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Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 35.073229 N -119.65109 W
No:30        (list of all attractions)
Category:Ecosystems
Values:Biology
Rank:6
Address:North America, United States, California, San Luis Obispo County, 170 km north-west from Los Angeles, 20 km south-west from Taft, several parts of Carrizo Plain, including south-eastern part
ALternate name:"California's Serengeti"
Area:1,012 km2
Dominating species:Diverse, including goldfields (Lasthenia californica DC. ex Lindl.), California poppy ((Eschscholzia californica Cham.) and numerous others.
Goldfields, Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows in California
Goldfields, Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Great naturalist John Muir wrote in his memoirs: "Go where I would, east or west, north or south, I still plashed and rippled in flower-gems". In 1868 he was privileged to see something what we won't see anymore - the endless sea (400 miles long and 30 miles wide) of spring flowers of Central Valley in California. Nowadays nearly all of this unique grandeur is gone, meadows have been replaced by pastures, roads and buildings.

But don't despair - there exist Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows.

Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows in moonlight
Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows in moonlight / Bill Bouton, / CC BY-SA 2.0

The unfamiliar Californian grandeur

Most Californians and guests strive to visit Yosemite National Park, redwoods, Sonoran desert and other great natural attractions - there is plenty of choice. But there is one natural attraction which is often overlooked - Carrizo Plain.

To say "overlooked" is not entirely correct - plain has been studied extensively by scientists due to its unique geology and biology. But the beauty of this unusual plain is not exactly as touristy as the overwhelming greatness of Yosemite Valley.

For most part of the year enormous treeless plains around the unusual Soda Lake might seem somewhat monotonous and deserted. But it is not a desert - this vast area is the largest remaining natural grassland in California, last remnant of the sarid grasslands once covering the San Joaquin Valley. The unusual landscape is supplemented by San Andreas Fault - nowhere else this giant scar is expressed that well.

Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows in springtime
Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows in springtime / Wikimedia Commons, user Antandrus, public domain
Goldfields, Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows
Goldfields, Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows / Wikimedia Commons, user Antandrus, public domain

If the weather during the winter has been favourable, in March - May the desolate plain is changing. Millions of bright flowers color the endless meadows. Walk between these two seemingly endless planes - the sky above and the bright carpet of flowers below - seems like being in another reality. (But stay in touch with the real world - beware of rattlesnakes, especially later, starting from late March!)

There are several species of wildflowers creating this grandeur: California goldfield (Lasthenia californica DC. ex Lindl.), lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia Benth.), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica Cham.), tidy tips (Layia platyglossa ( Fisch. & C.A.Mey.) A.Gray) and numerous other species.

Biological richness of the Carrizo Plain is well illustrated by such find as diamond-petaled California poppy (Eschscholzia rhombipetala Greene). This small poppy was thought to be extinct until a happy discovery of this plant in the northern part of Carrizo Plain in 1992. There are numerous other rare and endemic plants in the plain and new finds are highly possible.

Carrizo Plain is declared a National Monument in 2001 but is continuously endangered by attempts to get the control over the land in order to begin a search of oil.

Map

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