ON THE RANCH
By Staff Biologist Mitchell Coleman
The Ranch has been immersed in a blur of color this wildflower season. Within the span of a week, areas that were green and brown burst into multitudinous hues of orange, purple, pink, yellow, and red. That’s only what you see at a glance; get close, and low to the ground and more colors and textures reveal themselves!
The diverse, mosaic-like patterns across the landscape offer a rousing reminder of Tejon’s ecology — an ancient, open land where the flora and fauna of four major ecoregions come together. Such a diverse blend of ecosystems cannot be seen elsewhere, and it is this land that the Tejon Ranch Conservancy is charged to “Protect, Enhance, and Restore,” a duty we feel every time we step behind the gates.
Poppies in the Antelope Valley (photo by Mitchell Coleman)
At the Conservancy, it has been “all hands on deck” since wildflower season started. Hundreds of visitors have come and gone, most commenting “We can’t wait to come back!” The lower-elevation areas are beginning to senesce, so we now shift our attention to the coming bloom in the Ranch’s high country which offers opportunities for interesting scientific and botanic observations.
One of the most impactful experiences I have had this season has been leading student groups out on Tejon Ranch. During my so-called “downtime,” I have been teaching ecology and botany classes at Bakersfield College and CSU Bakersfield. One of the neat things about being faculty is that I can build field trips to Tejon Ranch right into my syllabus. Thus, students who might never have considered making such an outing find themselves amongst fields festooned with poppy (Eschscholzia californica), owl’s clover (Castilleja exserta), goldfields (Lasthenia spp.), popcorn flower (Plagiobothrys spp.), and many, many more. Most students do not realize how much open space and plant diversity there is out on the Ranch.
Owl’s clover and goldfields (photo by Mitchell Coleman)
We ask ecological questions like “why is this species growing here, but not there?” or “why have we only seen pronghorn antelope in open grasslands and not woodlands?” Mostly, however, I just let them discover for themselves. They need to take it in, as do we all. Often at the end of our tours, I return students back to their vehicles and they don’t want to leave. Indeed, many ask to come back on their own time! This is music to my ears, as I think to myself, “mission accomplished”, we’ve educated and inspired once again.
There are many ways to inspire a love of nature. We are still fresh from last month’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) workshop taught by renowned naturalist John Muir Laws. Nearly 100 teachers, educators, and enthusiasts spent two days with him on the Ranch, learning about his approach to enticing people to nature.
Striped adobe lily in the Tejon Hills. This is a rare species with less than 20 populations endemically distributed across the west-facing slopes of the southern Sierra Nevada (photo by Mitchell Coleman).
As a scientist, the “A” in “STEAM” is a new one for me. Much of Jack’s approach involves nature journaling in the same vein as Charles Darwin during his now-famed voyage on the Beagle. To journal effectively, you must sit down, notice, wonder, and reflect on something of interest. Then you begin to draw. You can spend hours on a single flower and hardly notice the passage of time. It’s a powerful method, one which emphasizes patience and an eye for detail. It’s not surprising that meaningful scientific observations can be gleaned from this practice. Students on the Ranch have subsequently been asked to go off by themselves to journal on nature. We’ve had some great results.
To say the least, it has been (and still is) a great season. With an eye toward late spring and early summer, there is no need to take a deep breath to get ready for the next plunge. We’ve been taking plenty of them this whole time. Longtime visitors and newcomers alike, the Conservancy invites you to visit this regional treasure. Let’s experience the Ranch together!
Tricolor gilia (photo by Mitchell Coleman)
A quarry of color
The Conservancy Members' Picnic
In mid-April, Tejon Ranch Conservancy members were invited to a wildflower tour and picnic on Tejon Ranch. About thirty members took advantage of the sunny warm temperatures on the Antelope Valley side of the Ranch.
"I was transported, literally and figuratively, to the floral wonderlands of the western Antelope Valley with fellow nature lovers to admire and photograph the stunning display, free of crowds and traffic. A delicious picnic completed a perfect day." - Sharon Moore
The diversity of flowers was unlike previous years. Conservancy staff and some of our most knowledgeable docents provided information at numerous locations along the contoured stretch of land where the Tehachapi range meets the desert floor.
“It was the best flower day ever! Our guides (especially Ellery) knew all the best spots for viewing and could name every flower. We were treated to a spectacular lunch up on the mountain, complete with wine. All in all it was one of the best days I’ve ever had!” - Phyllis Alexander
Richard and I think that our wildflower tour and picnic was one of the best outdoor days we have ever spent. We have never seen the quantity and variety of flowers that we saw. A day to remember! - Maria Grant
The day included a delectable alfresco picnic lunch with linen tablecloths and fine china in the oak-studded side canyon known as Canada Del Agua Escondida below the Ranch’s scenic Blue Ridge. Members had the chance to meet and mingle with one another before the tour continued on its way in search of the Ranch’s colorful quarry.
"Thank you so much for the wonderful experience and sharing the beautiful land you help to preserve." - Naomi Nishi
My experience on the Wildflower Tour was amazing. Our tour guide was Reema and she was very knowledgeable and very helpful. The variety of flowers was outstanding, one would think that Mother Nature was working over time. Thank you for allowing me to have such a unique experience. - James C. Burrow
I've been up to Tejon in previous years when the wildflowers were blooming, there was always something beautiful about it all. But, this year was simply "off the chain"! I was stunned, bedazzled, in awe. It surpassed all of my high expectations. - Louis Tucker