As I sit here and write this, I can smell the fragrance of orange blossoms from one of the fruit trees gracing the backyard of the house where I stay when I’m in Los Angeles. For all of the years I’ve been living and working here (when I’m not at my apartment in San Francisco), I have never seen any of the trees on this property in bloom. Until now, in the middle of what surely must be the super-est super bloom in ages.
For the detail-oriented, California’s super bloom is an explosion of wildflowers in the spring months after mucho rain in the fall and early winter. The experts say it generally doesn’t happen more than once in a decade, although, if I’m not mistaken, there was a pretty nice bloom a couple years back. But that 2017 burst was nothing compared to this year’s floral frenzy in the Southland and elsewhere. Seeds are sprouting like crazy, and the vivid result is a feast for the eyes.
If you ever wondered what our state flower is, look around and glory at the sight of the California poppy. It’s everywhere. Much of SoCal’s Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve appears to be covered by a carpet made up of the orange flower. There are flowers galore down by the Pacific Coast Highway and up in the hills around Malibu, with various types of lilies on the trails. Out in the Mojave, the desert has been dappled with splashes of lavender, flowering cacti, sunflowers, and more.
Though peak season has been tailing off in the L.A. area, the surrounding deserts, the Central Coast, and the Sierra Foothills since April, the Bay Area will pop with extra poppies, lupines, irises, and other multihued foliage blanketing the fields and brightening the woods until mid-June. In other words, this is a great time to get out to Point Reyes’ Chimney Rock Trail and, especially, the Russian Ridge Preserve on the Peninsula for a flower fix that will send your olfactory nerves into overload. Which can be a problem for some of us.
DANGER IN THE AIR?
Yes, the scent of the super bloom can be intoxicating, no matter where you are. But I can tell you from recent experience that such vibrant perfume in the air is indicative of something else: Outrageously high pollen counts and the subsequent allergic reactions in those of us who are susceptible. Some weeks ago, I realized that my physical reaction to the super bloom was different from the bi-annual explosion of purple petals on L.A.’s droves of jacaranda trees — other than a surge of joy at the beauty on display.
This year, like no other before it, I have been experiencing sinus aches, sneezing, and general wooziness as the spring buds reach maturity. It’s a new feeling, too, having not been allergic to anything as a kid, a teenager, and a young adult. I may have undergone a biochemical change resulting in a less efficient immune system— or something far more sinister has occurred in the natural world on a molecular level.
THE AROMA OF APOCALYPSE
As we’ve been warned by the World Health Organization and the CDC, new, stronger, antibiotic-resistant viruses and strains of bacteria have been developing in the past decade. It may soon come to the point where deadly pandemics could wipe out wide swaths of the population, just like in apocalyptic science-fiction. With that potential in mind, it’s not inconceivable that the super bloom is producing super pollen — an aromatic, wind-borne bunch of mutations that could turn a lovely nature walk into a festive last mile for the vulnerable.
I don’t want to be an alarmist. I am no less eager to enjoy all the bright colors and fields of lush greenery than the next guy. Honestly, I’ve not stopped stopping to smell the roses . . . and lupines . . . and poppies . . . and whatever else is blooming away. Every chance I get, I’m hiking around the local parks, driving back roads, and traipsing through gardens to witness the botanical show. And you should as well. It’s all too beautiful. Damn the sniffles! Damn the wheezing! Damn the dizziness! And bring on the Benadryl! If the super bloom is gonna kill me, so be it.
Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on “Michael Snyder’s Culture Blast,” via GABnet.net, Roku, Spotify, and YouTube. You can follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster