Wonder

Walker Canyon poppy fields

Spring flowers in Walker Canyon
Spring flowers in Walker Canyon./ Beau Rogers, Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

Some of the most beautiful poppy meadows in Southern California are located north from Lake Elsinore – Walker Canyon poppy fields. Countless flowers color the steep hillsides on both sides of Corona Freeway (going through Walker Canyon) nearly every year in late February – April. The most prominent flowers are California poppies but there are numerous other flowers including very rare ones.

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GPS coordinates
33.72588 N 117.37240 W
Location, address
North America, United States, California, Riverside County, 90 km south-east from Los Angeles City, north-west from Lake Elsinore, hillsides in both sides of I-15 freeway (Corona Freeway)
Dominating species
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

Poppy bloom in Walker Canyon
Poppy bloom in Walker Canyon./ Rene Rivers, Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Many of the large intermontane valleys of California originally were covered with grassland – vegetation consisted mainly of grasses and other herbaceous plants. Trees for the most part were limited to sparse gallery forest along the streams (see Dry Creek as a contemporary example). In spring-time vast meadows turned into an endless sea of flowers.

People have changed the landscape of California tremendously over the last 100 – 150 years. Most of the natural grassland is gone – replaced by pasture, irrigated, built up. This turns the remaining patches of original grassland into a valuable asset of Californian nature.

Wilderness among the cities

Meadows near Lake Elsinore, California
Meadows near Lake Elsinore / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Lake Elsinore area is located in the Greater Los Angeles Area – there are approximately 16 million people living here. The term “urban sprawl” for a while got even a synonym – “Los Angelization” due to endless quarters of private houses covering the former grassland.

Some areas near Los Angeles though have been spared of this development and are even relatively intact.

One of such places is seen from the I-15 highway between Alberhill and Lake Elsinore. On both sides of the road, there are desolate hills which for the most part of the year seem to be nearly lifeless. But in the spring – in late February – April – there happens miraculous change – greyish hills become covered with large bright colored patches of wildflowers.

Even more beautiful sights open to those who spend some time and effort to walk uphill. Vast meadows continue to the north, to Camelot Hills and to the south.

Rare plants

This island of grassland in the urbanized areas still is hosting numerous rare and endemic species. Walker Canyon and its vicinities are one of the few places where one can find Coulter’s Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri Harvey), San Bernardino spineflower (Chorizanthe parryi S.Wats.), and many other very rare plants.

Declaration of the area with some protection regime is considered here.

 

References

  1. Riverside County General Plan, accessed on February 27, 2010
Walker Canyon poppy fields are included in the following list:

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