California poppies bloom all over the state, but the western side of Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County is the most consistent poppy-bearing land, protected from grazing and other human interference. Each spring, this desert like area comes alive with millions of bright orange poppy flowers. The wildflower season generally lasts from as early as mid-February through late May, and depends on the amount of rainfall during the winter to early spring seasons. This area is now protected and called the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.
The Antelope Valley is located in the western Mojave Desert at an elevation ranging from 2600--3000 feet, making it a high desert environment. Until the early 1970's sheep grazed the buttes, but park management has excluded sheep. Pronghorn Antelope grazed long before then, but the railroad of the 1880's brought recreational hunters that reduced the numbers of the species to naught.
Within the reserve, there are 11 km of trails, including a paved section for wheelchair access, which traverse through the poppy fields. Benches located along the trails make good places to sit quietly and watch for wildlife, such as singing meadow larks, lizards zipping across the trail, gopher snakes and rattlesnakes. In order to keep the fields in a strictly natural state, California State Parks does not water or stimulate the flowers. The park service also excludes sheep and cattle from grazing the hillsides.
Poppies aren’t the only wildflower growing in Antelope valley. Owl's clover, lupine, goldfield, cream cups, and coreopsis, to name a few, share the desert grassland to produce a mosaic of color and fragrance each spring.
Also see: Namaqualand’s Miraculous Spring Flowers
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