Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows
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 that 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 Nowadays nearly all of this unique grandeur is gone, meadows have been replaced by pastures, roads, and buildings.
Map of the site
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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 choices. But there is one natural attraction that 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 the 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, the last remnant of the arid 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.
If the weather during the winter has been favorable, 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 control over the land in order to begin a search for oil.
- Wildflowers and Sightseeing. Carrizo Plain National Monument, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. Accessed on February 25, 2010
Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows are included in the following list:
California poppy meadows belong to the most impressive wildflower displays of the world. Their unusually clear and brilliant color seems to come from another, better reality. This flower has created a passion that is rare elsewhere in the world. Many Californians are obsessed with “wildflower hunting” – search of beautiful meadows, photographing, and just pure enjoyment of beauty.
Although California is one of the states in the United States of America, Americans often compare it to a separate country, e.g. “if California would be a country, it would have the eighth largest economy in the world”. We can go on with this comparison – California has more landmarks and attractions than many large countries of the world.
Biotope is a rather small area with uniform environmental conditions and a specific community of life. Wondermondo describes biotopes and ecosystems which have striking looks, look very beautiful, or have other unusual characteristics.
In the early- and mid-twentieth century the Carrisa Plains was a thriving agricultural community in central California. Today it holds only relics of this past: abandoned machinery, empty corrals, decaying homesteads, and a scattering of retired farmers and ranchers.