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Central Coast in bloom
Golden poppies are in full bloom on Figueroa Mountain.//Bryan Walton/Staff

They have delightful names like fiddlenecks, Johnny jump-ups, miner’s lettuce, milk maids and Indian paintbrush.

Spring wildflower season has returned to Santa Barbara County.

The North County is traditionally one of the better viewing areas in Southern California. And despite recent rains, this year should be no exception, said wildflower expert Charles Blair of Lompoc.

Last week’s storms didn’t do any damage, he said. “If anything, they give a little extra water boost.”

“It looks like a really great year for wildflowers,” he said, thanks to “abundant rain interspersed with sunny periods. By the first two to three weeks in April, the spring bloomers should be coming out in droves.”

Rare giant coreopsis now are in bloom along the west end of Highway 246. Numerous shrubs are blooming along winding Harris Grade Road. Poppies are showing up along roadsides.

On Figueroa Mountain, always a prime draw, golden poppies are already putting on an early display, with purple lupine a little behind, Los Padres National Forest ranger Helen Tarbet reports, although recent mountain snows have slowed them up a bit. Starting up the mountain, one can see fields filled with yellows, oranges, blues, reds and whites.

Blooming schedules vary. Milk maids and shooting stars were extremely early this year, Tarbet said, while flowers at higher elevations have not reached their peak.

“It is advisable to plan one’s trip on sunny and warm days,” she suggested.

Two wildflower tours are scheduled for April. The La Purisima Burton Mesa wildflower walk, sponsored by the California Native Plant Society and Sierra Club, will take place, Saturday, April 9. The group meets at the La Purisima Mission parking lot, starting at 9 a.m.

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The Forest Service’s 11th annual “drive and stroll” tour on Figueroa Mountain will be held Saturday, April 16, kicking off California

Native Plant Week. Participants should meet at 9 a.m. at the Figueroa Mountain Road fire station, 12 miles from Highway 154. Sturdy shoes, lunch, liquids, camera and binoculars are recommended for both tours. Tours are free, although a $5 Adventure Pass is required on Figueroa Mountain.

“By the time these field trips come up, there’s going to be enough sun to really kick these things off,” said Blair.

For tour information, contact Tarbet at 925-9538, or Blair at 733-3189.

Roadside Attractions is a weekly chronicle of sights along the Central Coast’s main commuter routes. Sally Cappon can be reached at sjcappon@aol.com.

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