After passing through a grove of oak trees, the ranch grounds of Shell Creek Road and Carrizo Plains are swarmed with all the colors of the rainbow. A floral fragrance fills the air and carries on with each step along the path, and the sound of birds humming rises above and bees buzzing, below. Off in the distance, the hills roll in several shades of green, and the limbs of the oak trees droop with rust-orange lichen.
All along the coast, orange poppies, yellow mustard, and purple lupine flourish the hillsides and roadsides. The rain was late this year, but the Spring wildflowers are blooming just about everywhere.
At the beginning of April, there were hardly any flowers but after continuous rainfall and sunshine, the colors blossomed up and down the county, painting our fields and energizing our bumble bees.
In Avila Beach, Montaña de Oro, Morro Bay, Cayucos, Harmony, and San Simeon, wildflowers of all different shades and heights line the grassy paths and hang from the bluffs. But if you go just inland of Santa Margarita, off of Highway 58 – to Shell Creek Road and Carrizo Plains – you will enter a magical land of fields carpeted with these flowers.
The land along Shell Creek Road belongs to the Sinton Family and is part of a century-old family ranch. Much of it is used for beef cattle ranching but as soon as Spring comes along, it becomes a floral preserve for tourists and locals to admire.
Reid Dawley, an agricultural and environmental plant science senior at Cal Poly, recently visited the wildflowers as an assignment for his field botany course. With the current online learning platform, students are required to observe and identify different plant species on their own, as opposed to class field trips.
Dawley said this is one of the few locations to find such an abundance of flowers in the area; and on his trip, he recorded over 20 different species.
“There are a lots of poppies there, like the California poppy,” he said. “There is a lupine that is overwhelming – there’s so much of it and it smells really good – it’s the sky lupine. And there’s a really cool little plant called tidy tips which is yellow towards the interior, center of the flower, and then white on the tips… giving it the tidy tips name,”
Along with those three, there are Baby Blue Eyes (the only blue flowers in the field), Owl’s Clover, Silver Puffs, Dandelions, and a variety of yellows.
If you choose to take a trip out to the wildflowers, be sure to watch where you step – don’t doom the bloom or forget to maintain safe distancing, but enjoy the beautiful scenery along the Central Coast.