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Wildflowers of California

A Month-by-Month Guide

Laird Blackwell (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 588 pages
ISBN: 9780520272064
May 2012
$35.00, £28.00
Other Formats Available:
In this photograph-driven field guide to California’s spectacular wildflowers, Laird R. Blackwell expertly provides several ways to find them in bloom: by month, by place, and by flower. The month-by-month descriptions—found in no other statewide guide—suggest what to see and where to go throughout the state during the blooming season. The author also supplies more than 300 locations arranged in 10 geographical regions, highlighting 67 of his favorite places with detailed driving and walking directions and difficulty, blooming times, and lists of predominant wildflowers as well as a featured flower. The guide contains more than 650 color photographs by the author, including 600 species arranged by flower, with natural history notes and places and months to find the flower in bloom. Throughout, experienced wildflower guide Blackwell shares his love of the beautiful places and flowers he has visited throughout California.
Wildflower Seasons in California
Purpose and Organization of this Book
Where, When, What, and Wow (How to Use this Book)
Using a Month-by-Month Guide—Benefits, Limitations, and Caveats
A Few Last Words

Special Wildflower Places (Map)
1) Smith River and Siskyou Mountains (Crescent City)
2) Kangaroo Lake Botanical Area (Callahan)
3) Trinity Alps (Weaverville)

4) Redwood National and State Parks (Orick)
5) Dunes of Arcata (Arcata)
6) Bear Valley (Williams)
7) Boggs Lake (Clear Lake)
8) Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve (Fort Ross)
9) Salt Point State Park (Fort Ross)
10) Bodega Head (Bodega)
11) China Camp State Park (San Pablo Bay)

Central and Southern
12) Ring Mountain (Corte Madeira)
13) Mount Tamalpais/Muir Woods (Marin)
14) Mount Diablo (Walnut Creek)
15) San Bruno Mountains (South San Francisco)
16) Edgewood Preserve (San Mateo)
17) Pinnacles National Monument (Soledad)
18) CA58 from Santa Margarita to McKittrick
19) Carrizo Plain (San Luis Obispo)
20) Nipomo-Guadalupe Dunes (Guadalupe)
21) Wind Wolves Natural Preserve (Maricopa)
22) Santa Rosa Plateau (Murrieta)
23) Torrey Pines State Park (San Diego)

24) Santa Monica Mountains (Malibu)
25) San Gabriel Mountains/San Bernardino Mountains (Los Angeles)

26) Table Mountain (Oroville)
27) Pleasants Valley Road and Mix Canyon Road (Vacaville)
28) Phoenix Park (Sacramento)
29) Jepson Prairie Preserve (Dixon)

30) Buttermilk Bend Trail (Bridgeport)
31) Independence Trail (Nevada City)
32) Drum Powerhouse Road (Dutch Flat)
33) Yankee Jim’s Road (Colfax)
34) Ponderosa Way (Auburn)
35) Pine Hill Ecological Preserve (Placerville)

Central and Southern
36) Electra Road (Jackson)
37) Camp Nine Road (Angel’s Camp)
38) Red Hill Road (Chinese Camp)
39) Hite’s Cove Trail (El Portal)
40) Kern River Canyon (Bakersfield)

41) Mount Shasta (Mt. Shasta)
42) Lassen National Park (Chester)

43) Feather River Canyon (CA70)
44) Butterfly Valley (Quincy)
45) Sierra Buttes and the Lakes Basin (Sierra City)
46) Sagehen Creek (Hobart Mills)
47) Castle Peak (Truckee)
48) Lake Tahoe Basin
49) Luther Pass (CA89)
50) Carson Pass (CA88)

Central and Southern
51) Yosemite National Park
52) Mosquito Flat to Mono Pass trail (Tom’s Place)
53) Onion Valley and Kearsarge Pass in Kings Canyon National Park (Independence)

54) Modoc Plateau (Alturas)
55) Warner Mountains (Alturas)

56) Freel Peak (South Lake Tahoe)
57) Monitor Pass (Markleeville)
58) Topaz Lake (Topaz)

Central and Southern
59) Benton area (Benton)
60) White Mountains (Bishop)
61) Alabama Hills (Lone Pine)
62) California Desert Conservation Area (Inyokern)

63) Gorman Hills (Gorman)
64) Antelope Valley/Ripley Desert Woodland State Park (Lancaster)
65) Death Valley National Monument

66) Joshua Tree National Park (Twentynine Palms)
67) Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (Ocotillo)

The Wildflower Months and their Flowers
late January-February

Featured Flowers
Plants in this Book that are Endemic to California
Plants in this Book on the CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants
Other Flower Locations Indicated in the Text (Map)
About the Author

Scientific names
Common names
Laird R. Blackwell is Professor of Psychology and Humanities at Sierra Nevada College and the author and photographer of six previous regional field guides to California wildflowers.
“Readers interested in knowing when and where to go to see some of the many wildflowers of California will enjoy this field guide. . . . A useful resource for wildflower enthusiasts who are planning to visit California's many natural areas. . . . Recommended.”—A. L. Jacobsen, California State University, Bakersfield Choice
“Let nature inspire your native garden's design. Author and photographer Laird R. Blackwell's month-by-month guide reveals when and where to view spectacular wildflower displays and fascinating flowers. Blackwell divides the Golden State into 10 geographical regions and identifies 67 flower ‘hot spots.’ He also highlights more than 600 wildflower species "’whose beauty or fascination would lead me to go out of my way to see them.’"—San Francisco Chronicle


For wildflower lovers who have been blessed with the opportunity and desire to explore the amazingly diverse state of California in search of wildflower treasures, we all have our own special California places and special flowers that we feel somehow are uniquely ours, that are forever linked to some memorable experience, some powerful emotion, some delicious surprise.

