The way the California Poppy Reserve looked last year, shown in the above photo, has unfortunately not been a sight so far this year. State Park officials for the popular springtime destination in the western end of the Mojave Desert on Friday said the season has not come to full bloom yet and may not, which is likely a disappointment to anyone heading to the California Poppy Festival this weekend.
"It looks like this just isn't a big year for poppies," the reserve's website stated. "We usually have our peak around this time, but it doesn't appear that we'll really have a 'peak,' just an extended minimal display, possibly through the end of May."
The good news, however, is that the modest season of blooms will be extended since rain was still coming in through March. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve's full update from Friday is below:
It looks like this just isn't a big year for poppies. We usually have our peak around this time, but it doesn't appear that we'll really have a "peak", just an extended minimal display, possibly through the end of May.
This has been a rather unusual spring for wildflower displays. Even though the first seed germination-triggering rain storm came early last fall, the first poppy blossoms were not seen until late February; a month or more later than past years with similar early rain storms. The poppy display can be called, at best, modest; a disappointing season so far. The good news is that a large percent of the growing poppy plants are still small and have not yet put out their first blossom so it will likely be a longer season, especially with the major late season rain storm in late March helping to keep the soil moist.
The perennial grape soda lupine was also late in starting to bloom but these plants now have beautiful displays of the tall blue/purple flower stems covering the plants. This year's displays of owl's clover, another favorite of Reserve visitors, have been better than most recent years. Some mid-season plants such as chia and Fremont pincushion are now starting to blossom. In a couple of weeks, the silver puffs should be providing carpets of their silver spherical seedheads. The wishbone bushes are just now starting to form buds so it will also be a few weeks before these beautiful blue blossoms are showing. To date, more than 40 different wildflowers have bloomed this spring.
What Reserve trails are best right now? It depends on what you are looking for. Poppies are widely scattered so you can find some along any of the trails. Right now the best displays of grape soda lupine are along the Tehachapi Vista trail, especially the western side, but some expected nice displays of grape soda are just starting near the beginning of the Lightning Bolt trail. Lightning Bolt trail is also a good walk to see forget-me-nots and lacy phacelia near the summit. Owl's clover can be found along the North Poppy Loop trail. Walking the Valley Vista trail, you will find the best displays of forget-me-nots, suncups, a tiny blue gilia, and, if you are there very late in the afternoon, evening snow. A good hiking route for a variety of wildflowers would be around the North Poppy Loop Trail and then up and over the Tehachapi Vista Point Trail, or up to Kitanemuk Vista Point (see Current Photos). More wildflower species and location details can be found here.
Poppies bundle themselves up when it's cold and windy, so check the forecast before coming out.