Tejon Ranch by Spencer Westbrook (not 2019)

Theodore Payne Wild Flower Hotline 818 768-1802 ext 7

The acclaimed Theodore Payne Wild Flower Hotline, founded in 1983, offers free weekly online and recorded updates – posted each Friday from March through May – on the best locations for viewing spring wild flowers in Southern and Central California. TPF has been producing the hotline for 36 years because we love wild flowers and want to help people to enjoy these gorgeous plants. All of the locations mentioned are on easily accessible public lands. We include a range of sites from urban to wild, from distant to right here in Los Angeles.

The hotline itself is manifestly old school: you call a number and listen to three to five minutes of a person talking (the wonderful voice of Joe Spano!). We also post a longer, more detailed report online in PDF format, which is still a pretty old school form of technology. Last week, I did produce a hotline podcast because, after all, we do live in the modern world.

By Spencer Westbrook (not taken in 2019)

But the ease of technologically-assisted communication and image sharing has driven up the hotline audience dramatically. Our modest Facebook post announcing the 2019 season reached more than 100,000 people. As of today, more than 46,000 have visited the hotline page. At the same time, media outlets from The Daily News to Smithsonian have promoted it, sometimes with unintended consequences. All this publicity and much more has driven record visitation to flower sites, resulting in trampled plants, careless selfies, unsustainable crowds, closed roads, etc.

How do we respond to this “golden poppy rush”? What do we say when so many people are visiting flower fields without observing proper etiquette? We could be up in arms, but this is not a moment for righteous indignation. This is a golden opportunity to use people’s interest in beauty to educate them about their natural environment. Thousands of people want to see California’s wild flowers and we want them to love and appreciate those flowers. We want to encourage their interest. It’s our mission to move people along the spectrum from unmindful consumption to thoughtful stewardship.

Poppies and lupines on Figueroa Mountain, bu Mark Kummel (not 2019)

Flower viewing etiquette is simple:

  • Stay on the paths
  • Stand on bare ground
  • Leave the flowers unharmed

The Wild Flower Hotline is meant to help people enjoy the unique and beautiful nature of California, without diminishing that resource in years to come. Every exquisite wild flower holds the promise of bringing more flowers. We encourage people to treat these floral treasures with the respect due to all living organisms.

You could always Grow a Super Bloom at Home!