I can remember so vividly so many wildflower scenes: struggling for hours up 13,000' Mt. Dana in YOSEMITE and finding at the very top an intensely blue sky pilot, a gorgeous floral piece of the deep blue sky; driving up a dirt road toward WIND WOLVES NATURAL PRESERVE and being astonished at the dazzling field of blue dicks, purple owl's-clover, sky lupine, and bird's-eye gilia seemingly extending for miles all the way to the green, rolling hills behind painted with patches of blazing yellow hillside daisy; breathlessly asking hikers returning from the shoulder of RING MOUNTAIN if the rare Tiburon mariposa lily was in bloom yet and receiving an enthusiastic "yes" and then sprinting up the trail to find several in their full glory; hiking along the Winnemucca Lake trail at CARSON PASS on a bright, warm, sunny summer day and reaching the famous seeps where shoulder-high jungles of tiger lily, lupine, bluebells, monkey flower, paintbrush, corn lily, elephant's head, and so many more took my breath and speech away; driving sadly up blackened Big Tajunga Canyon (victim of horrific fires the previous summer) in the SAN GABRIEL MOUNTAINS to be amazed and exhilerated by a solid hillside of vibrant color--of wishbone bush, wild Canterbury bells, stinging lupine, and wide-throated monkeyflower-- bringing life to the charred ruins; looking out from 170th Street outside Lancaster near the CALIFORNIA POPPY RESERVE in mid-April to see an amazing ocean of acres and acres of satiny orange California poppy flowing and glowing for miles across the landscape in the afternoon sun; kneeling in the grassy fields at SALT POINT STATE PARK to see up close the intricate, miniature gardens of blue-eyed grass, cream cups, rosy butter-and-eggs, tidy tips, sea thrift, and rosy onion, all with a backdrop of the deep blue ocean and the startling yellow-flowered, succulent-leaved coast dudleya on the rocks by the water; walking up a sandy, barren wash in ANZA-BORREGO in early March to find a living canvas of sand verbena, chuparosa, barrel cactus, phacelia, and Bigelow's monkeyflower; in May being stunned by mile after mile of creamy bush monkeyflower along the walls of FEATHER RIVER CANYON and by miles of several species of pink clarkia along the slopes of KERN RIVER CANYON; standing alone at dusk on the edges of a bog in BUTTERFLY VALLEY surrounded by hundreds of bizarre, insect-eating pitcher plant and being thankful I wasn't an insect but not being entirely confident I wasn't next on the menu.

These experiences, these places, these flowers all go to make us who and what we are. I hope that this book will help you expand and deepen your experience of California's glorious flowers and magical flower places and in the process maybe even help you know yourself a little better.


East of the coast ranges and west of the Cascades in northern California is an amazing and fascinating jumble of mountain ranges going in all directions, criss-crossing the northwest corner of the state. The Siskyou, the Klamath, the Trinity, the Scott, the Marble, the Salmon-mountain ranges everywhere creating a vast, wild mountainous region. It's easy to understand how Ishi and whole tribes could remain hidden for so long in this country.

Great rivers-the Smith, the Klamath, the Salmon, the Trinity-cut canyons through dense forests and bring sparkling life. This country boasts the most diverse conifer forests in the world and is home to a great diversity of wildflowers, including numerous narrow endemics.

Although there are some highways through this area and a few easily accessible wildflower spots, most of this terrain will require some driving on narrow roads (some paved) and/or some hiking to find the best spots and the most interesting flowers. I have featured 3 spots that are relatively easily accessible, though the TRINITY ALPS will probably require some hiking, and KANGAROO LAKE and the SMITH RIVER will require some "back-country" driving and walking.


In the low-elevation forests along the rivers, the flowers will peak from May through June, while up in the higher mountains, peak bloom will be in July and August.


Smith River and Siskyou Mountains (to about 7,500')

Featured flower: CALIFORNIA HAREBELL-in July, these delightful, pale blue, airy flowers dangle and dance along forest trails.

Driving directions: US199 between Crescent City and the Oregon border follows the middle fork of the Smith River. A smaller road follows the even wilder south fork. There are numerous dirt roads going north and going south into the Siskyou Mountains. Of special wildflower interest are the Little Jones Creek Road (about 10 1/2 miles east of Gasquet) climbing for about 10 miles to Bear Basin Butte Botanical Area, and the Middle Fork Gasquet Road going north from Gasquet for about a mile to the Stony Creek Trail.

