Interstates have become parking lots, mountain canyons have had to be closed, flower chasers have been found stuck in the mud by helicopters, and folks have tumbled down hillsides trying to get the perfect shot.
A super bloom is simply an outbreak of flowers that exceeds the norm. They tend to occur about once a decade on average in California, but this is the second in three years. The last one followed record precipitation in the winter of 2016-17.
Abundant rain and mountain snow are again responsible for this year’s bloom. The past winter ranked 47th-wettest on record in California. This followed a rather dry start to winter and a fall full of wildfires.
Ultimately, atmospheric rivers ended up spraying the state for weeks on end, and it was declared drought-free for the first time since 2011. Perhaps to celebrate, the flower display has been so intense that satellites orbiting Earth have had no trouble seeing the bloom.
The super bloom got its start several weeks ago in the deserts of California. A carpet of flowers has since progressed toward the shore and is traveling north.
Massive new blooms are expected to continue over the next several weeks into Central and Northern California. Some coastal and mountain areas may keep the bloom going into summer.
“[T]his is something unlike anything we have ever experienced . . . and may never again,” according to the Facebook page of the city of Lake Elsinore, one of the ground zero locations of this Poppypalooza.
While it might be unclear whether the city was referring to the flowers or to the many people with selfie sticks that led to areas being closed, the eventual trending of #PoppyShutdown on social media may offer clues.
City officials estimate over 150,000 people visited the flower-painted hillsides of Lake Elsinore last weekend alone.
Most of those folks flocked to Walker Canyon, which was even closed for a time because of overcrowding. Images of the color-sprayed hills are particularly stunning given the huge coverage of poppies. Those California blue skies don’t hurt either.
The Associated Press points out that having two super blooms in such close succession is a rarity. For instance, “the 2017 super bloom was the best seen in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in 20 years,” it wrote.
Many locals have said this year’s super bloom is even better than 2017′s.
While swarms of people have been observed at many of the monstrous flower patches popping up around the state, there’s also been an invasion of butterflies, and other California bugs are loving life.
San Francisco Gate reported the painted lady butterfly species is migrating north with the bloom, which last happened in 2005.
Some warn this explosion of new life is not all great news.
“Many of the fast-growing plants are non-native and fire-prone, making it likely that the hills will be charred black again sooner rather than later,” wrote Julie Cart of CALmatters.
Given a large number of major wildfires roaring across all corners of the state in recent years, a lot of the hardier plant life has been killed off. This younger plant material does look amazing, but it will also likely add to fuel at a later date, especially should dry times return as they tend to do in the region.