Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Belly Flowers: Blink And You Might Miss These Small Wonders of the Wildflower Kingdom...

Belly up!

I have a particular fondness for what are commonly referred to in the wildflower parlance as "belly flowers." 

These are tiny blossoms that pave the environment with color but live so close to the ground that you practically do need to get on your belly to see them.  As such, they are at particular risk for being stepped on, rolled over, layed upon or otherwise mangled by folks who just don't see them or appreciate their delicate beauty.

Along with the Sandblossoms shown above, here are a few examples of belly flowers:

Lilac Sunbonnets

Lilac Sunbonnets, Wildrose Canyon, Death Valley National Park

Pretty little Red Maids, some in a row...

Red Maids, Red Hill
Road, San Luis Obispo County, California

Neon Twins

Desert Mariposa lilies and Rattlesnake Weed

Belly Flowers (How Low Will You Go???)

Bigelow's Monkey Flower, Jubilee Pass, Death Valley National Park

Spreading Phlox on Granite

Spreading Phlox, Tioga Pass Road, Yosemite National Park

Brodiaea in a Bug's Eye View

Dwarf Brodiaea, Figueroa Mountain, Central California

Brilliance in numbers

Goldfields, San Luis Obispo County, Central California

Gotta Love Those Baby Blue Eyes!

Baby Blue Eyes, San Luis Obispo County, California

Twin Beauties

Long Beak Filaree, Santa Barbara County, California

Gimme a Five-Spot, Will Ya???

Five Spot, Greenhorn Mountains, Kern County, California

Friday, June 11, 2010

Another "Poppies-in-Peril" Update on the Proposed Fairmont Butte Racetrack

Lovers' DanceThe hearing scheduled for June 9th before the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission has been continued for 90 days.

This gives a bit more time to prepare and strengthen opposition to the racetrack project.  Although it looks like the Planning Commision intended to approve the re-zoning, it is not too late to raise your voice in support of the amazing expanse of poppies that will be lost if this project received the go-ahead.

A number of local environmental groups and organizations such as Cal Parks, the Antelope Valley Conservancy, etc., already are on record as opposing this development.  Save The Poppy Reserve is a great website that shows the history of this dispute as well as many ways to take action to voice your dissent for the Motorsports Park project. Other information can be found in prior posts here for May 5th and May 12th.

Two-Track to HeavenIt would also be helpful if you would add comments and even better, sign on as a Follower and make your support of the Wildflower Conservancy's goals known to the online community.  To those who have already signed on, thank you SO much!

The Wildflower Conservancy

Monday, June 7, 2010

Station Fire Burn Area Shows Signs of Recovery With Beautiful Wildflowers

Station Fire Brings a Flurry of FlowersI'm currently preparing a more detailed report on the Angeles National Forest and how it's recovering from the Station Fire last year.

In the interim, I should note that while most of the roads through the burn area have reopened to traffic, the forest itself remains closed.

Fire RainbowNo hiking or entry into the burn area is permitted. You have to drive straight through or have a business or residence in the burn area.

And that means no stopping along the highway -- not even in pullouts!

Fire FollowersI didn't know about the no stopping rule until I was driving through the forest several weeks ago, hoping to take a few pictures of the restoration.

I did so for about two hours until a U.S. Forest Service ranger came along and explained that one could not stop anywhere along the road -- even in pullouts where, ordinarily, it would be okay. FYI, the ticket can run upwards of $5,000!  Thankfully, I did not get one.

Life After Death...That said, I still highly recommend taking the drive.  It's very encouraging to see new life arise from what was essentially a lifeless landscape after the fire last September.

Big Tujunga Hillside RenaissanceJust remember if you do go, be sure to keep moving!

The Wildflower Conservancy

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Poppies in Peril: An Update on the Proposed Fairmont Butte Racetrack...

Serious Orange...An excellent discussion on the proposed Fairmont Butte Racetrack continues at CalPhoto eGroup on Yahoo.  Jeff Conrad and several others have suggested ways to best counter the Racetrack's attempts to get the area re-zoned.

Just so you're aware of the area in question, I've posted a short video on Flickr called Poppies in Peril... (You Can Help!). It was taken in April, 2010, and provides a panoramic view of the area that would be affected if the racetrack is allowed to build there. (My apologies for the excessive camera movement. Didn't have the tripod handy!)

If you think you can attend the hearing or lend your support in some way to those who oppose the racetrack, please read the earlier post for contact information, etc.  Thank you.

