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16 Wildflowers in California (with Photos)

The state of California is unique in many ways, and it is one of the few areas where you can find five different types of climate in close proximity. The five major climates found in California are Desert, Highland, Cool Interior, Mediterranean, and Steppe. This means you are bound to see a plethora of various wildflowers in California.

Because California has such a large array of plants, it can be difficult to identify wildflowers, especially if you are quickly driving by. Below you will find some of the most common wildflowers in California you may see, as well as the best places to view these stunning plants. 

16 Wildflowers in California

State wildflowers of California

The state flower of California is the California Poppy, also known as the golden poppy. This vibrant flower is native to California and can be found throughout the state’s grassy hillsides and meadows.

It is a symbol of California’s natural beauty and is celebrated each year during the Poppy Festival held in Lancaster, California. The California Poppy is also known for its medicinal properties and is used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments.

1. California Poppy

California poppy flower
California poppy flower | image by tdlucas5000 via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Eschscholzia californica

The California Poppy is native throughout the state and is found in open and grassy areas. They produce yellow to orange golden blooms with a silky texture on solitary slender stems.

These blooms appear from February to September and will close when it’s cold, windy, or at night. California Poppies are host plants for various butterflies and moths.

2. Lupine

Lupine flowers in the field
Lupine flowers in the field | image by Dan Nevill via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific Name: Lupinus

The state of California is home to various species of Lupines, which come in an array of vibrant colors. The leaves of this perennial plant are grayish green and covered in silver-colored hairs.

The flowers, which appear on tall stalks, look similar to pea flowers. Lupines are host to various butterfly species and can be found throughout California.

3. California Buckwheat

California buckwheat
California buckwheat | image by Jason Hollinger via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Eriogonum fasciculatum

The California Buckwheat is a perennial herb that has a shrub format. It can grow up to 6 or more feet tall and 3 feet wide.

In the spring, summer, and fall, this plant will produce small flowers that can be white, cream, pink, or yellow. The California Buckwheat is a host plant to at least 15 different butterflies and moths, and thrives on dry slopes.

4. California Buttercup

California buttercup
California buttercup | image by Tom Hilton via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Ranunculus californicus

The California Buttercup is a small wildflower that reaches heights of about ½ to 2 feet tall. In the spring and winter, this plant will produce bright yellow blooms, which attract various insects. Like other types of buttercups, the California Buttercup is edible and can be fried or used in baked goods.

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5. Cardinal Flower

Cardinal flower
Cardinal flower | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Lobelia cardinalis

Cardinal Flowers have deep green leaves that are purple underneath. Their bright red flowers appear in clusters at the end of a long, tall stalk and attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the area. Cardinal Flowers bloom from mid summer to early fall, and thrive near bogs, stream bottoms, and seeps.

6. Yarrow

Common yarrow flowers
Common yarrow flowers | image by Shiva Shenoy via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Achillea millefolium

Yarrow is a beneficial wildflower that produces feathery leaves that have a fern-like appearance. They produce a cluster of small flowers that will attract various pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and beneficial predatory insects. Yarrow tolerates drought and can grow in various habitats, including in open areas and along the roadside.

7. California Fuchsia

California fuchsia
California fuchsia | image by Dana L. Brown via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Epilobium canum

The California Fuchsia produces bright scarlet red blooms in summer and fall and attracts hummingbirds. The entire plant can grow up to 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide, and has a fast growth rate.

It is found all throughout the state and is deer resistant. Additionally, California Fuchsia is included in various lists of fire resistant plants, including the list created by the County of San Diego.

8. Sacred Datura

Sacred datura flowers
Sacred datura flowers | image by Zion National Park via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Datura wrightii

Sacred Dature is a seemingly innocent-looking flower that produces white trumpet-shaped blooms. This plant is poisonous and has been used as a hallucinogen, and it is listed as anticholinergic and deliriant. Sacred Dature is a host plant for the Carolina Sphinx, and thrives in gravelly or sandy areas.

9. Baby Blue Eyes

Baby blue eyes
Baby blue eyes | image by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Nemophila menziesii

Baby Blue Eyes produces bright blue flowers with a lighter blue to white center. This wildflower grows throughout the entire state of California in just about any habitat.

It is a small plant that only reaches about 6 inches tall. It attracts a wide array of insects and is a host plant for the Rusty-Barred Annaphila moth.

10. Douglas Iris

Douglas iris
Douglas iris | image by Bri Weldon via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Iris douglasiana

The Douglas Iris is found in the coastal regions of Central and Northern California. It is most often found at lower elevations, in grassy areas near the coast.

This perennial herb produces an iconic iris-shaped bloom in colors of pink, purple, and blue. It flowers in the winter and spring, and attracts various caterpillars and butterflies.

11. Yellow Mariposa Lily

Yellow mariposa lily
Yellow mariposa lily | image by Dipika Bhattacharya via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Calochortus luteus

The Yellow Maripose Lily is found in grasslands, coastal prairie, and forest floors in the Sierra foothills and central coast ranges. In the spring, this wildflower produces bright yellow blooms that attract caterpillars and butterflies.

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12. Purple Owl’s Clover

Purple owl’s clover
Purple owl’s clover | image by Saguaro National Park via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Castilleja exserta

Purple Owl’s Clover is an annual wildflower that has hairy stems and clusters of shaggy pinkish purple blooms that look similar to a clover. Despite its appearance and name, this plant is not related to a clover. This wildflower is an important host for the Bay Checkerspot Butterfly, which is listed as a threatened species in the state.

13. Sticky Monkey-Flower

Sticky monkey flower
Sticky monkey flower | image by Björn S… via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Diplacus aurantiacus

Also known as Bush Monkey Flower, this perennial wildflower grows as a shrub throughout most of the state of California. It can grow up to 5 feet tall and produces yellow or orange flowers during the spring, summer, and winter months. The Sticky Monkey Flower attracts hummingbirds and bees, and is a host plant for the Variable Checkerspot butterfly.

14. California Goldfields

California goldfields
California goldfields | image by Gurtej Singh via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Lasthenia californica

The California Goldfield is native to California and scattered throughout the state. It is an annual herb that produces vibrant yellow blooms during the winter and spring season.

These blooms attract bees and butterflies, and is a host plant for the White-Lined Sphinx and Small Heliothodes moth. The California Goldfields thrives in a wide array of habitats, including meadow, damp areas, coastal ranges, grasslands, and prairies.

15. California Aster

California aster
California aster | image by NatureShutterbug via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Corethrogyne filaginifolia

The California Aster is a member of the daisy family that produces white, purple, and pink colored blooms that look similar to a daisy. These blooms can appear in summer, fall, and winter, and will attract birds and butterflies. The California Aster grows best in dry, rocky slopes along the coast of the state, but can also be found scattered in other areas.

16. Phlox

Phlox flowers
Phlox flowers | image by Andy Melton via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Phlox spp.

Phlox has over 60 species of annual and perennial plants in its genus, with many of them being found in California. Most of the phlox species bloom during the spring and can produce flowers in various colors, such as white, purple, pink, and blue. These blooms attract butterflies and are even host plants for different insects.

Best Places to see Wildflowers in California

The best places to see wildflowers in California include state parks, preserves, and reserves. For example, the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Oroville will typically start seeing wildflower blooms at the beginning of March. Many of the locations also have bloom updates on their social media pages, including Chino Hills State Park and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Just remember that no matter where you decide to view the wildflowers in California, the weather plays an important role in when the blooms occur and how abundant the blooms are.

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