Dictated by seasonal vagaries in rain and sunshine, wildflower blooms arrive suddenly and leave just as quickly. Often, they last for only a few weeks—but during their brief blaze of glory, these carpets of color provide an insight into the extent of nature’s beauty. They delight those that witness them, and are made more special still by their innately ephemeral nature. In this article, we take a look at some of the world’s most beautiful wildflower destinations.
Be aware that wildflower blooms are difficult to predict, as they depend upon the arrival of annual rains. Nothing is set in stone, and some years are better than others. To avoid disappointment, make sure to check with local sources before planning a trip to any of these destinations.
California, United States
The internet is currently filled with images of the super bloom occurring at Carrizo Plain National Monument, a remote wilderness located halfway between Bakersfield and San Luis Obispo, California, in the United States. After a long drought, the rains finally returned to California this winter—and as a result annual flower species that lay dormant in the desert have suddenly bloomed, creating a carpet of brilliant yellows and purples where before there was only barren earth.
Carrizo Plain is not the only place to be transformed by California’s annual wildflower blooms. From February to mid-March, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park plays host to hundreds of desert lilies, desert sunflowers and sand verbena. Every spring, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is brought to life by blooms of orange poppies and purple phacelia. Although each area differs, California’s wildflower season usually lasts from mid-February to early May.
Namaqualand, South Africa
Situated in South Africa’s Northern Cape province, the arid Namaqualand region is transformed each spring into a flower-filled paradise seemingly overnight. It is one of the most diverse floral hotspots on the planet, with over 3,500 plant species, some 1,000 of which are endemic. Of these, the most iconic is the brilliant orange Namaqualand daisy. There are many different places from which to see the flowers. Join a tour, or explore one of the area’s self-drive routes instead.
Highlights include Skilpad Nature Reserve near Kamieskroon, which is known for its abundant Namaqualand daisies. The town of Nieuwoudtville is famous for the diversity of its bulbous plant species, while Goegap Nature Reserve near Springbok is dressed in different flowers every year. Blooms begin in the far north in late July or early August, and move slowly southward towards the West Coast. Their splendor is bright and brief, usually fading by mid-September.
National Park, France
Mercantour National Park stretches along the Italian border and incorporates the most southerly section of the French Alps. It is a stunning tapestry of snow-capped peaks and crystalline alpine lakes—and in spring and summer, its pastures are blanketed with wildflowers. The park is home to over 2,000 species of plant, 40 of which are only found within its borders. Rare species include the snow-white edelweiss and the endemic Saxifraga florulenta.
From late June, the park’s meadows are painted with the purple-pink hues of the delicate martagon lily, while splashes of bright blue gentian add drama to the alpine landscapes. Mercantour National Park is a hiker’s fantasy, with over 370 miles of marked trails. Accommodation is available in the form of scenic campsites and rustic mountain gîtes, and should be booked in advance. Keep an eye out for rare wildlife including the Alpine ibex and the Italian wolf.