Wildflower landscape photography of orange, yellow, blue, and lavender flowers in Carrizo Plain.
Super bloom of wildflowers in Carrizo Plain National Monument. Melted crayons of flowers cover the Temblor Mountains April 4, 2017.

California’s Wildflowers – Ephemeral Visions of Nature

Wildflower Landscape Photography

by photographer Richard Dickey

Close up of orange California poppies

A Crimson Mirage

rare chocolate lily wildflower in Griffith Park

A simple desire to get out of the city and satisfy one’s wanderlust might become a happenstance experience that’ll change your life. Almost forty years ago, while driving across the high desert, I spotted a crimson mirage on the distant horizon. Realizing it was the California Poppy Reserve visible from thirty miles away, I changed course and headed in that direction. A flickering crimson mountain gradually turned red, then orange, the closer I approached. Upon arriving at the reserve, I was stunned by the brilliant magnificence of mile after mile of bright orange poppies opened to a blazing sun in a bluebird sky. With a radiance so intense it required sunglasses to look upon, since California poppies reflect multiple bands of ultraviolet light to attract pollinating insects. I found gazing at hundreds of thousands of these UV reflectors in the glaring sunshine too painful for bare eyes. Needless to say it was a “wow moment” in nature, leaving me astonished and curious to learn more about this spectacular phenomena.

Lupinus Excubitus wildflower

Ever since that encounter I’ve spent nearly four decades, traveled thousands of miles, and dodged dozens of rattlesnakes to document what I consider ephemeral visions of nature. Nowadays, people describe them as super blooms. Back in early days they were called carpet blooms. Whatever you name them, these wildflower blooms are rare, fleeting moments of time and space, when millions of flowers in the wilderness overwhelm the landscape, when the aggregate of tiny, delicate details become the bigger picture. Lasting a few days, or at the very best a couple of weeks, these wildflower vistas represent the epitome of the “Secret Garden” that writers have romanticized and written about for centuries. One could live a lifetime on this land and never see the same scene ever again. And California is ground zero to the most varied, surreal and largest wildflower displays on the planet, a few even visible from space. With some locations having only bloomed once, my goal with this online gallery is to document and share what I’ve witnessed over the years and raise awareness about these mercurial and threatened landscapes.

Grab the largest screen available and treat yourself to a virtual trek

Photograph of California everlasting (Psuedognaphalium californica) wildflower in Bokeh style.
California everlasting (Psuedognaphalium californica) photographed in shallow focus Bokeh style.
butterscotch California poppy wildflower

Using high resolution film and digital cameras, this wildflower landscape photography gallery represents a lifetime’s work chasing California wildflowers that started in 1985. Long before there was an internet, or social media, I used weather geek know-how along with the help of a new, unknown cable network called the Weather Channel to make observations of radars, rain totals, satellite images and temperatures to determine where and when to go exploring. So a shout out to the folks at the Weather Channel circa mid-1980’s and anyone who remembers their signature jingle? The greatest respect and care was taken capturing these photographs, as not to damage any wildflowers during shoots, as there were plenty of grassy areas surrounding and in-between the flowers and patches of bare soil where one could maneuver to frame a shot. And yes, places like this really do exist, and are not fake, as I once overheard a guy mansplaining to his girlfriend discounting the authenticity of the images during an exhibit I participated in at LACMA’s ARSG. So I recommend you find the largest screen available and treat yourself to a virtual trek through the desert and get away from today’s negative news. Create some positive time to slow down, relax, unwind and soak in nature’s most sublime wonders. This is a limited release or drop of landscape wildflower photographs from a larger body of work. Over time more photos will be added. Zoom in on a few images and explore the details. Most of these landscape photographs are available for purchase in various sizes in the Gallery Menus.

Blazing star wildflower

Just an FYI, all the images on the website are copyright registered with US Library of Congress. So please be respectful, don’t screen grab, copy or download without written consent. Do feel free to share image links back to the online gallery here. Enjoy your hike.

