Last weekend found us on the Central Coast. As we left home Friday, a second hail storm was pelting the foothills. Like many of our storms this season, it was fleeting and sadly lacking in measurable rain. The outstanding feature of our recent weather systems is the below normal temperatures accompanying them. Frost warnings were in effect along the coastline – bad news for the citrus and avocado growers. Driving north through the Santa Ynez Valley, snow was on the nearby coastal range – an unusual site.
While away, the rain gauge crept up a little – 9.02 for this season. Hopefully a substantial amount is still to come. Upon returning home, an email from a reader awaited. It read as follows:
“Maybe you can help us. Our Hudson Car Club is making plans for a day trip to view wildflowers, primarily the California poppy. We are aware this annual event is dependent on the amount and timing of the rains. What is your opinion, as to when to schedule this outing? In other words, when do you expect the California poppies to ‘spring to life!’?”
This club is dedicated to preserving the products manufactured from 1909-1954 by the Hudson Motor Car Company and American Motors that continued to make Hudsons until 1957. They meet and take road trips in their classic autos. Fun!
Amateur weather watcher now turns amateur botanist. The California poppy became our state flower in 1903. In the spring of 1816, naturalist Adelbert Von Chamisso sailed into San Francisco Bay. The surrounding hills were blanketed in gold (poppies that is; gold was not found until ’48). As varieties grow world-wide, he named these Eschsholzia Californica or California poppy. It grows wild from Washington to Baja California. Indigenous peoples used the seed as a food source and an oil extract. The pollen-dust made a colorful cosmetic. Then and now, the poppy is appreciated for its vibrant beauty.
Being drought tolerant, these flowers are well adapted to our climate. Poppies are a tough little plant as they will take root in sandy, difficult soil – areas where most plant seeds may fail. But even the most heat tolerant of plants need moisture. Poppies are no exception. Now to the question about rainfall and the blooming of California wild poppies.
From what I gather, seasons when the rainfall is about average and the storms are evenly spaced produce the most and most colorful flowers. The precipitation thus far for 2012-13 is below normal. Even though February and March are typically rainy, the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is not expecting a good 2013 bloom. If you decide to check it out anyway, beware of rattlesnakes. Sorry…
A short-lived warm up is due by the weekend with temperatures close to 80 degrees. Tuesday brings a chance of rain and colder weather once again. Hopefully an umbrella will be needed.
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.