The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are home to a rich ecosystem bustling with rare and native species including coastal scrub oak, black sage, and prickly pear cactus. Southern California’s recent heavy rains led to an early wildflower season this year, and many of the Landmarks are beginning to bloom ahead of spring. Pops of color are sprouting amidst annual plant life, and nature lovers are welcome to enjoy the sights and smells of wildflowers by registering for a free public program.
OC Park’s Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve is sprouting with common wildflowers including arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus) and lovely Mariposa lilies (Calochortus). Visitors to OC Park’s Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park can travel the many trails and spot California lilacs (Ceanothus) and keep an eye out for bright yellow fiddlenecks (Amsinckia). In the City of Irvine, trekkers enjoying the Turtle Ridge Trail in Bommer Canyon can spot elusive shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia) and visitors to Orchard Hills can admire vibrant blue hyacinths.
The coming wildflower season is also a sign that butterflies are on their way. Native and rare wildflowers help butterflies and other pollinators thrive, giving them access to nectar and pollen resources throughout the growing season. The number of butterflies will increase with the season, and outdoor enthusiasts can often spot them in OC Parks’ Upper Newport Bay. Native plants and wildflowers are highly adapted to the local climate and conditions, and help support the communities of pollinators that rely on them and ideally increase their numbers.
OC Parks, City of Irvine, and City of Newport Beach offer a variety of programs where visitors can appreciate wildflowers in bloom while connecting with the land. Whether registering for a docent-led activity or exploring the open spaces during self-guided access, wildflower season is waiting for you in the great outdoors. Click the programs below to register for a free program and enjoy the many blooms of the season.
- Wildflower Showcase on Sat. 3/4 kicks off at 10 a.m. and welcomes outdoor enthusiasts of all ages to admire Orange County native wildflowers in bloom. Visit the Native Seed Farm and learn about 45 different local plant species grown onsite while enjoying the views of the land. Pack a picnic lunch and join a guided walking tour.
- The Natural History of Baker Canyon on Sun., 3/19 welcomes nature lovers to enjoy views of the Santa Ana Mountains as well as the wildflowers and plants of oak-shaded Baker Canyon. Travel along a 3.5-mile hike and learn about the local habitat.
- Dig In! Plant With Us at the Native Seed Farm is a reoccurring stewardship program always looking for volunteers to harvest seeds from native spring wildflowers. Take in the sights of the 14-acre farm and help the Landmarks by harvesting seeds from local wildflowers. All tools and training are provided, and nature lovers age 8 and older are welcome.
- Buck Gully Reserve in Newport Beach is open daily from dawn to dusk, where it’s common to see bush sunflower (Encelia californica) in bloom along the trails.
- Bommer Canyon is also open for self-guided access on designated trails, where sticky monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus) and popcorn flower (Cryptantha intermedia) have been known to sprout.
Irvine Ranch Conservancy offers a full calendar of spring activities and free, guided programs that include hiking, mountain bike rides, horseback riding, habitat restoration and special events for nature enthusiasts of all ages and fitness skill levels. Visit http://LetsGoOutside.org for more information and to register for free today.