Wildflower Festival Draws Outdoor Enthusiasts to Sunol

Enjoy the magnificent and vibrant colors of wildflowers in April when Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness hosts its annual Sunol Spring Wildflower Festival.

The festival features a variety of hikes and fun activities from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturday, April 12.

"It celebrates spring and the wonderful displays of wildflowers we have that time of year," naturalist Cat Taylor said. "Sunol wilderness is known for its wildflower displays."

The regional park has a unique geology that makes the area ripe for fantastic displays of wildflowers.

"We are along the Calaveras fault line," Taylor explained. "Along fault lines, we are going to get a lot of serpentine (rock and soil) outcrops. It makes it so that non-native wildflowers and grasses don't grow well there. You only get these pure stands of native wildflowers."

Serpentine, the state rock of California, is rich in some nutrients and lacking in others. As the rock approaches the surface, it breaks down into dirt that has the same composition of nutrients. It's those nutrients that make Sunol's wildflowers so spectacular.

"You'll be standing on a hillside that's completely pink and purple and looking across at a hillside that's completely yellow," Taylor said. "You'll know those are the serpentine outcrops."

The diversity of habitats in the regional park also contributes to the incredible variety of wildflowers that bloom every spring. Flowers crop up along streams, in grasslands, on dry chaparrals and in oak savannahs.

"At Sunol, we have such a variety of habitats that you get a lot of different varieties of plants that grow," Taylor noted. "The poppies are already out. Some species come out early and some come out later."

Naturalists have been studying the region's wildflowers for more than 50 years, keeping track of peak bloom times.

"People always ask when the wildflowers are blooming," Taylor said. "It always seemed to peak around the second week of April, so that seemed to be the best time to put on the festival."

Nature lovers can get up close and personal with a potpourri of plants through several hikes offered on festival day. There will be a butterfly walk and a wildflower sketch hike. Hikers on the ethnobotany route will learn about the many uses for plants. The longest trek, 3 miles round trip, takes hikers all the way to the park's famed Little Yosemite area.

The musical group Extended Roots will play bluegrass throughout the day. A variety of exhibitors and vendors will be on hand to provide information and sell local goods, such as olive oil and honey.

"We have something for everybody," Taylor noted. "Families come out and there are so many things for the kids to do with crafts and hikes. People who want to experience the wildflowers with a guide will learn more about the area. It's a great opportunity to take advantage of that."

The festival is free, but there is a $5 parking fee. Parking is limited; please carpool. No food will be sold at the event, so people are encouraged to pack a picnic lunch. The hike schedule will be released one week before the festival. For more information, call 510-544-3249 or email svisit@ebparks.org.

Visit ebparks.org/parks/sunol for more information about Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness and directions to the park.

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