Wildflowers are one of the West’s most photo-worthy and prolific annual offerings. And while there are well-known parks with lavish displays, you likely don’t have to leave your neighborhood to see native blooms. They blanket hillsides, spring up near roadways, and turn desert landscapes into multi-colored portraits.
Out of the hundreds of wildflowers that grow from the Bay Area to the Sonoran Desert, the nine highlighted below are particularly easy to identify and bountiful enough to pop up on your daily walk. Here’s how to spot them.
California Poppy (eschscholzia californica)
In 1903, the “golden poppy” was designated as California's state flower and its bright orange petals became a long-standing floral representation of the 1849 Gold Rush. Today, these fields of gold are found throughout the West, from southern Washington to the Sonoran desert. Look for them along roadsides and in grassy fields and meadows. They’re easily identified by their blue-green foliage and long stems topped with orange or yellow blooms, each sporting four distinct petals. The petals close up at night, or during inclement weather, and open again with the sun.
Smart Tip: Remember to never pick any flower in the wild (in some cases—particularly if you are on state, federal, or private land—it may actually be illegal) and to always stay on designated paths to avoid trampling sensitive areas.