Walking directions: At the end of the Little Jones Creek Road, the gate may be locked, so you'll need to walk the last 1/2 mile to the lookout atop Bear Basin Butte. There may be people renting the cabin, which could be a little awkward. Floristically interesting trails off US199 include the Stony Creek Trail, the Myrtle Creek Trail west of Gasquet, and the Darlingtonian Trail just west of Gasquet. All of these trails are easy, level strolling.

Description: All 3 forks of the Smith River are glorious, sparkling, usually emerald pathways through this remote land. The trails mentioned above, and many others, take you to lush forest floor vegetation-ferns, mosses, and mostly large-leaved herbs such as trillium, lily, rhododendron, and azalea. The Darlingtonian Trail and the Myrtle Creek Trail take you to masses of pitcher plant. Bear Basin Butte is a treeless rock outcropping with a wide variety of flowers and expansive views.

Blooming: From June through August with peak blooming from mid-June through July.

Glorious gardens: thimbleberry, yerba santa, western trillium, tobacco brush, pitcher plant, Washington lily, hot-rock penstemon, fireweed, Labrador tea, leopard lily, western azalea, rhododendron, Queen's cup, twinflower, California harebell, pussypaws, windflower, Redwood keckiella, fuchsia.

Special flowers not in profusion: one-sided wintergreen, Indian pink, alumroot, calypso orchid, Merten's coralroot, giant trillium, red ribbons, phantom orchid, bear grass.

2) Kangaroo Lake Botanical Area (about 6,000')

Featured flower: SCOTT MOUNTAIN PHACELIA-in late June and July, clusters of this rare, ground-hugging, white phacelia with the jet black anthers can be found occasionally along the Fen Trail.

Driving directions: From I-5 just south of Yreka, take CA3 south to just beyond Callahan, then bear left on Gazelle Road for about 8 miles, then turn right on Rail Creek Road to its end at Kangaroo Lake Campground.

Walking directions: The Fen Trail starts off Rail Creek Road just before the Campground sign and climbs mildly for about a mile up to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail.

Description: This lovely 1-mile trail climbs gently up the serpentine outcrops (actually "ultramafic"-serpentine and peridotite), through conifer forest and across creeks and darlingtonian fens.

Blooming: From June through August with peak blooming in July.

Glorious gardens: pitcher plant, marsh marigold, crimson columbine, Nuttall's larkspur, spreading phlox, Sierra sedum, dirty socks, Tolmie's pussy ears, blue flax.

Special flowers not in profusion: Scott Mountain phacelia, beargrass, bush cinquefoil, Mt. Eddy lupine, Lee's lewisia, red heather, fringed grass-of-Parnassus.

3) Trinity Alps (about 2,400-9,000')

Featured flower: LEWIS MONKEYFLOWER-in July and August, these large, pink-to-rose faces smile at you from along creeks and rivers throughout the Alps.

Driving directions: From Weaverville, CA3 north and CA299 west linking to CA96 and Cecilville Road circle the Trinity Alps. Coffee Creek Road west of CA3 takes you into the interior.

Walking directions: Trails start from CA299 west from Weaverville, from CA3 north from Weaverville, from Coffee Creek Road, and from Cecilville Road west of Callahan. Some of the best trails for wildflowers are Union Creek, Long Canyon, Bear Basin, and Caribou Lakes.

Description: This is a rather isolated area with rugged peaks and canyons, lakes, two major rivers-the Trinity and the south fork of the Salmon-with many tributaries, extensive pine and fir forests, and a few permanent ice fields. With only one road entering, this is an area more for foot and horse travel than for driving. The predominantly Sierran flora only 60 miles from the Pacific Ocean is unique.

Blooming: From May to September with peak blooming from mid-July to mid-August.

Glorious gardens: leopard lily, crimson columbine, Queen's cup, beargrass, Copeland's owl's-clover, pasqueflower, swamp laurel, red heather, Tolmie's saxifrage, creek dogwood, Indian warrior, alpine buttercup, Sierra primrose, heart-leaf arnica, Bigelow's sneezeweed, arrowleaf senecio, Tolmie's pussyears, candy flower, white heather, Lewis monkeyflower, bleeding heart, explorer's gentian, common yellow monkeyflower, marsh mallow, rock fringe, scarlet gilia, monkshood, windflower, spiraea, coiled-beak lousewort, coltsfoot, cow parsnip, Kelley's tiger lily, Washington lily, western trillium.

Special flowers not in profusion: pitcher plant, Lee's lewisia, phantom orchid, pipevine, red-flowering currant, few-flowered bleeding heart, pink mountain heather, giant trillium, hairy honeysuckle, fire-cracker flower, scarlet fritillary, large-flowered stephanomeria, hiker's gentian, bush poppy, California Indian pink, showy polemonium, alpine buttercup, fringed grass-of-Parnassus, fringe cup, calypso orchid, Merten's coralroot, red larkspur, alpine gentian, broad-leaf twayblade, mock orange.