San Marcos,
01:26 AM

Ecologists Having a Field Day

By Andrew Reed

When you walk around campus this spring, you can see a noticeable pop of color thanks in no small part to the Southern California super bloom.

An unusually rainy winter and spring season has led to the local phenomenon that has resulted in nearly every hillside being painted with swaths of vibrant and delicate wildflowers. A special combination of environmental conditions coincided to produce this year’s mass showing.

“It’s not just the amount of rain, but how even and spaced out we received it,” said George Vourlitis, a biology professor and ecology researcher at Cal State San Marcos. “The last super bloom produced many seeds that form a seed bank that produces small blooms during the dry years and can produce a super bloom when the climatological conditions are right.”

This year, conditions were right. The colorful hills of California poppies could be seen from space, and droves of families and Instagram influencers alike have flocked to the desert and to local hot spots like Lake Elsinore to see and photograph the flowers.

Vourlitis is most excited by the impact that an event like the super bloom has on his students. He sees it as an opportunity to take what they’re learning in the classroom and what they’re seeing on social media and tie it into something familiar to them.

“Most people look around and say, ‘Geez, you know, the hillsides are just dead shrubs and weeds and it’s not very pretty,' " he said. “But it’s an extremely diverse environment, and the super bloom keys people into that.”

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