March 20 marks the first official day of spring, and there are a variety of programs on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks that let visitors celebrate the season for wildflowers, including a virtual wildflower tour on Monday, March 21.
This year’s inconsistent weather has resulted in many blooms popping up early – short but intense bursts of rain followed by unseasonable heat tricked many wildflowers into thinking that winter was over. Many native wildflowers can already be seen across the Landmarks, and while the hope was for more rainfall, now is the time to see a wide variety of flowers that wouldn’t normally be in bloom until late spring. Common wildflowers such as California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus) and Parry’s phacelia (Phacelia parryi) are plentiful in OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve, alongside more elusive native species including chaparral sweet pea (Lathyrus vestitus) and California golden violets (Viola pedunculata).
OC Parks, the City of Irvine, and the City of Newport Beach provide a variety of programs where visitors can enjoy wildflowers in bloom while exploring the Landmarks. Trails through Baker Canyon in OC Parks’ Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park are currently lined with hairy ceanothus (Ceanothus obliganthus), and chocolate lilies (Fritillaria biflora) have been seen there as well. Visitors to Agua Chinon in Limestone Canyon can enjoy California poppies, arroyo lupine and chia (Salvia columbariae) in bloom. Upcoming programs that will give visitors to the Landmarks a chance to enjoy spring wildflowers include:
- Leisure Nature Walk in Black Star Canyon – Saturday, March 21
- Birds and Blooms of Baker Canyon – Thursday, March 24
- The Flowers and Rare Plants of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks – Saturday, March 26
- Family Hike: Agua Chinon – Saturday, March 26
Visitors can also spot wildflowers while enjoying self-guided access along designated trails. It is common to see bush sunflower (Encelia californica) and arroyo lupine in bloom throughout Buck Gully Reserve in Newport Beach, which is open daily from dawn to dusk. Designated trails in the City of Irvine’s Bommer Canyon – where sticky monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiacus) is plentiful – are also open daily to hikers and bikers from sunrise to sunset. Chia, purple owl’s clover (Castilleja exserta), and popcorn flower (Cryptantha intermedia) have also been seen recently on Bommer Pass.
Rare wildflowers that are often harder to spot out on the Landmarks can be experienced by volunteering at the Conservancy’s one-of-a-kind Native Seed Farm. Tiny bright blooms of yellow pincushion (Chaenactis glabriuscula) have begun popping up at the Farm this week, and California plantain (Plantago erecta) and purple owl’s clover are also in bloom. These wildflowers help native – and oftentimes rare – butterflies and other pollinators thrive. The Native Seed Farm needs volunteers to harvest seeds from native spring wildflowers, and programs occur every Wednesday and Saturday morning. All tools and training are provided; you can search for a list of available Native Seed Farm programs here.
All programs on the Landmarks are free with required pre-registration, which closes 4 p.m. the day prior to each activity. Difficulty levels and age requirements vary from program to program, so make sure to check out each activity description to learn more. For more information on events, or to register, click the titles above or go to LetsGoOutside.org/activities.