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Where the wildflowers grow

Somewhere in the world there is a place where the wildflowers are so magnificent that it is i revered around the world as a botanist’s dream. This spot is so special that it is designated as one of only seven Areas of Global Botanical Significance in all of North America. It has even been proposed as a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve.

Now, what if I told you that you are sitting smack dab in the middle of it?

That’s right, the Klamath-Siskiyou (KS) region of Southern Oregon and Northern California is where the wildflowers grow!

Of course, once you know this, you would need to get out and explore these botanical wonders, right? It is spring after all, and it is time to see what all this talk of wildflowers is really about. The best news is that spring will be going on for quite a while. All you need to do is go up in elevation and you can experience spring as late as June in the high country.

But first, you need to know a little about the rich bounty of botanical wonders here in the KS. By the numbers: Nearly 3,500 plant species — and thousands of other mushroom, lichen and moss species — are found in the KS. But what really makes this region so unique are the many plants found here and nowhere else on earth. These are known as “endemic” species. All told there are at least 280 endemic plants in the KS!

But don’t forget our trees. The KS supports an unbelievable 36 different species of conifer, which is more than any other temperate forest in the world. Our endemic trees include the lacy Port-Orford cedar, juniper-like Baker’s cypress, and the weeping Brewer’s spruce.

You might be wondering: Why is this region home to so many botanical treasures? One reason is that it remained free from most glaciers during the last Ice Age, when much of the rest of the continent was under a sheet of ice. During that time, the KS acted as a refuge for plants otherwise displaced across North America.

The region’s history with fire has also contributed to a rich landscape that changes at nearly every bend in the trail. Add in our unique geology that gave rise to unique plants — especially the region’s serpentine landscapes with rock as old as 500 million years — and you have the recipe for a botanical wonderland.

If you have hiked through the KS, you are well familiar with this rich variety of life. As you explore the mountains you find deep woods, open savannas, and alpine environments. It is these varied habitats that give rise the wonderful diversity of life in this region.

OK, now it is time to get out and see first hand this botanical wonderland. There are ample opportunities coming up. You can join KS Wild to one of our hikes out in the Illinois Valley — this is an area that is home to some of the most diverse plant life in the region.

If you are looking for an all-day rugged hike into a wild remote area, check out Baldface Creek, from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, June 23, in the South Kalmiopsis.

Photo from kswild.orgGet out into to see the wildflowers this spring. The Illinois Valley is a great place to witness the wildflowers of the Klamath-Siskiyou.