In celebration of National Park Week, today we are focusing on the beautiful native wildflowers that are currently blooming at Pinnacles National Park. As the grasses begin to dry, the landscape is slowly beginning to transition from the vivid green of spring to the tawny gold of summer, but there are still pockets of color to be seen.
Some hillsides and canyons are covered with yellow pincushion (Chaenactis glabriuscula) or purple owl’s clover (Castilleja exserta). Many trails are dotted with elegant clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata), sticky monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus), and larkspur (Delphinium spp). The sandy edges of creek channels are often lined with California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and fiddleneck (Amsinckia spp).
If you look closely beyond the immediate draw of a vivid flower, there are other interesting things to notice about plants as well. The seeds of pipestems (Clematis lasiantha) will soon form puffy white spheres on its climbing vines, while mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides) seeds will emerge as fuzzy spiraling curly-cues. Bare rock can be adorned with succulent Dudleya and loose gravel is still enough of a substrate for bitter root (Lewisia rediviva). Dodder (Cuscuta) appears like bright orange angel hair pasta noodles forming twisting mats around California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) and wolly yerba santa (Eriodictyon tomentosum).
In order to best enjoy the incredible diversity of native vegetation in celebration of National Park Week, it is recommended that visitors arrive early in the day on weekends, or better yet, visit the park midweek to avoid crowds and get the best shot at limited parking. Drink plenty of water as the temperatures begin to rise.