The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are filled with native plant and wildlife year-round, and each season welcomes new flora and fauna on the open spaces. Flora is comprised of plants that grow in a specific region, and fauna relates to animals that flourish in a particular region. While popular opinion dictates that Southern California does not experience seasons, a closer look on the lands reveals different types of plants and wildlife appearing seasonally on the Landmarks. Nature lovers have an opportunity to discover something new when they visit the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, no matter what time of year!
From wildflowers to sage scrub, a variety of flora lives on the Landmarks. With a restricted amount of resources available to a highly diverse plant population, flora can co-exist with each other because of the changing seasons. If every plant grew during the same season, they would directly compete with one another. For example, local species adapt to weather patterns that a Mediterranean climate brings, and many go into a state of dormancy in late summer when the moisture is scarce. Seasons allow plants to bloom and fruit at different times so they can share the same space annually and continue to thrive.
One plant that’s prevalent on the Landmarks during the summer season is the Coyote Melon (Cucurbita foetidissima). Known for its unpleasant odor, this low-lying plant grows on a vine and has light green-gray fuzzy leaves. When it first grows, Coyote Melon resembles a small watermelon then ripens to a bright yellow that’s roughly the size of a baseball. The light color of the leaves work like a t-shirt would for humans, providing cover and reducing transpiration. Hikers on the trails often spot these perennials, brightly colored and full of fibers and seeds (similar to a pumpkin).
Goldenbush (genus Ericameria and Isocoma) is a shrub that shows off color in late summer. True to its name, goldenbush produces brightly coloered golden and yellow flowers as temperatures increase and summer settles in. Goldenbush can be seen by visitors in large clusters, creating a vibrant scene across the Landmarks – it’s also very attractive to insects! The plant’s very small, thin leaves are a light shade of green that aids in moisture retention during hot summer days.
Wildlife bustles year-round on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks! From reptiles to birds to insects, the open spaces are home to many animals that thrive in Southern California’s Mediterranean climate. Some wildlife become more active at night when it is cooler, avoiding the midday heat. However, certain species prefer the sun’s rays.
Because reptiles are cold-blooded and need the sun’s rays to regulate their body temperature, visitors on the lands are likely to spot snakes and lizards sunbathing on a nearby rock or on a trail. When the sun becomes too hot, wildlife, including reptiles, are more likely to find cool places to retreat to which makes them more active in the morning, early evening, and overnight. Wildlife rests during the middle of the day to conserve energy in order to forage for food when it’s cooler outside. If visitors are looking to see wildlife on the Landmarks, consider an evening walk.
Tarantulas can often be seen in the late afternoon and early evening during summer months. Although they spend most of their lives hidden in burrows, tarantulas often roam around during daylight hours in search of a mate. Their size and hairy bodies may seem intimidating to some visitors, but local tarantulas on the Landmarks pose little threat to humans as their venom is not deadly and their bites rival a bee sting.
Explore the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks by registering for program and enjoy flora and fauna on the open spaces. Click the programs below to register for an activity on the Landmarks!
- Tuesday Morning Fitness Hike on Paved Hicks Haul Road is offered to visitors every Tuesday morning from 7:30-10:00 a.m. at OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve. Hikers can choose between a 3, 6, or 8 mile hikes and can see fauna like hawks, deer, and lizards.
- Orchard Hills Evening Hike in City of Irvine’s Orchard Hills takes trekkers along a moderate hike that offers unobstructed views to the west. Hikes take place throughout the week and begin at 6:30 p.m.
- After Work Fitness Hike on Paved Hicks Haul Road is offered every Monday and Wednesday from 6:00 -7:30 p.m. at OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve. The 3.5-mile hike is a great opportunity to spot fauna that become more active when the sun starts to set.
- Family Hike: Round Canyon takes place on Saturday, August 26 from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. This slower-paced hike is the perfect opportunity for the whole family to get out in nature and experience evening time in OC Parks’ Round Canyon.
Most activities are free with required pre-registration, which closes at 4 p.m. the day prior to each event. Some programs are suitable for children 6 and over, and children must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. For more details on programs on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/activities.