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After rains, heat, wildflowers explode in Orange County

It’s time to unglue yourself from the car and couch and discover the best local wildflower season in nearly a decade.

Thanks to the seemingly never-ending series of rainstorms and then a heatwave, the hills are alive with orange, purple, red, yellow and white flowers.

With flowers blooming and wild grasses turning the landscape emerald green on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, it’s no wonder people say the county looks like Ireland.

My recent mountain bike rides, hikes and ranger ride-alongs from the meadows in the Laguna Coast Wilderness to the forests along Trabuco Creek, from the ridgelines in Santiago Oaks Regional Park to the valleys of Limestone Canyon found a patchwork of brilliance and fragrance.

And with the first day of Spring on Monday, there’s plenty more flowers coming, according to local experts.

“It’ll be the best season since 2008 or 2009,” says Dave Raetz, deputy director of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. “It’s really starting to be showy on the hillsides.”

A HIDDEN WORLD OF BLOOMS

OC Parks Ranger Mike Wilson hikes along Weir Canyon Trail in Santiago Oaks Regional Park. He bends low and shares the secret to wildflower watching: “A lot of people don’t understand that what’s important for seeing wildflowers is going slow and looking down.”

As two mountain bikers zoom by, I am reminded of my wife and myself mountain biking last weekend. She reported a burst of yellow Coast Sunflowers that I ripped by so fast I completely missed.

Wilson squats and points to a miniature world of wildflowers, each one smaller than a penny. He calls out yellow lotus strigosu, purple lupinus, red scrophularia, white and purple raphanus sativus.

The names are a tower of babel to me, but the fragile beauty is easy to understand.

Each flower is a wonder. Colors burst forth with tones richer than 4K television and the flowers are real 3D.

Still, technology these days is never far. As we talk, I hear what sounds like a hoard of angry…

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