Although a number of locations in California reported what is now colloquially called a “super bloom” for this past spring wildflower season, the Poppy Reserve was rather surprisingly not one of them. Even with a few smallish areas of good poppy color, especially on the east ridge, the Reserve’s overall poppy displays this spring would have to be considered disappointing modest, at best. With the Reserve’s winter/spring total rainfall being the third highest in the last twenty-six years, outstanding poppy color was certainly expected which raises the question “What happened?” This article will discuss one possible answer, selective survival of plant species, to this question in detail and will touch on a second possible answer, lack of appropriate rainstorms, briefly to evaluate this possible alternative.
Although data needed to definitively answer this question is not available, limited field observations do give several reasonably plausible explanations. The first theory starts in early September 2022 when the Reserve saw its first, atypically early seasonal rainstorm; see Figure 1. The Poppy Reserve volunteer field researchers set the start of each year’s poppy season, which culminates in the spring wildflower displays, at the first fall/winter rainstorm depositing more than ½ inch of rainfall. From many years of field observations, poppy seed germination, at least at the Poppy Reserve, doesn’t occur following rainstorms depositing less than ½ inch of rain. Although it is relatively rare, the wildflower season has started in four prior Septembers; 1997 - 25 Sept, 1998 - 4 Sept, 2005 - 20 Sept, 2011 - 14 Sept, and now 2022 - 11Sept. Based on past observations, a moderate amount of poppy seed germination (would be expected from the 0.8 inches of rainfall deposited during the September rainstorm. (For entire document, click on links below)