Wonder

Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows

Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows in springtime, California
Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows in springtime / devra, / CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

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 Nowadays nearly all of this unique grandeur is gone, meadows have been replaced by pastures, roads, and buildings.

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GPS coordinates
35.073229 N 119.65109 W
Location, 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.

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WorldYellow In detail

The unfamiliar Californian grandeur

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

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.

Goldfields, Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows in California
Goldfields, Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

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!)

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

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.

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

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.

References

  1. Wildflowers and Sightseeing. Carrizo Plain National Monument, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. Accessed on February 25, 2010
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