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Suddenly Spring

Hike. Swoon. Click. The flower people are in heaven. Fuchsia, orange and lemony-yellow blooms pose and sway across Southern California’s wild lands, ready for their digital moments. Hummingbirds gorge on clumps of creamy monkey flowers. New shoots explode overnight: popcorn flowers, milkmaids, sun cups, sand verbenas, tiny Johnny-jump-ups, scarlet poppies. Clusters of lavender lupine that smell like grape soda.

Botanists, naturalists and flower lovers of all species are reveling in the best wildflower season in recent years, the drought-induced hiatus already a distant memory. So seize the moment, and head for the blooms.

The famed Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is producing an abundance of poppy plants in the valley and beyond, a year after logging a measly 58 flowers. Arrive early before the winds pick up, while the blooms face south and are primed for close-up photos. The reserve has eight miles of trails, including a trek up to Antelope Butte Vista Point to view the San Gabriel and Tehachapi mountains.

Or check out the fragrant hillsides along the coast. This spring, the meadows are different. Better. Wetter. So lush that Orange County’s Laguna Canyon looks as if someone rolled out the green carpet. The sunflowers, fiddlenecks and gooseberry plants are multiplying like the wild rabbits that skitter across the canyon’s trails and through coastal sage scrub.

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The season, expected to last into May, has even brought 80 types of wildflowers to the Mohave Desert’s untamed expanses.

“Everybody’s talking flowers,” says Cindy Von Halle, a ranger at Joshua Tree National Park. “I think we have every color of the rainbow right now.”

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Where to find them

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Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

Look for eight varieties of poppies, plus owl’s clover, purple lupine and jasmine weed. Where: 15101 Lancaster Road, 15 miles west of Lancaster. Hours: Sunrise to sunset. Tours run through May. cost: $5 for parking. Info: (661) 724-1180 or (661) 942-0662, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=627.

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park

Check out the coast sunflowers, fiddlenecks, purple Phacelia, owl’s clover, tangles of prickly wild cucumbers and orange poppies. Where: Start at the year-old Nix Nature Center, at Little Sycamore Canyon on Laguna Canyon Road (California 133), north of the 73 toll road and south of Interstate 405. Hours: 7 a.m. to sunset. COST: $3 for parking. Info: (949) 923-2235, www. lagunacanyon.org/nix_nature_center.html.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Blooms include desert dandelions, sand verbena, poppies and desert lilies. Where: The nearly 700,000-acre park straddles the eastern border of San Diego County; visitors can approach from the east or west on California highways 22 and 78. Hours: Sunrise to sunset. COST: Free. Info: (760) 767-4684 or (760) 767-5311, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=638.


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