Wildflowers in bloom on the Central Coast
A stunning array of colors

Wildflowers in bloom on the Central Coast

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Wildflowers came early this year.

Ask the people who know.

Ranger Helen Tarbet, a Los Padres National Forest expert, specializes in what may be ground zero for spring wildflower-peepers — Figueroa Mountain.

Each spring, viewers clamor to the moderately sized peak north of Los Olivos for stunning displays of poppies and lupine on nearby Grass Mountain.

Well, maybe not so much this year.

“Perhaps because of the lack of rain ... the infamous poppy/lupine hillside has gone to seed,” Tarbet wrote in her latest update on the mountain, issued late last week.

Dry, warm weather has stymied new growth there, she said, though displays elsewhere on the mountain are “incredible.”

“But I wouldn’t wait long,” she cautioned. “They do appear to be in a rush.”

Tarbet’s wildflower reports are laden with picturesque names — buttercups, milk maids, Johnny jump-ups, blue dicks, fiesta flowers, Indian paintbrush, shooting stars, fiddle necks, chocolate lilies, goldfields, popcorn flowers and hummingbird sage.

“They show off their beautiful array of colors,” she wrote.

Flowers abound as you get higher. Toward Cachuma Saddle, she said, “The wildflowers are really putting on a show. Sunset Valley is unveiling gorgeous bush lupine and bush poppies.”

Nearby, Happy Canyon has also seen “a wildflower explosion.”

While ceanothus, sometimes called California lilac, is departing from the mountain, it can be seen in various hues near Vandenberg Village, said Charles Blair, a Lompoc botanist. He also cited rare giant coreopsis near Ocean Beach County Park.

“I’m seeing more really good displays of the bushes and perennials than I am of the spring annuals,” he added.

Weather is a factor in the blooms. He noted that the 1991 March Miracle rains ushered in a “spectacular year.”

A tip from another botanist: Visit Figueroa Mountain on weekdays. Weekends are so crowded motorists sometimes must back down the mountain road, which is not advised.

On Saturday, April 20, the Forest Service will hold its 12th annual “drive and stroll” tour on Figueroa Mountain in conjunction with the California Native Plant Society. Meet at 9 a.m. at the fire station on Figueroa Mountain Road. The fire station is approximately 11 miles from the Highway 154 turnoff. Bring sturdy shoes, lunch and liquids. For more information, call 925-9538, ext. 246.

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

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