Wildflower resources

April 1, 2002

Books and Other References

This small selection of wildflower guides lists those that are most useful for wildflower watchers in the Bay Area. Some of these books have been in continuous publication for decades, a good measure of their usefulness and popularity. Unless otherwise noted, they are available through local bookstores that feature books on natural history.

California Spring Wildflowers, Philip A. Munz, University of California Press, 1961.

This is the original California spring wildflower book for the layperson. It focuses on the most common spring wildflowers throughout the state, with entries arranged by flower color. Each entry includes a description of the flower, where and when it blooms, and, for most, a line drawing or photograph.

88 California Wildflower Locations, Carol Leigh, Picture This, P.O. Box 310, Nevada City, CA 95959, 1998.

This guide to great California wildflower viewing locations includes 17 Bay Area spots. It provides information about the flowers and other features of each site, when to go, and how to get there. It is available through the author’s web site (, by mail from the author, and in a few local bookstores.

Flowers of Point Reyes National Seashore, Roxanna S. Ferris, University of California Press, 1970.

Dozens of wildflowers and grasses of the Point Reyes Peninsula are arranged by plant family in this book. For those unfamiliar with plant classification, the plants are also indexed by flower color. Each entry includes a description and a line drawing.

Spring Wildflowers of the San Francisco Bay Region, Helen K. Sharsmith, University of California Press, 1965.

This book is most useful for those with some knowledge of plant classification. Three hundred species of spring-blooming Bay Area wildflowers are arranged by plant family following a descriptive key for identification. Each entry includes a description as well as bloom time and habitat information; many also include line drawings or color photos.

100 Roadside Napa County Wildflowers, Jake Ruygt and Richards Lyon, Stonecrest, 1996.

Pocket-sized but full of information, this guide presents 100 of Napa County’s most common wildflowers. Entries are arranged by flower color with a photo and description, including bloom time, for each.

Pacific States Wildflowers, (A Peterson Field Guide), Theodore F.Niehaus and Charles L. Ripper, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976.

If want just one book for identifying wildflowers in the Bay Area (as well as the western U.S.), this is it. Almost 1500 wildflower species from British Columbia to Baja California and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean are arranged by flower color. Each entry includes a description and line drawing or color illustration, as well as bloom time, geographic range, and habitat information.

Wildflowers of the San Francisco Bay Area: An Interactive Guide for PC and Mac, Dianne Fristrom, John Game, and Glenn Keator, 1998.

This user-friendly CD-ROM guide includes photos and descriptions of more than 380 wildflowers in the nine Bay Area counties; a quick key for easy identification; 14 suggested flower hikes throughout the Bay Area; as well as a glossary, resources, and printable field notes and hike directions. It is available from the California Native Plant Society ( or 916-447-2677) and in selected bookstores.

Web Sites and Hotlines

These are a few useful web sites for finding out where to go to see wildflowers and then finding out what you have seen.


This site provides an extensive electronic library of photos and other information on thousands of California native plants.

California Wildflower Hotsheet

Photographers and other wildflower watchers report their sightings to writer/photographer Carol Leigh, who posts them on this extensive, up-to-the minute list and description of wildflower displays throughout California.

California Wildflowers

On this web site, you can look up photos and descriptions of over 125 California wildflowers by color, common name, Latin name, or plant family.

Walks and Classes

Many nature organizations and open space agencies offer wildflower walks and classes. Here are a few that do so on a regular and frequent basis. (Please contact us if you know of others to include.)

California Native Plant Society

Local chapters offer many wildflower walks during the spring; nonmembers are always welcome. To find a specific chapter, consult the statewide office at or (916) 447-2677.

East Bay Regional Park District

EBRPD offers an extensive schedule of activities (many free of charge) focusing on natural history, recreation, cultural history, and education in its parklands throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Many in the springtime focus on the wildflowers growing on the District’s lands., (510) 635-0135

Greenbelt Alliance

This regional conservation organization offers one or two free walks each weekend from March through May to look at wildflower displays at different Bay Area open space locations.,, (415) 255-3233

Jepson Herbarium Public Programs, University of California, Berkeley

The Jepson Herbarium, which concentrates on California native plants, offers a series of in-depth weekend workshops on botanical and ecological subjects, some suitable for the novice., (510) 643-7008

Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District

MPROSD offers docent-led hikes throughout the year in its Peninsula parklands focusing on a wide range of natural history topics, including wildflowers in springtime., (650) 691-1200

Point Reyes National Seashore Association Field Seminars

This organization dedicated to educating the public about the natural world of Point Reyes offers an extensive range of natural history-related hikes and seminars at the National Seashore., (415) 663-1200

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