May 1, 2015 - The wildflower season on Carrizo Plain National Monument is over. Check back in 2016.
Mid March to mid April is the usual time frame for wildflower season on Carrizo, but it is dependent on many factors, including temperature, rainfall and the timing of the two that determine which flowers bloom and their distribution in any given season. Every year is not spectacular and only a few flowers may prevail in some years.
Another source of information about wildflower blooms is The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants. They post information about flowers blooms on their website: http://www.theodorepayne.org.
The Carrizo Plain National Monument offers one tour each Saturday from mid-March through May to Soda Lake and Painted Rock, allowing the visitor to learn about wildflowers and other fascinating features on the Carrizo Plain. Please contact www.recreation.gov or 1-877-444-6777 (TDD 1-877-833-6777) for tour reservations. For sightseeing on your own, please be aware that most roads are unpaved and automotive services (including gas), are a distance away. During your visit please take only pictures and leave only footprints.
El Saucito Ranch Tour
The historic El Saucito Ranch will be open for one tour each year, usually in April. The date for the 2014 tour is April 6, 2014. Learn about pioneer settlement and agricultural history on the Carrizo Plain.
On this tour you will visit the oldest standing ranch house on the monument representative of the pioneer period settlement. The ranch headquarters includes a ranch house, generator building, work shop, corral, hired hands house, and a hay barn. Please contact www.recreation.gov or 1-877-444-6777 (TDD 1-877-833-6777) for tour reservations.
Wildflower & Plant Information
A preliminary list of plants found on the Carrizo Plain is available at this website. It may also be purchased at the Education Center. The Education Center also has photographs of many of the wildflowers to help you answer "What kind of flower is that?"
Wildflowers Seasonal Viewing Guidelines - Spring
It's often said that the Carrizo Plain is reminiscent of what the Great Central Valley used to be and this is certainly true during a beautiful spring that is resplendent with wildflowers that spread across the valleys, over the hillsides and down the canyons. John Muir once wrote that in walking across the valley during March, April and May, one foot step would press about a hundred flowers. This is the type of spring that wildflower seekers hope for each year. Fortunately, the Carrizo and Elkhorn Plains do still produce these immense fields of wildflowers but unfortunately, this does not happen every year.
Weather in the month of March can be extremely variable. Many cold days and frosty nights can still occur but mild temperatures in the 60s and 70s are the norm. Changing temperatures along with the amount of rainfall that has occurred greatly affect the type of wildflower season the Carrizo will have. Visitors can usually expect rainy days in March. In dry years March can sometimes be the peak month for wildflowers.
Some of the flowers most likely to be seen in March are the early bloomers including some annuals and some perennials. In the foothills, look for goldenbush shrubs to begin blooming with bright, yellow flowers. Purple bush lupine too can begin blooming and pale yellow astragalus or loco weed. The first annuals usually begin with filaree which can cover fields with a low carpet of pink. These can be mixed with yellow tropidocarpum, white popcorn flower and orange fiddleneck. In years favorable for poppies, these will begin to show. Hillside daisies, sun cups and others will also begin to bloom. Watch for baby-blue eyes along the north-facing slopes and goldfields to begin their blanket of gold.
April temperatures are usually more consistent and are often in the 70s or higher, making it often times the "peak" month for wildflowers. All of the flowers seen in March will usually continue to bloom through April. Many more emerge if conditions are right including many annual lupines, cream cups, delphinium, coreopsis, tidy tips and numerous bulbs including blue dicks and wild onions. Goldfields can literally turn some fields into a brilliant gold. The hillsides will begin to show more color usually with hillside daisies, lupines and poppies. Slopes are usually favored by desert candles and chia as well. Fiddleneck will continue to grow and bloom. Though pretty in fields, they will also begin to get very prickly. Phacelia, which can also cover the fields, will add a beautiful lavender/blue color to the mix.
May temperatures become increasingly warm, good for late bloomers but too warm for the early flowers. If temperatures are mild, expect the April flowers to hang on a little longer. More bulbs will bloom including mariposa lilies. Buckwheat species will begin to bud and bloom. Expect the end of the season to close with beautiful displays of farewell-to-spring.