Chimney Sweep

Wildflowers are beginning to bloom. Here is the place to see them within the Bay Space and California

Along Highway 1 south of Half Moon Bay, the strip of blooming yellow mustard over the coastal hills turned into a gold mine for Iacopi Farms.

“Lots of people went in, so we just opened the gates and charged $ 10 each,” said Deborah Iacopi. “With COVID, a lot of people go crazy and want to go out and see something nice.”

As April comes, the temperature rage this week in the Bay Area ignited wildflower blooms early, say park rangers and field scouts.

“Seeing the wildflowers is a sign of hope,” said Rosemary Passantino at Marin County Parks and Open Space.

Even after strong winds, the blossoms throughout the region arrived from the northwest dried surface soils at the end of a lackluster rainy season. On the Iacopi farms, while the flowers are still stretching across the coastal farmland, they are nearing their peak, Iacopi said, and the farm could plow the flowers under the next week in favor of artichokes.

In much of the Bay Area, wild mustard and California poppies give the best.

Some of the best bags of wildflowers are San Bruno Mountain, Mount Diablo State Park, and the Chimney Rock Headlands at Point Reyes National Seashore. In the foothills of the Sierra, the blossoms are just beginning to burst in the river corridors and riparian zones, for example north of the Grass Valley in South Yuba State Park.

“Good flowers are showing up and should only get better when it gets warmer,” said Matthew Green, ranger for California State Park’s Sierra District. He recommended the Buttermilk Bend Trail along the South Yuba River.

On the flip side, many well-known wildflower destinations have become confused this spring.

A spectacular showpiece two years ago, Death Valley National Park received only 0.38 inches of rain at Furnace Creek this winter. Field scout Linda Stremel said she saw maybe six wildflowers in four days when she visited the park last week.

Another landmark, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve in the San Joaquin Valley, received only 2 inches of rain this winter, rangers said. The hills are faded brown, with no poppies and only a slight pinch of red filaree.

Though Daffodil Hill near Sutter Creek, Amador County remains on the radar for many, the owners likely closed it two years ago after a rush of visitors and illegally parked vehicles blocked the access roads for emergency vehicles.

Wildflowers are always wild, depending on timing, soil moisture, temperature, wind speed and direct sun. These factors form a matrix that can ignite or suffocate flowers.

“Please add a note to stay on paths and not trample or pick the flowers,” advised Passantino at Marin County Parks and Open Space.

That said, here are the best views in the Bay Area.

San Francisco peninsula and coast

San Bruno Mountain State and County Park, just south of the San Francisco County line, has shown excellent diversity in a year when explosive blooms are less common, said Carla Schoof of San Mateo County Parks.

More than 15 species were identified at San Bruno Mountain last week, including California poppies, lupins, blue tails, violin necks, Douglas fir and Indian paintbrush, but also wallflowers, yellow arugula, sun cups and traces of spring.

Edgewood County Park in Redwood City also added a good splash of color, Schoof said. For the past week, rangers identified Henderson’s Shooting Star, California Manroot, California Poppy, Fremont’s Death Cameras, the Tongue of the Pacific Dogs, the Feather of the Warrior, and the Cat Clover.

Marin County

In northwest Marin, the Douglas iris flowers can be a show stopper, and the best bets are around Limantour Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore and Tomales Bay State Park.

“We’re currently enjoying the purple pops of the Douglas Iris,” said State Park Ranger Nick Turner.

At Point Reyes, the Chimney Rock Headland can be legendary – 90 species of wildflowers can make the springtime crowning glory. But winds from the northwest and warm temperatures stopped blooming. Chimney Rock and the nearby Point Reyes Lighthouse are still so attractive that the park service enforces a quota on weekends after the turn off on Drakes Beach Road.

Marin County Parks have the best views in Loma Alta, Baltimore Canyon, Ring Mountain, and Mount Burdell, Passantino said. The Ring Mountain Preserve on Paradise Drive in Corte Madera overlooking the Tiburon coast can be spectacular, she said.

“Expanses of gold fields, neat tips and other early bloomers make for a spring classic,” said Passantino. “The brightly colored flowers provide a foreground for spectacular views of the bay.”

East Bay hill

Mount Diablo State Park hikers shared their wildflower sightings through the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association. Bags of California poppies are often spotted along North Gate Road and Summit Road. The area around Murchio Gap, accessible via the Eagle Peak Trail or the Bald Ridge Trail, is often the most diverse. Flowers include poppy seeds, silver lupine, Pacific pea, periwinkle, and delphinium.

Among the 75 parks in the East Bay Regional Park District, Black Diamond, Anthony Chabot, Sunol, and the Briones-to-Diablo Trail are the best for wildflowers.

Of these, the Black Diamond Regional Preserve just south of Highway 4 near Pittsburg is number 1 – the Stewartville Trail can be one of the best shows in early April. Lupine, paintbrush, Ithuriel’s spear, blue tails and owl clover are among the sightings.

“Wildflowers are outside and seem almost normal even in the dry year,” said Dave Mason at the park headquarters. “April is the best time to see wildflowers in regional parks.”

Santa Clara County

This was a good spring for yellow mustard and California poppies over the foothills above the Santa Clara Valley. At the Santa Clara County Parks Headquarters, Tamara Clark suggested Calero, Santa Teresa, Coyote Lake, and Grant Counties.

Every April, Almaden Quicksilver County Park south of San Jose is a wild card. The Mine Hill Trail can be a spectacular show, and early April is best for monkey flowers. Other common early arrivals may include lupine, poppy seeds, buttercups, and, if you’re lucky, falling stars.

Tom Stienstra is the retired outdoor writer for The Chronicle. Email: Twitter: @StienstraTom

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