Welcome to the Wildflower Multiverse – Move the slider button right or left

landscape photograph of dry, dormant hills of Gorman ca landscape photograph of wildflower super bloom in Gorman CA
California Wildflowers in Gorman CA - Dormant vs Super Bloom

…poppies will put them to sleep. Sle-ee-p...”

Scenic photographic image of sleepy California poppies on hillside during sunset.
Setting sunlight on hillside of sleepy California poppies closing up for the evening. Wildflowers consist of California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), miniature lupines (Lupinus bicolor), goldenbush (Ericameria linearifolia), fiddlenecks (Amsinckia menziesii), birds eye gilia (Gilia tricolor) and white layia (Layia glandulosa). California high desert 1986.

a mountain that trembles

Beautiful view of blue, yellow, orange, maroon colored California wildflowers in Carrizo Plain.
Super bloom of wildflowers blanketing the Temblor Mountains in Carrizo Plain National Monument. Carpet bloom consists of lacy phacellia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), hillside daisies (Monolopia lanceolata), fiddlenecks (Amsinckia intermedia), desert candles (Caulanthus inflatus), popcorn flowers (Plagiobothrys tenellus) and San Joaquin Blazingstar (Mentzelia pectinata). The San Andreas Fault runs along the valley floor. April 4, 2017.

the night crew awakens

Landscape photograph of nocturnal white desert wildflowers with pink sunset.
Night blooming Eveningsnow (Linanthus dichotomus) appear like magic at sunset awaiting nocturnal pollinators. These little plants are invisible during daylight, but open up within 20 minutes at sunset, resembling drifts of snow on hillsides and emitting a sweet smell similar to jasmine. Tejon Ranch 2001

beauty of a semi-parasitic plant

Landscape photograph of magenta owl's clover and yellow monolopia California wildflowers.
Magenta owl’s clover (Castilleja exserta) and yellow hillside daisy (Monolopia lanceolata), desert wildflowers on Tejon Ranch April 1992. Owl’s clover is a semi-parasitic plant that injects fibers into neighboring plant roots for nutrients. Owl’s clover comes in multiple hues of magentas, pinks and a few rare white ones.

what dreams may come

Surrealistic landscape photograph of blue, yellow, lavender, orange California wildflowers.
A photographer hiking through a surrealistic painting with moving sunbeams and cloud shadows. A floral landscape on a grande scale consisting of California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), globe gilia (Gilia capitata), lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), bentham lupines (Lupinus benthamii), coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovii) and white layia (Rafinesquia neomexicana). Gorman Hills CA 2003

a secret garden may lie dormant for years

landscape photograph of dry hills Wildflower landscape photograph of wildflower super bloom
Gorman hills - Dormant vs Super Bloom

patiently waiting to sprout from the dust

panorama landscape photograph of dry Carrizo Plain landscape photograph of wildflower super in Carrizo Plain
Wildflowers in the primordial space of Carrizo Plain National Monument

… home of the oldest, tallest and largest plants on the planet. Of all these treasures, none are more mercurial and magical than California’s super blooms.

California’s Super Blooms

With its distinct Mediterranean climate and varied landscape, California’s native flora has evolved a unique concentration of endemic plants at such a global scale that is scientifically recognized and known as the “California Floristic Province.” The CFP has been designated as one of Earth’s biological hotspots due to its diversity and endangered status, home of the oldest, tallest and largest plants on the planet. Of all these treasures, none are more mercurial and magical than California’s super blooms. For years on end, California’s landscape may look unassuming and covered in warm sandy browns. Desert wildflower seeds remain dormant for decades being blown and moved about with the desert winds, occasionally teasing when seasons are marginal. Factors such as changes in cryptobiotic soils and fluctuations of insect species may play a role as much as seasonal rains and temperatures. These wildflower seeds, tiny DNA ingredients of life, have discovered the secret to surviving for years and decades with little or no water. They are resilient survivors that evolved in response to an unforgiving environment. These super blooms represent the finest of California’s unique and rich biodiversity.

