Wednesday August 3, 2022
Spring and early summer in California are a time of wildflowers, with colorful blooms everywhere. Captivating blankets of purple, orange, and yellow wildflowers paint the rolling hills and attract flocks of enamored humans every year. In years with a good amount of rain, these displays can be extremely prolific and vast, and are known as “superblooms.” In other years, the seeds lie dormant underground, waiting for enough rain to break out of the soil and bloom as well.
While flowers are pleasing for people to look at, it’s important to recognize that they also support a diversity of wildlife. The pollen and nectar produced by flowers provide a delicious food source for a diversity of small insects, spiders, and other pollinators. As the flowers mature and produce seeds, these will also help to feed many types of small mammals and birds. Wildflower blooms can even offer shelter for wildlife, such as small mammals like meadow voles that can hide in the vast fields for some safety from hunting raptors, coyotes, and foxes. If you peek inside some flowers, you can commonly find some type of insect or spider taking a little nap. These animals depend on wildflowers completely, and would not be able to survive without them.
Unfortunately, all the hype and attraction around wildflower blooms can be extremely detrimental to future generations of flowers. The beautiful Instagram pictures of models lying in fields of poppies hides the sad reality behind these popular pictures. Patches of trampled flowers and compressed soil make it even harder for the next year’s blooms to actually sprout. This leads to more and more bare patches and side trails being etched into what was once a flower-filled landscape. Venturing off trail, picking flowers, and trampling on the struggling flowers leads to fewer and fewer of these beauties being able to grow each year.
The best way to continue to enjoy these wildflowers is to help protect them. In order for wildflowers to reproduce, they must be left alone so that they can be pollinated and produce seeds for future generations to enjoy. So instead of following harmful Instagram trends, be kind to the flowers and stick to official trails. Rather than picking wildflowers, follow the “leave no trace” principles and take only pictures instead. Let’s protect these beautiful blooms so that they can continue to be enjoyed by humans and wildlife for generations to come.