OROVILLE, Calif. — The wildflowers are in bloom on Table Mountain, and the hills above Oroville are bursting with color for just a few weeks of the year.
This 3,300 acre North Table Mountain Reserve is a product of an ancient lava flow. The basalt mesa towers over the city of Oroville. For most plants this rock is uninviting, but botanist Samanta Hillaire says native wildflowers thrive here.
"You think it would be terrible to grow here, but the plants like the little bit of soil between the rocks," says Hillaire, who wrote a book on Table Mountain wildflowers.
From the beginning of March to the end of April, wildflowers blanket the basalt rocks in a vibrant variety of color.
"I want to say something like 600 flower varieties. Most are super tiny and you don’t notice," Hillaire says.
She says the ones you do not notice right away are called "belly flowers," because you have to be on your belly to see them. But big or small, everything on this rock mesa is fighting for a place to grow.
The kaleidoscope of color is a photographer's playground, but the flowers aren’t just here for your Instagram page. They attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.
"Those flowers are a signal to pollinators that, 'Hey there is something to eat,'" Hillaire says.
The only reason these flowers can grow is because of rainwater trapped inside the porous rocks.
"It holds all the water and slowly releases it during the spring," Hillaire says. "And that’s why we have all the waterfalls."
During the wet season, Table Mountain is gushing with life. Hiking a little over five miles will get you to Coal Creek and Phantom Falls, where along the way it’s not uncommon to spot frogs or even the occasional newt in the streams and vernal pools.
"During the winter you get lots of life, but then it dries up, and dries up, and dries up," Hillaire says.
Wildflower season on Table Mountain doesn’t last long, and when it’s gone it's gone. Visitors typically have until the end of April to experience it.
BEFORE YOU GO: Be sure to check the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife website for information on purchasing passes.
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