The future of California’s wildflower landscapes are threatened. Click the image link below to learn more.

Panorama landscape photograph of endangered wildflower environment.
Endangered California Wildflowers

yellow candles with burgundy flames

Photograph of desert candle wildflowers have luminescent yellow stems with burgundy flowers.
Unusually large desert candle wildflowers (Caulanthus inflatus) towering 3-4 feet high, with luminescent yellow-green stems and burgundy flowers resemble a forest of trees from an alien planet on the Desert Tortoise Natural Area, super bloom 2005.

forest of wildflowers

A forest of flower stems that light up like fiber optics when sunshine illuminates them.
The stems are hollow and filled with air. Their translucent membranes light up like fiber optics when sunshine illuminates them.

yin and yang

Panoramic photograph of blue, purple, yellow orange California wildflowers in yin yang pattern.
Wildflower carpet blooming yin yang pattern across shadowed and sunlit hills of Gorman CA. Wildflowers consisting of Bentham lupines (Lupinus benthamii), lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovii), goldfields (Lasthenia californica), bush lupine (Lupinus excubitus) and California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) in 2003.

butterscotch treats

Photograph rare butterscotch colored California poppies with other colored wildflowers.
Butterscotch California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) in Gorman, CA. A rare color for the region. Other wildflowers are white layia (Layia glandulosa), pale-yellow layia (Layia heterotricha), coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovii), fiddlenecks (Amsinckia menziesii), miniature lupines (Lupinus bicolor), phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), goldfields (Lasthenia californica), popcorn flowers(Plagiobothrys tenellus) and desert dandelions (Malacothrix glabrata) April 2010.

a sea of orange

Visualize yourself standing amidst a sea of orange poppies, so vast they expand miles across a desert plain reaching into far distant foothills. A soft wind stirs and slowly the air is filled with the sound of flowers moving in the breeze. The growing sound of a million satin petals surrounds and envelopes you. This very soft subtle sound grows to a loud ruffling and rustling, making the landscape seem to vibrate beneath your feet. Visible ripples of wind roll across the flowered plain like sets of waves across an ocean. Scents of flowers invade your nose, smells like honeysuckle, grape, mint, lemon-licorice and jasmine blend and morph into an incense of the desert in spring. One becomes aware of the palpable sense of “giddy” energy radiating from the land, beyond rational explanation, a feeling of lightness and completeness flows from the desert in full bloom as if Mother Earth herself were laughing with the flowers.

Wildflower landscape panorama photograph of orange and lavender wildflowers.
Vast carpet bloom of California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and davy gilia (Gilia latiflora) wildflowers with Tehachapi Mountains in background – Waves of wind rolled across the flowered plain, making the flower petals rustle and vibrate. This flower savannah bloomed once and never again. Tejon Ranch 1991.

lavender desert

Wildflower landscape panorama photograph of lavender desert wildflowers in Joshua Tree Park.
Desert super bloom at south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA. Carpet bloom of spring wildflowers, (Eschscholzia androuxii, Salvia columbariae, Camissonia claviformis, Lupinus arizonicus). Panoramic landscape photograph, February 28, 2008

canyon maze

Wildflower landscape photograph of panorama of yellow, pink, and lavender wildflowers in a canyon.
Carrizo Plain National Monument wildflower super bloom. Carpet bloom of wildflowers consisting of mostly hillside daisy (Monolopia lanceolata) with a few coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovii), phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia) and speckled clarkia (Clarkia cylindrica ssp. cylindrica) in a canyon maze (one of hundreds) of the Temblor Mountains. April 11, 2017

Late nineteenth century Southern Californians honored their wildflower heritage celebrating with weekend wildflower parties and parades with flower-covered horses and buggies. This tradition became origins for the famous Rose Parade.

