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California’s Lush Super Bloom Is Even More Stunning From Space

Satellite images captured an explosion of flowers stretching across California’s desert hills

The super bloom draped California's Walker Canyon in a riot of colors. (Beau Rogers /Flickr CC)
smithsonian.com

Throughout the winter, heavy snow and rains drenched California, bringing an end to three years of extreme drought. Though climate scientists have voiced concerns about this dramatic swing in weather conditions, the state’s plants have greedily lapped up the extra water. In what is known as a “super bloom,” an array of wildflowers—among them orange poppies, purple lupines, and yellow fiddlenecks—have exploded across Southern California. This year’s bloom was so ample and vibrant that it was even visible from space, Lindsey Hoshaw reports for KQED.

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Carrizo Plain National Monument, before (left) and after (right) the super bloom. (Planet Labs)

Planet, an imaging startup founded by a team of former NASA engineers, captured satellite snapshots of impressive blooms at a number of locations, including the California Poppy Reserve, the Carrizo Plain National Monument and the Los Padres National Forest. The company released high-resolution images depicting the areas in December 2016, before the proliferation of wildflowers, and in late March 2017, when the flowers had reached peak bloom. Viewed side by side, the images tell the story of a landscape transformed from sparse desert to lush expanse of colorful wildflowers.

Super blooms only happen about once a decade in California, according to Sarah Frostenson of Vox, and they last for a relatively short period of time. The bright floral eruptions visible in the satellite images have largely disappeared. “Lush green and yellow is replaced by reddish browns as the flowers opened up for just a few weeks to become pollinated before dying off,” Hoshaw writes. As Angela Fritz reports for The Washington Post, flowers at the California Poppy Reserve began to thin last week—possibly because selfie-seeking tourists are trampling the beautiful blooms

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Los Padres National Forest, before (left) and after (right) the super bloom. (Planet Labs)

But it isn’t too late to catch a glimpse of California’s resplendent hills of wildflowers. As Paul Rogers notes in The Mercury News, the bloom is just beginning in the northern part of the state and is expected to last until May. For a guide on where to spot areas in peak bloom, check out this handy list by Visit California. And do take care not to trod on the wildflowers while soaking in their radiant beauty.

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a freelance writer is based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including NYmag.com, Flavorwire and Tina Brown Media's Women in the World.

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