The Wildflower Conservancy

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More News of Poppies in Peril...

"Delicate Beauty" - Intimate Poppy Portrait No. 3I follow Carol Leigh's CalPhoto eGroup discussion forum regularly.
Recently, one of the members posted information on a development project on private land right next to the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve that would wipe out most of the prime fields in that area.

This acreage often has more spectacular blooms than the reserve itself. While it certainly is within the property owner's rights to develop the land, in this case it would require re-zoning for its contemplated use as a race track, "Fairmont Butte Motorsports Park." Here's a link their website:  Fairmont Butte Motorsports Park.  Info on the next public hearing, scheduled for June 9th, is posted there.

Is it the end of an era for the California Wildflower Hotsheet?If you would like to oppose this development, please consider attending the hearing or voicing your concerns directly to the Los Angeles County Planning Commission.  The specific case information regarding the Fairmont Butte project on the LACPC website is here.  To contact them, go to their website Who Should I Contact? page. (Bad grammar is theirs, not mine...) 

It seems a shame for so much prime poppy territory potentially to be lost to a major development like this.  But if the property fails to be re-zoned, perhaps the owners will look elsewhere to build their motorsports park.  There certainly is plenty of other poppy-free acreage in the Antelope Valley in which to do so.

The Wildflower Conservancy

Monday, May 3, 2010

Should Poppies Perish Purely For Our Personal Pleasure?

A Wizard of Oz Moment...No, it's not likely that California poppies will disappear any time soon.  But since efforts have been made to protect our state flower, I just wanted to write a quick note to bring to everyone's attention some concerns raised recently by the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. In their Latest Poppy Reserve Research Field Notes and Observations on 4/26, they mention:
A Trampling We Will Go...I would like to address a problem we are having this year. Visitors need to know they must stay on the trails. There has been a great deal of damage to poppies and other wildflowers this year because people are going into the areas of wildflowers for photos. They are walking and sitting on plants and destroying them. Every plant that is destroyed cannot go to the seed producing stage. The poppies and many other wildflowers are annual plants and we need them to go to the seed stage for the seed bank for the next year’s flowers. One should also stay on the trails because there have been many sightings of the Mojave Rattlesnakes."

Rush Hour...I also noticed that the L.A. Times ran an article by Lisa Boone on April 27th about the peak poppy bloom this year.  Only at the end of the article did she mention a few "no-no's" such as staying on trails, no dogs, no flower picking, etc.  It might be the angle of view, but unfortunately, the large picture they ran with the story shows a female photographer who appears to be standing in the middle of a poppy field.  Talk about mixed messages! 

I will be sending a letter to the editor shortly and encourage others to do the same.

The Wildflower Conservancy

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Beginning to Blossom...

Field of DreamsAlthough it has been less than a month since the seeds of the Wildflower Conservancy were first planted and began to germinate, there has been amazing growth.

It started with this website and blog, including the first blog entry on April 4th, which introduced the Wildflower Conservancy to the public. Since then, additional pages have sprouted, including Guidelines for Responsible Wildflower Enjoyment and several others that showcase images depicting the incredible beauty of the season as well as the damage caused as people try to enjoy it.

Delicate PaintbrushMost notably, there is now a page for Recent Wildflower Sightings. This is a resource for anyone who wishes to contribute seasonal reports and read those submitted by others.

I debated initially whether or not to have such a page since it might lead people to explore areas that could then suffer further damage. But I have, in good conscience, decided that since most of the bloom information is online regardless, if I can draw people here and educate them in ways to preserve the wildflowers as they enjoy them, then the reports will be a good thing.

[It should be noted that all reports will be reviewed before publication and every effort made to ensure that the focus is on areas freely accessible to the public -- not on private lands.]

Desert Candle in the WindIn some ways, the Wildflower Conservancy already is starting to bloom. I'm so thankful for the amazing support this little endeavor is getting right from the start.

On April 21, Sandy Steinman kindly mentioned the Wildflower Conservancy in his blog, Natural History Wanderings.  That same day, the Merced Camera Club noted it on their message board, The Birdie. And just today, Steven Bourelle posted a copy of the Guidelines and a very nice article on his website, Sierra Visions.

Gotta Love Those Baby Blue Eyes!Carol Leigh's Wildflower Hotsheet at Calphoto.com has been the best known source of California wildflower reports for the past 15 years.

She recently stopped publishing it out of concern for the damage being caused to wildflower populations here in the state, particularly on private property. She, too, has given her personal blessing to the Wildflower Conservancy.