smell of grape soda

Panoramic photograph of purple lupines visible for miles emitting smell of grape soda.
Mile after mile of Adonis lupine (Lupinus excubitus) wafting the smell of grape soda in the air. Desert wildfowers in super bloom with lupines, California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), popcorn flowers (Plagiobothrys tenellus), fiddleneck flowers (Amsinckia menziesii), miniature lupine (Lupinus bicolor), goldfields (Lasthenia californica). Likely the largest concentration of Lupines excubitus in California, Tejon Ranch 2001.

thirty second exposure

Panoramic photograph of beautiful canyon covered with white, orange, yellow, and blue wildflowers at dusk.
Carpet bloom of desert wildflowers at dusk. The lighting was so low it required a 30 second exposure to capture the image on film. Flowers consist of evening snow (Linanthus dichotomus), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovi), miniature lupines (Lupinus bicolor), lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), Bentham lupines (Lupinus benthamii), globe gilia (Gilia capitata), fiddlenecks (Amsinckia menziesii) white layia (Layia glandulosa) and tidy tips (Layia platyglossa) wildflowers. Gorman 2003.

fractured mountains and the sublime

Wildflower landscape photograph of desert candle flowers with hillside daisies on broken mountain.
Overlooking a super bloom of wildflowers painted across the fractured Temblor Mountains adjacent the San Andreas fault in Carrizo Plain National Monument. Flowers consist of desert candles (Caulanthus inflatus), lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), hillside daisies (Monolopia lanceolata) and orange blazing stars (Mentzelia pectinata) April 4, 2017.

blue and gold

Rolling hills thickly covered in blue and gold wildflowers at Carrizo Plain Monument.
Super bloom of wildflowers atop the Temblor Mnts in Carrizo Plain National Monument. Flowers consist of monolopia (Monolopia lanceolata), phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia)with a patch of desert candles (Caulanthus inflatus) mid-frame on right April 2017.

ancient sediment layers

Landscape Photograph of orange, blue, yellow desert wildflowers outlining ancient sediment layers on hills of Gorman CA.
Super bloom of wildflowers highlight ancient sediment layers on hillside of Gorman CA. California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), miniature lupines (Lupinus bicolor), adonis lupine (Lupinus excubitus) and yellow gilia (Linanthus filiformis) in Gorman CA 2001

out of sight, out of mind

landscape photograph of Carrizo Plain dormant landscape photograph of Carrizo Plain wildflower super bloom
Wildflowers of the Carrizo Plain National Monument

bouquets of blues

Panorama landscape photograph with purple, blue shades of bush lupines.
A cropping of various shades of Adonis lupine (Lupinus excubitus) wildflowers, lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifoli), western wallflower (Erysimum capitatum), fiddlenecks (Amsinckia menziesii) and rocks near the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge 2005.

prickly garden

Colorful wildflower garden amongst prickly cholla cactus in Anza Borrego State Park CA.
Wildflower garden amidst old growth chollas in Anza Borrego State Park – 2005. Wildflowers consist of Mexican poppies (Eschscholzia mexicana), purple mat flowers (Nama demissum), Arizona lupines (Lupinus arizonicus), popcorn flowers (Plagiobothrys tenellus), California sun cups (Eulobus californica), brittle bush (Encelia farinose), barrel cactus and ocotillos.

details of the big picture

Vivid close up details of blue, yellow, orange, purple California wildflowers in Gorman CA.
Wildflower close up of Bentham lupines (Lupinus benthamii), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovii), globe gilia (Gilia capitata), fiddlenecks (Amsinckia menziesii) flowers in Gorman CA 2003.

