Be a wildflower expert on your next hike

This year’s rain has produced a wildflower bloom throughout Irvine’s foothills. Use this guide to help identify and appreciate flowers on The Irvine Ranch.

In the spring, nature treats us to a dazzling display of wildflowers. Poppies, lupines and other blossoms paint Orange County’s hills with splashes of orange, purple and yellow.

Wildflowers respond to our Mediterranean climate. Abundant rain in January and February typically stimulates plant growth. Then longer days and warmer temperatures bring out blooms from March to July. This year, however, was hardly typical. March and April had much more precipitation than normal – providing a boon to our water supplies and extending the wildflower season.

Now is a perfect time to become an amateur botanist. Take time to hone your observation skills and become “nature smart.” You’ll be primed to appreciate Orange County’s wildflowers even more.

Let’s start with a review.

All about flowers

A flower is the reproductive organ of a plant. Some flowers consist of both male parts (stamens) and female parts (pistils). When pollen from stamens fertilizes the pistils’ eggs, seeds start to develop.

From seeds to seedlings

A seed is a tiny, dormant plant embryo. Once fertilized, the fleshy tissue surrounding a seed swells, becoming a fruit. The seed itself begins to grow into a seedling.

A fertilized seed ensures that future generations of a plant are sustained. It also ensures a steady food supply for people and wildlife. The next time you eat an apple, tomato, or almond, thank a seed. Thank a flower too. And thank a pollinator.

Designed for a purpose

Most flowers are designed with specific pollinators in mind. Think of a flower as an airport’s illuminated landing field.

Each is designed to attract a set of nectar- or pollen-seeking pollinators, such as butterflies, bees and birds. Pollinators ensure survival of the plant. Plants ensure survival of the pollinator.

Some flowers have platforms for easy landings. Some are tubular to accommodate hummingbirds and orioles. Some display ultraviolet colors visible only to bees. Others display shades of white, which are useful for night flyers. Still others have distinctive scents, including sweet aromas for bees and musky aromas for flies.

Jenny Rigby, director of Acorn Group, is an award-winning environmental planner, teacher and writer.

Go Out and Find These Flowers

These flowers can be found throughout The Irvine Ranch. They attract a variety of pollinators, from bees to butterflies, as described below.

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