Novato where, in good rainfall years, thousands of mariposa lilies create a golden carpet among
the grasses, while bulbs of purple Ithuriel’s spear light up the edges of the woodland canopy.
When winter rains green up protected meadows on Mount Tam and Mount Burdell, native
treasures hidden during the dry season come to life as interwoven species of geophytes, perennials and annual wildflowers burst into a riot of color. The show starts with poppies, creamcups,
and blue dicks in spring, then slowly segues to blue-eyed grass, yarrow, lupines and shooting
stars, until late summer when soap lilies and tarweeds perfume the warm air. Many locals enjoy
hiking during this time to witness a field of wildflowers, alive with pollinators intent on making
the most of the floral bounty. At dusk, hawks, coyote and gray fox hunt for dinner, reducing the
rodent population while filling their stomachs for the night.
Close to the coast, another type of grassland occurs at Chimney Rock overlooking Drakes
Estero, where huge drifts of purple Douglas iris can be spotted. On your walk there, stop and
look closely; there are more than 60 species of other wildflowers also growing on that exposed
stretch of coast. Many dedicated nature-lovers make an annual trek to the serpentine outcrops
on Mount Burdell, where the large, pink, cactus-like flowers of bitterroot almost smother the
tiny plants when in bloom. Here also, sharp eyes can spot the purple-flowered stalks of western
larkspur among the grasses.
Thanks to the dedicated efforts of a group of far-sighted individuals, 75 percent of Marin
County has been preserved as open space. To enjoy these habitats, we need only take one of the
many trails throughout the county. So lace up your hiking shoes and head out the door — it’s time
to see what beauties you can spot. m
leaf mule’s ears
the state grass of
California, at Mount
Tamalpais State Park.