By Tina Vossugh

Superbloom! The explosion of color in California’s wild places.

Purple and orange, blue and gold, red and white painting the length and breadth of California’s landscape—hillside and meadow and desert awash. A superbloom a decade in the making. What caused it? A wet winter sparked unprecedented growth, says Justen Whittall, an associate professor of biology who closely studies California’s native plants and trends in evolution of flowers’ colors. The superbloom started in January in the deserts east of San Diego, then moved north and east. After a five-year drought, Mother Nature gave California the gift of brilliant bouquets of bright orange poppies, white dune evening primroses, purple sand verbenas, and other wildflowers. But not every place was so blessed. “A large portion of California has been overgrazed by cows or developed,” Whittall notes. “There’s not going to be a superbloom in those locations.” Instead, look for little pockets of refugia: hiding places for native plants that haven’t been eaten, overrun, or built over. And savor this spot in the remote Carrizo Plain National Monument—which this spring was put under executive order review, potentially opening it up to oil drilling and mining.

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