Anza-Borrego Wildflowers

The kiddo had a day off from school in mid-March, so I took a vacation day and we all drove out to the desert to see the spring wildflowers. After the endless suburbia of Los Angeles, northern Orange County, and Corona, we drove past hills green from the winter rains, then into the similarly-endless suburbs of Temecula. It’s been years since I took Highway 79 south, and the city has grown a lot, but after a few miles the strip malls and housing developments disappeared, the road shrank to two lanes, and we drove through green hills with oaks, bushes, and the occasional patches of poppies, mustard and lupins. Fences, dirt roads and gates indicated ranches and wineries. Continue reading

Early last month I posted some photos of ponds in an empty lot in the Irvine Spectrum area, fed by the winter rains. Well, the rains have been tapering off, and the weather has been warming up. It’s been at least two weeks since it last rained, and the ponds are drying out.

On the plus side, all the sun has brought out the wildflowers. It’s still nowhere near the 2006 level, when hillsides were covered with patches of dark green, light green and bright yellow…

Hills covered with green grass and yellow wildflowers.

…but there was a nice patch of lupins at one end of the lot.

Experimenting with the macro setting on my camera:

Butterfly and white flowers

I cut across a vacant lot on my way to lunch last Friday. Most of it is just dirt and flattened stalks of of dry grass, but there are some plants that have sprung up since it was last mowed (probably sometime in spring) or have managed to hang on past then. (There’s a 2-foot-tall palm tree elsewhere on the lot.)

This was a cluster, maybe 3 feet long and 2 feet wide, of little white flowers about 1″–1½” wide. I put the camera as close to ground level as I could without setting it down, and aimed as best as I could from that angle. I took about a dozen photos, and lucked out: halfway through the shoot, a butterfly fluttered into the cluster.

It’s been a dry year for California. Water districts all over the state are geared up for drought conditions. The hills in the Orange County area are still golden-brown in mid-April. Last year at this time, they had finally turned green for spring.

Here’s a shot from the Irvine Spectrum area from April 6, 2006:

Street corner, facing a vacant lot covered with green grass, in front of green hills with a clutch of houses to the right.

That’s not a lawn behind that hedge, that’s a vacant lot. You can see it’s just as green as the strip of maintained grass along the sidewalk. Now here’s a picture taken about half a block away, taken last week, on April 6, 2007 (no, the timing was not intentional).

Same lot, from a different angle, all dry brown stubble.  The hills in the background, a bit fuzzy, are also light brown.

This year, only a few weeds and flowers have managed to take hold in the vacant lot. Meanwhile, the hills are their usual golden brown. Somehow, I don’t think we’re going to see much in the way of wildflowers this year. Continue reading