Entering this moonscape of skeletal branches on Mt. Diablo’s Oak Knoll Trail I didn’t expect to see the burst of wildflowers that was to come. But signs of thriving vegetation soon appeared. Sprouts of the plentiful chemise bush were already a foot high. And thousands of whispering bells popped up in the soil.
Turns out last October’s grand fire offered enough heat to release seeds long dormant in dozens of species like this one. They might have been sleeping as long as 50 or 100 years. On a recent hike with naturalists Hank Fabian and Kevin Hintsa we identified more than 80 species of plants on the scarred hillsides, many of which are “fire followers,” like the bells, which depend on high heat and sometimes, the chemical released from burnt wood, to germinate.
It’s a stellar year to see bumper crop of wildflowers. For example, five species of phacelia lined the trail including phacelia divaricata never before seen by one of the naturalists along with the rare Mt. Diablo phacelia. Spring is coating Mt. Diablo with a rainbow of wildflowers. By now the bells should be blasting their yellow blooms. Enjoy it while you can!