When I was a kid growing up on Potrero Hill, I called this place “the field” and it was my haven. Officially it’s the Starr King Open Space, and it’s a place of sublimity in the midst of the city. It’s also a fine example of serpentine grassland, a rare habitat that in these parts was largely displaced by wartime housing and general development.
The bluffs offer panoramic western views of sunsets and advection fog. Gray-green serpentine outcroppings make the soil especially suited to native plants: Despite the park’s small size (3.5 acres), at least 55 native species, including serpentine endemics, grow here.
The “high holies” are the western outcroppings where native flowers thrive — lomatium, checkerbloom, yarrow, and buckwheat bloom early. Come April and May, look for mariposa lilies (the last San Francisco population), goldfields, and dozens more. Elsewhere, lupines love the south field, buckeyes the north, and oaks and purple needlegrass grow throughout.
The neighborhood has maintained this property since 1984, and volunteers have removed fennel, yellow star thistle, radish, and more. Guided wildfower walks are planned for April 14, May 4, and June 16, 2013 (info: starrkingopenspace.org).
Getting there: Take Muni 48 Quintara from 24th Street bart, or 19 Polk from Civic Center. By car, exit 101 at Cesar Chavez, right on Potrero, right on 23rd Street, uphill to Carolina. No facilities.