Now that spring has finally made it to Northern California, I knew it was only a matter of time before wildflowers would begin to appear across this part of the state. I had received word from friends that the Table Mountain area near Lake Oroville was the place to be. I had looked at photos and reports on multiple websites and sure enough, that was indeed the hot spot to see some spectacular wildflower blooms. The reserve is only about an hour and forty minutes from where I live so I knew I had to go one way or another.
A Walk Through Fields of Color
What I had previously learned about Table Mountain is that it is a unique area due to its location being on an elevated mesa that was created by ancient lava flows. It is also home to a rare type of vernal pool, which is a temporary pool of water that provides habitat for distinctive plants and animals. The rare vernal pools are called Northern basalt flow vernal pools (basalt is another term used when referring to rock created by ancient lava). On the reserve there are a few places where rain water forms temporary pools, which is a result of basalt lying beneath the surface not allowing the rain to drain. As the rainy season ends, the pools begin to dry up and eventually disappear until the rains return the flowing winter.
Due to the extreme type of environment, only animals and plants that have adapted to this can survive. Therefore, many endemic and rare species are at found in this area, making it even more important to maintain it and ensure it is protected and kept free of invasive species. I had only been to the reserve once before on a field trip with a plant course I took my last year of college, so I couldn’t wait to see what was there this time around.
Upon arrival to the reserve I was in awe of how much ground was covered with color. Everywhere I turned to look had a large patch of flowers on it. From lupines to poppies, almost the entire mountain was painted with colorful flowers. It was a bit unfortunate there were so many people at the reserve but as my group and I moved further down one of the trails, the less people began to appear. This area is also dog friendly so Melissa and I brought along our little pup Happy. He seemed to enjoy it more than I had anticipated so that was a good sign to me for how trips like these will go in the future.
After breaking away from most of the crowds, we were able to find numerous patches of sky lupine, poppies, Owl’s clover, goldfields, meadowfoam, bird’s eye gilia, and popcorn flower. There were other flowers I took note of that were in smaller patches along the trail such as butter and eggs (Triphysaria eriantha), Sierra mock stonecrop (Sedella pumila), seep monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus), white-tipped clover (Trifolium variegatum), and pretty face (Triteleia ixioides). I’m certain I didn’t see all the wildflower species that can be found in the reserve, but all the ones I did see were truly amazing.
After about an hour or so staring at flowers and landscapes, I turned my attention to the insects that were present around me. I saw a good number of Pipevine swallowtails (Battus philenor) and native bees. The pipevine swallowtails were mostly nectaring on the blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum) and sky lupine, while the native bees I encountered were nectaring on a multitude of different wildflower species. We managed to find a nice assortment of wildflowers covered in insects near a large oak tree, which we had sat underneath to enjoy our lunch
I found a patch of beige colored flowers that looked similar to that of the common fiddlenecks and noticed there were insects all over them. A couple Megachilid bee species were present, as well as some saw flies and sweat bees. There were a few beetles that were around as well but they were very clearly outnumbered by the bees and wasps. I was glad to see that the insects in the area had also responded to the large number of blooming wildflowers in a similar way that I did.
After about another half hour or so of exploring and admiring the views, Melissa and I decided it was time to walk back to the parking lot and head home. Happy was covered with mud because of all the creeks and puddles that spread across some parts of the trail. Our friend Alex had tagged along with us so he was also ready to head back home at this point as well. On the way back, we took some more photos of flowers and landscapes, and Alex was kind enough to take a wonderful family picture of Happy, Melissa and me. I really enjoyed seeing this area again and I learned much more about the geography and the native plants than my previous visit. I will definitely keep the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in my list of top places to visit again in the future.