Centuries ago, Spanish sailors returned to Europe describing a fiery glow along a mysterious shore called California. Telling stories of hills and valleys ablaze with brilliant luminescence of gold and orange flowers, they referred to California as “la tierra del tuego” – the land of fire – for the vast spreads of poppy blooms that covered the land. Afterwards, Spanish missionaries and European settlers discovered the interior of California blanketed with enormous pastures of spring wildflowers extending hundreds of miles from San Francisco to San Diego.

hallucination of the high desert

Photographic view overlooking Antelope Valley CA of hallucinogenic orange and yellow wildflowers covering miles of landscape.
A view overlooking miles across the Antelope Valley from the Fairmont Butte of hallucinogenic super bloom of goldfields (Lasthenia californica), California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and scattered white onion flowers (Allium lacunosum) April 2010

lupines and painted hills

Painterly photographic view of desert lupines and California poppies covering rolling hills of Tejon Ranch.
Adonis lupines and painted hills of Tejon Ranch. Wildflower bloom consists of Adonis lupine (Lupinus excubitus), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), goldenbush (Ericameria linearifolia), globe gilia (Gilia capitata), creamcups (Platystemon californicus) on distant hills Tejon Ranch 1991.

full moon at sunrise over a pink desert

Landscape photograph of pink desert wildflowers and morning full moon.
Carpet bloom of sand verbena (Abronia villosa) wildflowers with lifting morning fog and full moon at sunrise in Anza Borrego 1998

pitching waves of color

Photograph of super bloom of colorful California wildflowers on steep hills in Gorman CA.
A carpet bloom of wildflowers illuminate the hills of Gorman CA in pitching and rolling waves of colors. Coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovii), Bentham lupines (Lupinus benthamii), Calfiornia poppies (Eschscholzia californica), globe gilia (Gilia capitata), lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia) and popcorn flowers (Plagiobothrys tenellus) 2003.

Experiencing a super bloom is a feast for your mind, body and spirit, leaving you speechless, and wanting more the next promising season. Taking in nature through the senses and bathing in the desert’s energy, leaving you refreshed and rejuvenated.

long shadows with lupines, poppies and eveningsnow

Landscape photograph of long shadowed hills with purple lupines, orange poppies.
Sunset on rolling hills of Adonis lupine (Lupinus excubitus), fiddlenecks (Amsinckia menziesii), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and Eveningsnow (Linanthus dichotomus) at Tejon Ranch 1991.

carpet of the Sierra Nevada

Photograph of pink, silver, yellow wildflower super bloom on Sierra Mountain foothills.
A blue bird sky with magenta owl’s clove (Castilleja exserta), pink-silver gilia (Gilia tricolor) and yellow goldfields (Lasthenia californica) wildflowers in the Sierra Nevada foothills north of Kernville CA (Baker Point) 2003.

threads of the carpet

Photographic close up details of magenta, silver, yellow wildflower super bloom Sierra Foothills.
Close up view of magenta owl’s clove (Castilleja exserta), pink-silver gilia (Gilia tricolor) and yellow goldfields (Lasthenia californica) wildflowers in the Sierra Nevada foothills north of Kernville CA (Baker Point) 2003.

one point perspective

Photograph of mountain pasture full of orange California poppies with barb-wire-fence and wooden posts.
Super bloom of wildflowers, California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and distant coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovii) on Tejon Ranch 1988.

one million flowers

Landscape photograph of dense blooms of yellow, purple, and orange California wildflowers that number in one million.
Extremely dense wildflower bloom of coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovii), Adonis lupine (Lupinus excubitus) and California poppies (Eschscholzia californica). After doing the math, this photograph contains 700,000 to 1,000,000 individual flowers. Tejon Ranch 1992

rare white owl’s clover

Photograph of rare white owl's clover flower with background of magenta wildflowers.
Photograph of rare pure white owl’s clover (Castilleja exserta). Owl’s clover comes in many shades of magentas, pinks and tinted whites, but rarely solid white. March 26, 2010

“In the Spring, The San Joaquin Valley had a matchless sky overhead and an expanse of wildflowers that spread over the the great valley like a purple carpet, so vast that a day’s ride by horseback would take one only to the middle of it.” – Arnold Rojas

wall of blue

Photograph of steep hillside of blue Bentham lupines Gorman CA.
Steep hillside of Bentham lupines (Lupinus benthamii) with a few California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovii) and globe gilia (Gilia capitata) wildflowers – Gorman CA 2003

flowers of the storm

Stormy, moody photo of dark menacing clouds over super bloom of yellow and orange desert wildflowers.
Desert super bloom of goldfield wildflowers (Lasthenia californica) and a few California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) with menacing storm clouds in Antelope Valley April 2006.

