, and a native flower of California. The blue anthers and yellow throat (not visible in this picture) give their identity away.

California Poppy

Eschscholzia californica

A California poppy, the state flower, blooms along the Lost Coast Trail in Mendocino County’s Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. Poppies can be yellow, red, orange, and even pink. They are the wildflower that is most closely associated with superblooms, appearing as blankets of orange in desert valleys and on grassy hillsides in the spring. 

Milkmaids

Dentaria californica

Spring wildflowers — milkmaids, I believe — bloom at the base of a redwood in Jackson State Forest on California’s North Coast.

Tahoe Lupine

Lupinus meionanthus

A sea of Tahoe lupine a mile high into the sky in Desolation Wilderness. This species of lupine can be found the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains, from California to Nevada.

Western Trillium

Trillium ovatum

When I lived on the North Coast in magical Mendocino County, blooming western white trilliums were always the first harbinger of spring. I’d often see them in early to mid March. To me, they represent the optimism that comes with the changing of the seasons, when the winter rains cease and sunnier weather patterns take over. The petals start off white, but can turn pinkish-purple. I haven’t seen may of those. I’ll have to start looking a little harder as I’d love to photogrpah one.

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