This is a huge endorsement. You could have knocked me over with a bit of Desert Dandelion fluff when I heard that. It's like Oprah saying to her audience, "I'm taking a break, so please check out this other talk show while I'm gone..." I'm so honored.

Lupine SundownIn any event, I definitely have my work cut out for me. People dream about romping through vast fields of wildflowers. Songs are written about picking them, rolling in them, etc. I completely understand. What sounds more fun than a nice picnic with your family among the wildflowers? And whose heart hasn't melted when your beloved gathers a handful of feral fleurs and brings them to you as an expression of love?

Bird on a WireI know not everyone will come onboard. But I also know that policing behavior or attempting to pass more laws won't protect the flowers either. My sincere hope is that education will. Thank you all for your kindness and support.

The Wildflower Conservancy

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Our wildflowers are in trouble, folks...

Beauty in the Details...Lately, I've become quite frustrated over the ever increasing numbers of professed wildflower lovers, photographers and others who, in their zealous efforts to enjoy these Spring treasures, are causing damage to public and private property as well as to the flowers themselves. Enough already!

This year, I have arrived on scene at several popular locations only to find people jumping fences, tripod-toting photographers standing in the road who wouldn't even budge for oncoming traffic, picnickers with blankets spread out in the middle of the flower displays, dogs running loose, hikers trampling "lesser" blooms to get to prime areas, children picking flowers for bouquets that probably won't make it through the end of the day, etc. People were leaving piles of trash and even driving off the road right into the fields of flowers to get closer.

Apricot Mallow
It has been heartbreaking to watch such flagrant disregard for the very gems we all seek. Property owners justifiably are angry and concerned about liability. Recently, there have been threats of prosecution for trespassers, law enforcement called for crowd control, etc. On March 30, Carol Leigh even decided to stop publishing her well-known CalPhoto Wildflower Hotsheet out of concern for the flowers and locations in which these beauties live.

Of course, there are plenty of other online reports, newspaper articles and TV stories during the season. Even I had compiled a list of online resources for wildflower reports on my other blog, Spirits Dancing In The Heart of The Wind. I have now transferred it here, but with information limited to public lands, parks, etc. I don't think one can stop the flow of seasonal bloom information, but perhaps if people are educated about the fragility of these environments, they will be more respectful when they do visit.

Luscious LarkspurIn the aftermath of all this controversy, I started thinking about what I personally might be able to do to help. I'm an educator by trade as well as a photographer, fine artist and writer. And of course, I'm absurdly passionate about nature and wildflowers. Probably my favorite subject matter creatively. I'm also at a point where I can no longer stand by and watch the devastation. So I've come up with a plan and an organization: The "Wildflower Conservancy."

This is my very first post under that umbrella, and it feels both daunting and exciting. I know that I have a lot of work ahead of me if I'm to create true value with this project. But in what I view as a miraculous bit of serendipity, on March 30th, I was able to reserve the name "wildflowerconservancy" for .com, .net, and .org domains. I've paid the registration fees, and once I learn web design (!), I'll have the site up and running. 

So Many Stars
I've also started looking into what might be involved in setting up a non-profit corporation. (Sometimes, it's handy to work with lawyers!  LOL!) None of this is likely to happen overnight -- well, except this blog of course -- but I believe there's a great future for this kind of educational enterprise.

Initially, I've envisioned wildflower presentations for children in grades K-6 as well as scout troops and other youth organizations. If I can get to kids early enough, hopefully, they will learn to appreciate and respect nature. With luck, they might even get their parents to wake up and smell the grape soda lupine. I taught children's improvisational theater for a number of years, and I've seen first hand how a creative approach can make a huge difference in learning for students as well as their families. (They take their enthusiasm home and share it.)  I will offer these children's educational presentations for free, so I shouldn't have to fight a heck of a lot of bureaucratic madness.

Transcendent Moments
Beyond that, I have lots of ideas to help raise awareness in local communities and nature-oriented groups as well as the settings where wildflowers abound each year.  I will add pages to this blog and eventually to the website with educational information, guidelines for responsible wildflower enjoyment, links to resources and organizations that promote same, etc.

I'm not a wildflower expert by any means, but I am passionate about their preservation, so I figure I'll learn as I go. I'll probably make mistakes, despite my good intentions. But my heart and soul are definitely in this. I welcome your suggestions and feedback. Thank you kindly for your support of this venture.

Kahlee Brighton
The Wildflower Conservancy