It’s often said that April showers bring May flowers. But in Southern California, March’s monsoon has brought in a superbloom.
Wildfire superblooms are rare occurrences, happening only after long periods of heavy precipitation — such as the recent rain that moved through Southern California. In fact, 2023 was Los Angeles’ wettest March in 45 years. Superblooms, however, have occurred more frequently in Southern California recently, with the last two superblooms occurring in 2019 and 2017.
Superblooms are an incredibly popular attraction for California residents. During the 2019 superbloom, crowds were so overwhelming at times that Walker Canyon, a spot for blooms in Riverside, even closed temporarily due to overcrowding.
Despite weekend crowds often reaching the hundreds of thousands, some Californians don’t pay much mind to the event. Nathan Barrios, a West Covina resident, said that he frequently drives by areas where wildflowers are growing in abundance.
“I drive by it all the time so it’s not really a big deal for me,” Barrios said, but still noted that he thinks “it’s pretty cool.”
Yet, for California visitors traveling from out of town, seeing this year’s superbloom could be a once in a lifetime opportunity. East Bay resident Jaclyn Sollars said she hadn’t heard of the superbloom before, but that it had caught her and her family’s eye as they made their way south into L.A.
“Driving down here, we saw a lot of it through the national forest area. We actually noticed it, it was beautiful,” she said.
Her mother, Deb Sollars, said that although the family is only in the area for a couple of days, she would love to see the superbloom.
However, the rolling hills of blooming flowers are threatened by the throngs of visitors who lack the knowledge or respect to protect the orange and yellow blossoms. This has prompted parks where the superbloom occurs to enforce protective rules in order to keep the area safe and beautiful. Experts have also offered tips on visiting these superblooms safely.
The L.A.-based Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants wrote in their wildflower report that “if wild flowers along trails are picked or trampled, they may not set seed and deposit that seed into the soil’s ‘seed bank’ as they come to the end of their life,” meaning that those flowers may not rebloom the following year. Therefore, both parks and wildlife conservation agencies discourage picking the flowers from the ground.
Esther Margulies, a landscape architect and part time lecturer at USC, remained optimistic about human impact on these blooms.
“In my personal experience, many of the visitors who are coming to these locations have some appreciation for the fragility,” Margulies said.
However, Margulies also acknowledged the inevitable occurrence of some destruction with human interaction.
“It’s really impossible to not have some impact,” Margulies said.
Some L.A. County locals, like Orange County resident Connie Hughes, are equally concerned about the effect of so many visitors on the superbloom. Hughes is familiar with the superbloom and even knows close friends who have witnessed it, yet she, herself, has never been.
“I have a lot of friends who’ve gone,” Hughes said. “I was going to go down to the desert area a couple years ago and then it was such a mess with the parking and people trampling on things that I decided to give it a break.”
Hughes added that she would only be interested in attempting to see the superbloom in the future if it is not “precipitously bad for the environment.”
“It’s very disappointing to see,” Barrios said. “I feel like the natural beauty of California should be respected and kept safe so that other people can see it as well.”
For those who still wish to witness the superbloom, it’s still possible to enjoy the phenomenon while respecting the natural environment.
According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation website, “California State Parks welcomes all to enjoy these unpredictable, rare occurrences but asks visitors to ‘Don’t Doom the Bloom’ by staying on designated trails and taking only photos, not flowers.”
The rules laid out by CADPR include:
- Stay on designated trails.
- Tread lightly in the desert. Do not trample flowers.
- Only take pictures of the flowers. Flower picking is prohibited.
- If dogs are permitted, they must remain on a leash, on designated roads, in campgrounds and picnic areas.
- Drone use may be prohibited. If drone use is allowed, a filming permit from individual state park units must be requested.
- Leave the landscape better than when you arrived. Use Leave no Trace and Leave it Better principles.
If you’re interested in seeing the superbloom for yourself, Annenberg Media has compiled a list of locations to check out the flowers. Early April is one of the best times to see the blooms, so if you’re interested, don’t wait!
- Chino Hills State Park
- 45 min drive
- Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (Santa Monica Mountains: What’s Blooming)
- 1 hr drive
- Point Mugu State Park
- 1 hr drive
- Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve (Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve Bloom Status Update)
- 1 hr 40 min drive
- Diamond Valley Lake
- 1 hr 45 min drive
- Joshua Tree National Park
- 2 hr 25 min drive
- Anza-Borrego State Park
- 2 hr 40 min drive