In the Third Spring After the Morgan Fire, Just Add Water to Mount Diablo for Flowers

April 15, 2016
Photos by Joan Hamilton

This article is part of Bay Nature’s in-depth coverage of the ecological recovery of Mount Diablo following the 2013 Morgan Fire. For all the articles in our series, go to baynature.org/diablo
Looking for the best spot to find wildflowers this spring? Our experts weigh in here.
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Y

ou can’t beat Mount Diablo for resurgence of leafy green life in springtime. But this year is special because it’s the third spring after the 2013 Morgan Fire.

The first two springs offered some of the mountain’s best wildflower displays in recent memory. In early April, Bay Nature went back to the fire zone to check out the third spring.

With 38 inches of rain at the top of the mountain since last summer, the bloom has been great all over the mountain. And in the fire zone, blue dicks are rampant, and scarlet larkspur …

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… Indian paintbrush …

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… bush sunflower and lupine—and much more.

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Here’s how North Peak looked in September 2013, right after the flames died down.

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And here’s how it looks today, in April of 2016.

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Here’s what a walk on the Perkins Trail was like after the fire:

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And here’s what it’s like now:

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Even Perkins Meadow tells a dramatic tale. Here’s 2013:

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And here’s 2016:

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The oaks skirting the meadow are recovering nicely.

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Though some of them look a little strange, as they leaf out from their trunks and major branches instead of their toasted twigs.

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Chamise, the mountain’s dominant chaparral species, is coming on strong. (Along with soap plant, in this photo.)

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But that has still left room for flowers. Here’s an endemic Mount Diablo globe lily.

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And here are some whispering bells.They’re one of 17 “fire-following” plants found by researchers after the 2013 blaze. (Fire followers germinate in response to the heat, smoke, or char of a fire.) Their tiny yellow flowers covered whole chaparral hillsides in 2014 and 2015, but they are on the wane now.

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Another fire follower, Kellogg’s climbing snapdragon, is still around, too. Before the 2013 fire, it hadn’t been seen on the mountain for 80 years.

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Almost everywhere you look, what was once black is rich with life.

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Don’t miss it.

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Joan Hamilton is an environmental writer and editor who produces Audible Mount Diablo, a series of mobile audio tours. Click on “Perkins Canyon” for her post-fire tour of the area.

About the Author

Joan Hamilton is a Bay Area environmental writer and
editor who enjoys hiking, camping, and kayaking in
California state parks. She was formerly chief editor at High Country News, Climbing, and Sierra magazines. She produces mobile audio tours for people who want to learn more about Bay Area nature.

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