… a full bloom in the darkness of a moonless desert night with coyotes howling and yipping close by.

an ocean floor and howling coyotes

Photograph taken at night of white Eveningsnow wildflowers (Linanthus dichotomous).
A scene resembling the deep ocean floor covered with sea anemones as the camera’s flash reveals Eveningsnow (Linanthus dichotomus) at full bloom in the darkness of a moonless desert night with coyotes howling and yipping close by. Mojave Desert 2001.

a struggle to bloom

Stunted orange, yellow, and blue wildflowers struggling to bloom due to climate change.
A view from top of Gorman with moving cloud shadows and stunted wildflowers struggling to bloom due to a shortened rainy season. This location was once a regularly occurring wildflower wonderland, but sadly hasn’t had a super bloom since 2003. As the climate warms up, this is a reoccurring problem. Photo taken April 19, 2010

quartzite, goldenbush, and poppies

Panoramic photograph of quartzite boulders with yellow goldenbush wildflowers and orange California poppies.
Quartzite boulders with goldenbush (Ericameria linearifolia), poppies (Eschscholzia californica), goldfields (Lasthenia californica) and owl’s clover (Castilleja exserta). Tejon Ranch 1992

a constant for eons, but never the same

Mosaic landscape photo of purple, magenta, white, orange, and yellow desert wildflowers.
Desert wildflowers appear on untouched wilderness for eons, but no two blooms are the same, as the variety and spread of flowers are always changing. The small white Chinese houses (perhaps Collinsia tinctoria) bloomed once on this landscape and never again. Tejon Ranch 1992.

no two blooms are alike

Super bloom of wildflowers landscape photograph super bloom of wildflowers landscape photograph
Wildflower Bloom on Gorman Mountains - 2001 vs 2003
super bloom of California wildflowers 2001 super bloom of California wildflowers 2003
Wildflower Bloom Gorman Hills Canyon - 2001 vs 2003

rock garden

Photograph of white, orange, yellow, and purple desert wildflowers surrounding large boulders.
Rock garden of boulders, California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), Baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovii) and globe gilia (Gilia capitata) on Tejon Ranch 1991.

valley of fire

Panoramic photo of shallow valley of orange poppies with rolling hills of blue and yellow wildflowers nearby.
Shallow valley of fire on the Tejon Ranch. Wildflowers consists of California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), globe gilia (Gilia capitata), coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovii), goldfields (Lasthenia californica) 1991.

yellow oceans of the Carrizo Plain

Panoramic photo of vast ocean of yellow California wildflowers at Carrizo Plain National Monument.
A wildflower bloom in Carrizo Plain National Monument. Vast oceans of yellow super blooms are common here. Flowers consist of tidy tips (Layia platyglossa), phacelia (Phacelia sp.), hillside daisy (Monolopia lanceolata) Byron larkspur (Delphinium recurvatum), fiddlenecks (Amsinckia menziesii) and an occasional coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovii). April 11, 2017.

California gold

Landscape panorama photograph of orange, gold, purple wildflower bloom in Gorman CA 2001
Landscape panorama photograph of orange, gold, purple wildflower bloom in Gorman CA 2001

mystic mountain

landscape photograph of dormant hills landscape photograph of wildflower super bloom
Wildflower super bloom of Monolopia lanceolata in western Antelope Valley 2003
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