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The Compost: 🌻 Where to find wildflowers 🌼

Welcome to The Compost, a weekly newsletter on key environmental news impacting Southern California. Subscribe now to get it in your inbox! In today’s edition…

While final results from Tuesday’s primary elections are still being tabulated, voting is over and some races have already been called.

Wildflower Watch 2024, on the other hand, is just beginning.

Conditions that are becoming more common due to climate change are now paving the way for more frequent and concentrated wildflower seasons. It’s still too early to say whether we’ll have “superblooms” in Southern California this spring. But some areas are already seeing impressive displays. So I talked with experts about what to expect, where to visit and how to leave no trace along the way. Click here to read that story and to get ideas for where and when to go to see this phenomena for yourself.

Some Southern Californians are welcoming lovely displays of native flowering plants into their own yards this spring. And for Kristin Joseph of Glendora, efforts to transform her yard into a drought-tolerant haven for pollinators has been paying dividends.

Last month, a hummingbird that’s typically found in canyons of Mexico and southern Arizona started regularly visiting Joseph’s front yard. As word spread, people started traveling for hours to spot “BB,” a nickname for the broad-billed hummingbird that’s considered a “lifer” for many birders to check off their bucket lists.

Interested in saving yourself a trip to chase fields of flowers or lifer birds like BB? Audubon has an online database of native plants for birds where people can enter their zip codes and get advice about what to plant to lure particular visitors to their own yards.

Areas where native plants are allowed to flourish can attract wide varieties of insects, birds and other wildlife that count on these plants to thrive. But Joan Dudney, a professor at UC Santa Barbara who studies how California ecology is changing, told me anytime wild areas start to welcome droves of human visitors, wildlife tends to stay away. That’s why she’d love to see some wildflowers areas carefully managed for public access, so we can all appreciate and enjoy the blossoms, and other spots inaccessible, so they can support local wildlife and produce seeds for future blooms.

If you (responsibly) capture any great wildflower displays in coming weeks, tag me on XInstagram or Facebook so I can help share them! Happy hunting, Composters. Hope to see some of you out there!

— By Brooke Staggs, environment reporter


Help for Seal Beach trash problem: Orange County funds will help Seal Beach pay for a year of cleaning and raking services aimed at helping to keep trash from flushing down the San Gabriel River, onto local sand and into the ocean. Laylan Connelly and Destiny Torres report the first stage of funding should kick off a long-term project to reduce the problem. …READ MORE…

  • Quote: “We look forward to having clean beaches after a storm for a change.”

New kind of smuggler busted: In a first, a San Diego man is accused of smuggling canisters of a banned, planet -warming refrigerant, for use in outdated refrigerators and air-conditioners, from Mexico. Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times has the tale. …READ MORE…


Desal in spotlight: A south Orange County water district may buy rights to water from a controversial desalination plant in Carlsbad in a first-of-its-kind swap. Leaders told me they hope it will stabilize supplies for O.C., stabilize prices for San Diego and inspire more desal deals. But if the comments I got from readers are any indication, there is lots of skepticism among residents. …READ MORE…

Ski resorts take climate hit: I wrote a story last month looking at how snowfall levels are declining due to global warming and asking whether Southern California’s ski resorts can survive climate change. Now the Associated Press has a story on a new study that says U.S. ski areas lost $5 billion from 2000 to 2019 as a result of human-caused climate change. And the study says they could lose around $1 billion annually in the 2050s, depending on how much emissions are reduced. …READ MORE…

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Surfliner rides again: Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner restarted limited passenger rail service through San Clemente on Wednesday, nearly two months after a landslide destroyed a popular coastal pedestrian bridge in the area and threatened the rail tracks. Laylan Connelly has the story. …READ MORE…

Another hit for green vehicles: Our Jon Lasner reports on another victim of the green-vehicle slump, as a Jurupa Valley bus factory responsible for providing low- and zero-emission vehicles for various communities shuts down, taking 425 jobs with it. …READ MORE…


Hope for rare sea stars: There are so few sunflower sea stars remaining, researchers don’t think there are enough for them to find each other on their own to reproduce. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the species is getting a helping hand from humans, with Laylan Connelly reporting promising early results. …READ MORE…

Grant to boost local water supplies: More than $11 million in new federal funding is helping a south Orange County water district with two projects that should help keep some urban runoff from going into the ocean. Erika Ritchie has the story. …READ MORE…

A ladder helps hikers navigate Painted Canyon in Mecca, near the Salton Sea. (Photo by Brooke Staggs, Orange County Register/SCNG)
A ladder helps hikers navigate Painted Canyon in Mecca, near the Salton Sea. (Photo by Brooke Staggs, Orange County Register/SCNG)


Painted Canyon time: It’s a great time of year to tackle the Painted Canyon, a.k.a. Ladder Canyon, hike in Mecca, near the Salton Sea. The highlight of this hike is the deep, narrow slot canyon that stretches for about a half mile, with ladders along the way to get you through the toughest parts. It doesn’t have the colors of Antelope Canyon, but the formations and depth are well worth the trek. To get there, you have to drive four miles on a rough dirt road, hike a quarter mile up a sandy riverbed, watch for an arrow made of rocks to mark the path and navigate some challenging ladders. Make sure you come prepared with steady footwear, lots of water, etc. Definitely don’t plan on doing this in summer or even shoulder seasons, since it gets scorching out there. And make sure there’s no rain in the forecast, since canyons like these are always subject to flash flooding.


Volunteer in O.C.: For this week’s tip on how Southern Californians can help the environment… With spring around the corner, there are loads of opportunities to help beautify and maintain the thousands of acres of preserved wildlands around Orange County. Our Heather McRea talked with some of the organizations and volunteers doing this work. Click here for the story, which includes links to ways to get involved.

Thanks for reading, Composters! And don’t forget to sign up to get The Compost delivered to your inbox.

Source: Orange County Register

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