California Wildflowers

Your guide to spring wildflower season

California wildflowers; Image: Jeff Bisbee

Whether you’re walking in the sandy expanse of the desert or across a treeless plain, the ground beneath your feet in California is never empty. It can be home to millions of seeds, each just waiting for the right conditions to germinate.

Many of these seeds are wildflowers. As one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, California has tremendous native plant diversity, which includes a dazzling variety of annual spring blooms. Sometimes the conditions are just right for an epic abundance of these flowers—a phenomenon popular culture calls a “superbloom”—when the growth is so colorful and vast that it has been seen from space. This is a rare event anywhere in the world, and we are lucky to have it occur in our own backyard.

Why do we have such gorgeous annual wildflowers that live for a short spring season before going to seed? It has to do with California’s special climate. It makes more sense for these flowers to be annuals with a seasonal life cycle. That way they don’t have to survive the state’s hot and dry summers. They can instead leave a new generation, in the form of seeds, to spring forth in the coming years.

Enjoy Responsibly!

  1. Stay on trails to protect the wildflowers and their seeds.
  2. Respect the local community by following signs and rules.
  3. Take only photos.
  4. Leave no trace. Pack out trash, and let Mother Nature set the scene.

Where to see wildflowers

View the Map
hills of Carrizo National Monument
A painter’s pallet of color dots the hills of Carrizo National Monument, including caterpillar phacelia (Phacelia cicutaria) and a botanist’s measuring tape. Image by CNPS Vegetation Ecologist Jennifer Buck-Diaz, who was at work in the field.

Experience Wildflowers Like a Botanist

  • Get Curious
    Look beyond the color. How many different types of flowers do you see?
  • Examine
    Look closely. How many petals does the flower have? What shape are the leaves?
  • Ask
    Discover which wildflowers you’re seeing using the resources listed to the right.
  • Photograph
    Capture California’s splendid wildflower shows and share your photos with #CNPSwildflowers.
  • Notice
    What kind of habitat do these flowers seem to prefer? Near trees, streams, in the open sun?
Credit David Magney.
A gorgeous baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii); Image by CNPS Botanist David Magney

What Am I Seeing?

  • CNPS Public Facebook Group
    This savvy group can help you ID almost any wildflower you find.
  • Calflora
    A comprehensive plant ID resource, including “What grows here?” where users can search for plants using an online map.
  • iNaturalist
    Post observations from the field with your smartphone. The online community will identify unknowns and verify your IDs.
  • Calphotos
    An enormous, searchable photo database of California’s flora and fauna.
  • CNPS webstore
    Your go-to for botanical books and guides.

Pre-order the new Wildflowers of California by CNPS!

Wildflowers of California is a comprehensive field guide for anyone wishing to learn about the amazingly diverse wildflowers of the region. Organized by flower color and shape, and including a range map for each flower described, the guide is as user-friendly as it is informative. This must-have book is perfect for hikers, naturalists, and native plant enthusiasts.

  • Describes and illustrates 900 commonly encountered species
  • Includes perennials, annuals, and shrubs, both native and nonnative
  • Thousands of superb color photographs and range maps
  • User-friendly organization by flower color and shape
Order your copy today!

Find your local chapter

Find your local chapter

Enjoy wildflower hikes,
chapter plant sales,
and more.

Castle Peak trail, CNPS Redbud chapter field trip; Image: Nancy Gilbert

Visit our store

Visit our store

Find wildflower resources
created by experts for California's
varied regions.