Chocolate Lily

Fritillaria biflora

Argh. The entire state of California (yes, that’s hyperbole) at the moment seems to be either gripped by what journalists and the news media love to hype as a wildflower “super bloom” or is suffering in the throes of dealing with the frenzied madness surrounding it as fueled by the media.

I read one report from NPR of 50,000 people pouring through one small town with a population not much larger.

Other reports lament the herd of onlookers trampling sensitive lands and leaving behind scores of braided footpaths slicing apart fields of flowers, so much so that the use-trails are visible in satellite imagery.

News articles are being pumped out daily dressed up with sparkling, eye-catching lures like, “It’s the best it’s ever been.”

Really? Ever is a long time. I don’t think that applies. But sensationalism sells. Hence Hearst Castle.

Two years ago, 2017, the media was filled with commentary about a California “super bloom.” A report from US Today tells of “California’s second ‘super bloom’ in two years.” That headline is immediately followed by a photo caption asserting that it is “a rare super bloom.” Twice in two years is rare? I don’t think so, Cletus.

One wonders how super it really is when it also occurred just 730 days ago. Maybe it’s not so super after all even if is indeed a grand show.

I can’t deny that it is a grand show. And I certainly don’t fault people for wanting to see it. But I don’t know that it’s “super.” Maybe it’s just normal.

When we receive a normal measure of rainfall for the season after seven years of intense drought you know what we call it here?


100% of normal county-wide is the way it’s put by officials.

Despite every runnel, brook, creek and river flowing with gusto like we haven’t seen in years, and despite the novelty of so much water running everywhere after it being so dry for so long, we still just call it. . .normal.

Twenty years ago, on days I’d venture out to the Carrizo Plain to take a looksee at the wild flowers, I rarely if ever saw anybody.

Surely people came, but not like they do now in the age of social media saturation, which has combined with the usual age-old media hype and yellow journalism as a force multiplier when it comes to propelling thousands of people into places they would otherwise never have gone.

(I suppose I may share in owning some of the blame by giving yet more exposure to certain places through this here little weblog.)

In 2011, following a season of abundant rainfall well above average, I spent an entire day immersed in Carrizo Plain National Monument and saw nobody. You can see what it looked like that day at the following link: Temblor Range Wildflowers. It looked pretty super.  I don’t recall wall to wall reports of a “super bloom” that year, but maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

A rather large lily standing over a foot tall. Many years they only reach about half that size.

Anyhow, with so much attention focused on this season’s wildflower bloom I feel compelled to ignore it around here. I have posts up from previous blooms for those interested. I included below a link to one such post or search “wildflowers” in the sidebar.

I’ve been out to see some of the flowers this season, but my contrarian-against-the-grain-swimming-upstream nature precludes me from wanting to post anything about it.

When it’s on the national news I think it’s been pimped out enough as it is.

So I’d like to show a simple, sparse, far less spectacular bloom in chocolate lilies. So sparse that they aren’t even worth a landscape shot, as they’d be all but invisible.

Because just as I am a wanderer of lands of lesser interest, so too am I an aficionado of things of lesser interest in those lands. What most folks ignore I like to pay attention to.

These lilies grow by the hundreds in good years in certain places like the serpentine soils on Figueroa Mountain and in Oso Canyon draining into the Santa Ynez River.

But they do not grow so thick as to paint over large swaths of land attracting media hounds and hoards of eager viewers.

So there you go. That’s it. That’s all.

Related Post 

Sage Hill Wildflowers


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6 Responses to Chocolate Lily

  1. rangerdon says:

    Amen. But the poor media needs something to write about besides bloody murders, hey?

    My first summer as a ranger we had one of the first massive oil spills on the long beach from the Cliff House to Mussel Rock. The media attention was fine, certainly educated the public about the dangers. We put on weight, though – a bounteous repast was provided by volunteer cooks for we poor rangers, suffering through the disaster (mainly watching the contractors clean up and making sure THEY didn’t tramp too many flowers down.)

    But this idea that people have to GO SOMEPLACE to recreate is indeed overdone – for the benefit of car makers and gas stations and souvenir shops and so on. Since I’ve moved to Carson City I’ve learned to avoid the Bay Area highways on Fridays, weekends, Mondays and whenever there’s even a skim of snow on the road. Both I 80 and US 50 have been gridlocked for hours or even full days this past winter.

    It would seem wise to do as you do – convince folks to look for the beauty in their own backyards.

    Thanks, as always.

    • Jack Elliott says:

      Oh man. Yes, indeed, I’ve spent hours in gridlock on I-80 in winter. Done some neat hikes off the 50.

      “convince folks to look for the beauty in their own backyards.”

      What a nice summation of what I was trying to convey.

      Thanks, Don.

  2. It’s like bluebells here – they flower beautifully every single year and coat whole woodlands with mauve-blue but still everyone has to visit them each spring and trample all over the woods taking photos. I have to admit I’m also to blame as I like to visit them at least once (although I definitely stick to paths which are already there) and take photos. They are pretty spectacular even though they happen every year. Your chocolate lily looks spectacular too – an unusual colour – we don’t have anything that colour in England I don’t think.

  3. Jack Elliott says:

    Headline out today:

    “A helicopter landed in a California poppy field during the super bloom, and officials are furious”

    “Park officials in California’s Antelope Valley, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, said Tuesday that in recent days someone landed a helicopter in a field of poppies — part of the massive bloom unfolding across the state — and then began a hike.”

    • rangerdon says:

      International news already. This is the age of techies and trumpies, neither or whom have common sense or neighborliness, both groups of which have way too much money. We had something similar, although not so egregious, in the old state park days – fellow bulldozing a road through wildflowers in a small park. Somehow the Sierra Club found out, and that ended that. But the damage is still evident nearly 50 years later.

  4. Jack Elliott says:

    Why yes, I will continue to beat a dead horse, thank you.

    March 27 headline: “Wildflowers in Carrizo Plain, Santa Barbara County are so bright you can see them from space”

    Nonsense. You can see that grass is green in the fields or, for those people still with lawns, your front yard, too. But nobody makes a big deal about that. Nobody says, “Wow! The grass is so bright we can see it from space.” And when it dies in summer, “Wow! Look how dull the grass is.” Because it’s not a big deal! You are not seeing anything from space. You’re seeing images captured by extremely powerful telephoto satellite cameras. You know, the ones that also allow you to “see” the car parked in your driveway from space. Nobody writes sensational headlines about that, though, do they?

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