Southern California Wildflowers
Wildflowers of Southern California

(Click any image to see it full size.)

While most people think of Southern California as blondes (Baywatch) and theme parks (Universal Studios), my interest was always the amazing variety of wildflowers - that no one associates as their first impression of southern California. Well, I'm here to set the record straight. California wildflowers are obnoxiously bold and bright. Positively psychedelic and intoxicating. Never seen anything like it anywhere. Here are some of my favorite photos, badly scanned (but less bad if you click to see the full sized version). Not all are wild, but they do say California to me.

The most noticeable of the flora are the bougainvilleas. They come in white and several shades of red - from pale pink through fuschia and into orange. They seem to grow out of control, draping themselves over fences (see below) and crowding out everything else. A blast of color all over.

Encinitas, CA
Closeup of bougainvillea
Encinitas, CA
Bougainvillea close up

The next impression comes in the spring - right along the freeways. They are positively blanketed with ice plants - several varieties, and a wide range of extremely bright colors. People's front lawns become fuschia carpets (see below), and the whole thing makes southern California quite unique.

 Ice Plant Del Mar, CA
Ice plants Del Mar, CA
San Diego, CA
Highway 52@ 163
San Diego, CA Highway 52

On a hillside in Carlsbad, facing the ocean and right along Interstate 5, you can still see the remains of the Flower Hill. This acreage is apparently the single best place in the world to grow Ranunculus. They grow it in a splash of colors, and if you look carefully, they even grow it in bouquets of several colors - from a single bulb! Today, the hill is overgrown with condos and offices, and the bottom of the hill has become a theme park of tacky shops, but around Easter, it is still worth a long look.

Flower Hill, Carlsbad, CA Flower Hill Growing bouquets

In Lancaster, they hold an annual poppy festival. There's still 4000 acres of bright orange poppies that blanket the hills and valleys, in a lovely, unnatural desert setting. You can walk among them, lie in them, and generally - enjoy. Not many places you can say that for.

Closeup of poppies Outside Lancaster Outside Lancaster
California Poppies Acres of them Lancaster, CA

Last but hardly least are the desert wildflowers. For an all too brief period in the spring, the desert blooms - but you have to look carefully. Most of the flowers are so tiny I had to use a 3X macro lens to do them any justice at all. They are typically smaller than your pinky nail, and a raindrop on a petal will dominate it totally.