Superblooms in California

California is home to one of the most incredible botanical events on planet Earth, the superbloom. The popularity of these rare events are undeniable: superbloom seasons drive a huge spike in attendance to well-known wildflower sites, guided by global news stories and social media. It’s an incredible thing to witness, and provides an entry point for the appreciation of California biodiversity to a large audience. But this opportunity to connect new audiences to native plants exists alongside a serious risk of damage to these fragile ecosystems by uncoordinated crowds going off trail and trampling flowers.

Superblooms in California

California is home to one of the most incredible botanical events on planet Earth, the superbloom. The popularity of these rare events are undeniable: superbloom seasons drive a huge spike in attendance to well-known wildflower sites, guided by global news stories and social media. It’s an incredible thing to witness, and provides an entry point for the appreciation of California biodiversity to a large audience. But this opportunity to connect new audiences to native plants exists alongside a serious risk of damage to these fragile ecosystems by uncoordinated crowds going off trail and trampling flowers.

What defines a superbloom?

There’s no singular definition of a superbloom, but typically this term is used to describe large scale blooms of annual wildflower species that follow years of above average precipitation in arid habitats. One of the most impressive features of a superbloom is the drastic transition from a landscape with sparse vegetation to dense, colorful and vibrant masses of wildflowers.

Some superblooms can be so extensive and dense that they can be seen from space.

Photo by Marie Astrid Gonzalez
Photo by Hannah Perez
Photo by Spencer Westbrook

Can I view them, ethically?

Seeing a superbloom is an incredible and inspiring experience, and we believe that the heightened public interest that they generate can help instill a deeper ethos of conservation in the general public. As habitat loss, climate change, the spread of invasive species and other factors continue to threaten California’s wildlands, broadening public support for plant conservation is more important than ever. From this, grassroots pressure flows from the public to ensure that our leaders create and enforce policy that protects and restores what remains of California’s wild habitats.

We encourage people to connect with the superbloom in a safe and respectful way, which can be achieved by following a few simple rules:

1. Stay on the trail! Walking on flowers prevents them from setting seed, which threatens future blooms on that site.
2. Do no pick flowers!
3. Follow all restrictions, closures and rules from land managers. Obey all traffic and safety laws.
4. Plant your own superbloom! Annual wildflowers are easy to grow, and you can create a dense seasonal bloom deep in the city.

Where can superblooms be found?

Superblooms are rare events, only found in a few places around the world. In addition to California, superblooms occur in other regions, including Western South Africa, Chile and Western Australia. These places all share the unique Mediterranean type climate with California. This hot dry summer, mild wet winter climate creates the perfect conditions for mass wildflower blooms. Southern California is home to many spectacular wildflower sites.

A few of the most popular are:

Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve
Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Carrizo Plain National Monument
Death Valley National Park
Joshua Tree National Park

Further Learning

To learn more, watch the videos below and dig into a complex and passionate conversation that is ongoing: how best to protect and conserve wildflowers in a time of great environmental change.

How does the superbloom phenomenon connect to TPF’s mission?

Superblooms are incredibly inspirational to millions of people, and thus are very important to TPF’s mission to inspire and educate Southern Californians about the beauty and ecological benefits of California native plant landscapes. We believe that they should be made more abundant through restoration of habitats around the region, including in the urban core. Our hope is that superblooms will inspire communities to engage more deeply with biodiversity conservation, support government policy, motivate our leaders and communities that work towards protecting and augmenting native ecosystems.

Check out the links below to explore more about the wild flowers that inspire us with our new Superbloom capsule collection, check out our Wild Flower Hotline, stay in touch on social media, take a class, and more!

Superblooms in the press

For continued reading, below are a list of articles in which Theodore Payne Foundation has joined in conversations surrounding California’s 2023 superblooms.

 

5/4/2023 – The GuardianThe dazzling, troubling history of California superbloom tourism

5/3/2023 – Washington Post Bloom or bust: Historic rains are fueling California’s super bloom–but it’s under threat

4/21/2023 – LAistCareless Feet Could Doom Our Next Wildflower Super Bloom

4/16/2023- New York TimesWinter Showers (and Showers and Showers) Bring a Bounty of Wildflowers

4/13/2023 – AirTalk with Larry Mantle on LAistWhere To See The Best Of California’s Spring Blooms — Without The Crowds

4/13/2023 – Fox Weather California’s super bloom visible from space in new NASA imagery

4/12/2023 – USA Today –  See bursts of wildflower ‘super blooms’ in the West and learn where to find them

4/7/2023 – LAistEverything Is Blooming In The SoCal Desert. What You Should Know About This Year’s ‘Constant Bloom’

4/6/2023 – NASA Earth Observatory A Flood of Wildflowers

3/8/2023 – Sunset MagazineThis Super Bloom Hotline Will Give You Info on This Year’s Wildflowers

3/3/2023 – Spectrum News 1 Flower fans get filled in via wildflower hotline voiced by star

2/28/2023 – Los Angeles Times Has wildflower shaming gone too far? How to find the best blooms without the drama

1/1/18/2023 – National GeographicWhat is a superbloom—and how can you see one responsibly?

Have superblooms affected or inspired your native plant journey? Share your experiences and thoughts with us!