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Are you looking for wildflowers? This fanciful hotline can assist you in discovering the finest ones.
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Are you looking for wildflowers? This fanciful hotline can assist you in discovering the finest ones.

For those from California, it is a tradition in spring to go in search of the annual bursts of colorful wildflowers that cover the dry shrublands, hillsides, and desert landscapes like a kaleidoscope.

The Theodore Payne Wild Flower Hotline has been assisting for 41 years in directing individuals on their floral expeditions. To discover the most flourishing and plentiful flowers in the area, those searching for wildflowers in southern California can call (818) 768-1802, ext 7, for advice.

In early March, when you call, you will hear a beautiful voice informing you that just north of Los Angeles, the arrival of warmer days is slowly awakening the spring wildflowers from their sleepy state.

At this point in the season, the Sierra woodlands are showcasing red and white flowers, resembling beacons, in the dark shade under oak trees. This is also seen in the Placerita Canyon, located north of Los Angeles, where popcorn flowers and fuchsia flower gooseberries, along with accompanying hummingbirds, can be enjoyed.

Guidance and playful ideas spanning decades.

Since its inception in 1983, the hotline has been active year-round, receiving approximately 25,000 phone calls annually. In addition, an additional 150,000 individuals tune in online as well. The hotline is most active during early March and slows down as the flowers fade away in early summer, with weekly updates provided.

This season, due to a very rainy winter throughout the state, there is a hopeful abundance of vibrant plant life, attracting numerous visitors to popular locations like Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The park is known for its arrival of purple and white flowers, which have just recently begun to appear. Another notable destination is Carrizo Plain National Monument in central California, which turns into a colorful display after the rainy season.

The Thomas Payne Wild Flower hotline is managed by a non-profit organization with the same name. It not only informs callers about the largest flowers in bloom, but also highlights colorful clusters of flowers throughout the area. The hotline offers advice on which trails to follow and their level of difficulty. Additionally, it may offer reflections on the fleeting and ever-changing joys of the natural environment.

Person with camera crouches and looks into lens in a field of flowersView image in fullscreen

The service has endured for 40 years, spanning both rainy and dry seasons and multiple technological advancements. In the 1990s, there was a brief period where individuals could receive updates via fax. Today, updates are also available through a Spotify playlist.

Joe Spano, an Emmy Award-nominated actor who provides the weekly monologues, described the wildflower hotline as both adorable and remarkable. He noted that it serves as a means for human interaction between individuals who share an interest in wildflowers.

The hotline is just one of the many hotlines dedicated to wildflower information in the state, most of which are managed by state or national parks. However, the Theodore Payne hotline stands out because it provides updates from various state and national parks, as well as local preserves and other public spaces. Additionally, it adds a touch of creativity and playfulness.

The report from 22 March indicates that Poppy Hill, a popular spot for viewing, is currently creating its usual display of gold and blue from blooming poppies and sky lupines.

The person studying plants and the performer

Each week, botanist Lorrae Fuentes diligently creates these sentences. She has been responsible for the hotline for 13 years and is humble when it comes to her writing. “I simply record my observations and turn them into a story,” she shared.

Every week, she collects notes and pictures from various naturalists in the area – including volunteers, friends, biology graduate students, and enthusiastic hikers – and combines them into a written piece, which she then shares with Spano.

Man wearing glasses and black sweatshirt sits at a table in front of a laptop and microphoneView image in fullscreen

Spano, known for his memorable performances on cop shows such as Hill Street Blues and NCIS, has been providing the voice for the hotline since the beginning of the 2000s. He takes care of recording the messages from his personal office located in a Santa Monica mountain home surrounded by a beautifully cultivated landscape of native plants, a project that he and his family have devotedly worked on.

From there, he is able to access his “wildflower voice”.

He expressed his desire for a delightful and informative tone, akin to the beauty of wildflowers in sight.

The process is very unlike his usual performances. Normally, as he reads a script, he might try to get in the mind of his character, to access his humanity. But the blooms are not human, he said: “These wildflowers are more powerful than what we do as human beings. They are more powerful than our art.”

Spano is partial to the California peonies – with their drooping maroon and crimson blooms that he describes as “shy” because of how they look down to the ground, like the awkward kid at a middle school dance. And he loves the “grape soda” lupine that smells, as suggested, uncannily like the deep-purple, from-concentrate beverage.

The hotline for wildflowers reminds individuals to remain on designated paths and tread with caution. Fuentes does not disclose any sightings of endangered or rare species and avoids using the term “superbloom” to prevent promoting overwhelming tourism that has caused some regions to restrict visitors completely. However, she also aims for the hotline to encourage more people to explore nature, gain a deeper appreciation for landscapes, and work towards preserving them.

Deep, wide valley covered with orange flowers, with a handful of figures along a trail in the middle.View image in fullscreen

In years of intense drought, when the majority of wildflowers stayed dormant beneath the surface, she has occasionally faced difficulty in gathering updates. However, she has never missed a week.

Fuentes is fond of the lupines, of which there are 82 different species in the state. She especially delights in seeing them bloom alongside the California poppies, creating a vibrant mixture of orange and blue. Fuentes explains, “The combination of gold and blue is so quintessentially ‘California’. It’s like the state’s name is being shouted out.” However, she admits to having a love for all of the native wildflowers in the state and finds it difficult to choose a favorite. She compares it to asking a parent to pick their favorite child.

Source: theguardian.com