Long winter means Sierra Nevada wildflowers are just now bursting into bloom | NevadaAppeal.com

Long winter means Sierra Nevada wildflowers are just now bursting into bloom

Melinda Hunter
Nevada Appeal News Service

Growing to about a foot high, mountain buttercup can be found in moist, shady areas.

After an extended winter fraught with deep snow and chilly temperatures, Mother Nature has greeted the Lake Tahoe Basin area with an abundant gift of bursting wildflowers.

“The whole hillside comes alive with color because the wildflowers begin to cover the land like a colorful carpet,” said Don Lane, naturalist with the U.S. Forest Service.

Growth of the native wildflowers happens throughout the Sierra Nevada in the spring and summer, with the peak blooming season usually beginning in early to mid-July.

However, with the heavy precipitation this year, the peak should occur around late July or even early August, Lane said.

Not only do weather conditions play a role as to when wildflowers peak, but the elevation has its effect as well. The higher the elevation, the later the blooms occur, especially in the higher mountain ranges where the grip of winter has not yet let up.

To view the variety and abundance of the blooming and colorful wildflowers, Lake Tahoe provides several options including multiple hiking trails.

While any trail can offer a potential gift for the eyes, there are five top hiking trails to take to experience this wonder of Mother Nature:

• The Rainbow Trail, located off Highway 89 next to the Lake Tahoe Visitor’s Center at Camp Richardson, offers an array of wildflowers including wooly mule’s ear, Indian paintbrush, lupine, sulfur plant, corn lily, salsify, Sierra onion, and cinquefoil varieties.

• Lake of the Sky Trail, also located near the Lake Tahoe Visitor’s Center at Camp Richardson, displays much of the same varieties as the Rainbow Trail but also includes the serviceberry variety and offers great views of the lake.

• Meeks Bay Trail, located off Highway 89, north of D.L. Bliss State Park, follows along the bay where lupine, Indian paintbrush, and cinquefoil bloom.

• Cathedral Meadow, off the West Shore of Fallen Leaf Lake off Highway 89, exhibits bitterbrush, long-stem wall flowers, and buttercups, along with the other common varieties.

• The shoreline hike between Mount Tallac Historical Site and the Lake Tahoe Visitor’s Center at Camp Richardson reveals the Tahoe watercress, buttercups, and later in the season, evening primrose.

For those hoping to bring the beauty of local wildflowers to their yards, California poppies, lupine, blue flax, wall flowers, Indian blankets, larkspur, columbine, and mountain penstemon are all recommended varieties when land-scaping the yard. Each of these varieties bloom throughout the summer.