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Urban wildflowers in Los Angeles

April 15, 2011 | 12:29 pm

California_poppy_five_freeway
Each spring thousands of Angelenos leave the city in search of the wildflower displays of Anza Borrego, Death Valley and the Antelope Valley. But wildflowers permeate our urban landscape as well -- popping up along freeways and in abandoned lots and sidewalk cracks -- providing car commuters and pavement pushers a colorful reminder of spring.

Two L.A. Times staffers recently set out to find wildflowers in and around the city. They hit some of the showier spots -- the bright yellow and white Coreopsis fields along Ballona Creek in Playa del Rey and the spectacular Lupine displays in Griffith Park. But they also shot Wild Canterbury Bells along the L.A. River and a bouquet of poppies in an empty lot in the middle of downtown.

Lupine Of course, the question came up: What actually counts as a wildflower? Would we choose only natives? The answer is no. Ann Croissant, author of “Wildflowers of the San Gabriel Mountains” and co-founder of the San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancy, suggested a broad definition: A wildflower is any flower that you see in wild land areas. So we kept the photos of the non-native wild radish and some of the sunflowers in an abandoned lot in Chinatown. “If anyone has a problem with it, you send them to me,” she added.

We asked Croissant what characteristics a plant has to have to survive in our urban environment. “The successful plants are highly adaptable, very flexible, able to handle extremes and very opportunistic,” she said.

Sounds like Angelenos and their wildflowers have a lot in common.

Take a look at our photos of urban wildflowers and then tell us about the great places we missed. And if you have any photos of wildflowers in and around L.A., please upload them to our reader photo gallery.

-- Deborah Netburn

Top photo: California Poppies along the 5 Freeway. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times Bottom photo: Lupine in Los Angeles Historic Park. Credit: Jason La / Los Angeles Times


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