Area wildflowers proving to be late bloomers

LOOK AT THE BRIGHT SIDE— Pink wildfowers decorate the China Flat Trail as it ascends from Oak Park up to Simi Peak. JOHN LOESING/Acorn Newspapers

LOOK AT THE BRIGHT SIDE— Pink wildfowers decorate the China Flat Trail as it ascends from Oak Park up to Simi Peak. JOHN LOESING/Acorn Newspapers

Less than average rainfall and late-season rainstorms might mean this year’s wildflowers will be showing their colorful wares later than normal, ecologists at Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area say.

Normally at this point in the season the wildflowers would be in full bloom, but so far park rangers report only seeing a few prickly phlox, currants, Indian paintbrush, bush lupine and California brittlebush. Still, hope is not lost.

“The recent rains that we’ve had are encouraging,” said Joey Algiers, a National Park Service restoration ecologist. “What was looking like a bad year for wildflowers could turn around, potentially peaking in mid to late April.”

It’s been a confusing winter season for plants, Algiers said. First, it was warm, then it got dry and then it became cold, followed by frost and heavy rains.

At the weather recording station in Cheeseboro Canyon in Agoura Hills, there’s been a little over 7 inches of precipitation so far. Last year, more than 18 inches had fallen by this time. “The cues are sort of out of whack,” Algiers said. “Plants respond to temperature, water and sunlight cues.”

Ralph Waycott, a volunteer who has been leading hikes through the Backbone Trail for 15 years, says he will typically see 150 or more species in bloom, with sometimes 100 or more species clustered in the most prolific segment.

“There are a few things coming up,” Waycott said. “Plants are just now getting to the blooming schedule. They’re late bloomers this year.”

A few of the recommended locations to see wildflowers in the Santa Monica Mountains are Malibu Creek State Park, the China Flat area in Cheeseboro Canyon and Rancho Sierra Vista in Newbury Park.