By Maya Agarwal and Olivia Foster, Print Feature Editor and Print Arts Editor
// After a long winter of heavy rain, bright pigments flood the East Bay hills with thick clusters of sprouts and posies.
After Spring Break, students returned to a colorful campus full of blooming flowers and trees as one of California’s rainiest recent winter seasons brought on a superbloom.
A superbloom is a rare botanical occurrence in California that causes an influx of dormant wildflower seeds to spring up in mass. For over a century, California has encountered statewide, multi-year droughts. However, over the past 2022-2023 winter season, an El Niño year occurred, which is a phenomenon when the equatorial Pacific becomes warmer than normal and influences a global climate change. This caused inactive seeds to germinate and bloom extensively throughout the state.
“When we talk about superblooms in California, we are primarily talking about mass blooms of native, annual plants. By that, we mean that these plant species are native to California and adapted to the local environment as well as the local patterns of weather, seasons and climate,” California botanist and PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkely, in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management Raphaela Floreani Buzbee said.
Annual flowers and grasses play a crucial role in shrubland ecosystems by increasing biodiversity. This allows the ecosystem to expand its autotroph selection to a wider spread of its community’s species, particularly the pollinator population.
“Having this diversity of flowers is really important to have a healthy thriving ecosystem [and one] that is more resilient and has a higher likelihood of being able to survive through our coming climate changes that are bound to happen at this point,” Science department co-chair and AP Environmental Science teacher Jada Paniagua said.
Superblooms are a rare occurrence in California, so much so that when they occur they have a significant impact on people across the state.
“The superbloom is another one of those awe-inspiring things where it’s like a highlighter blanket over these hills and it’s so beautiful it gets at you and challenges your perspective… it makes you feel energized and content and satisfied,” Acalanes Psychology teacher Nader Jazayeri said.
Although the transition from winter to spring usually contrasts in colors and feelings, the extended and rainy winter that California experienced this year created a more noticeable difference in season.
“I think that the superbloom, with all the flowers and everything that’s in bloom right now has definitely had a positive impact on campus because it’s starting to feel more like summer, the sun is out, and it makes me feel happy,” junior Alexandra Van de Poel said.
Despite the beauty that surrounds the Lafayette community and greater Bay Area during the superbloom, high school students are pegged with the stress of end-of-the-year exams, college decisions, and general school work. By going outside, students and the greater community can experience the superbloom and relieve some of the stress that plagues their lives.
“If we were to get outside, on a hike, looking at the superbloom, with some friends, it’s guaranteed you’re going to feel so much better. Sometimes… the motivation is, my Instagram’s going to look so cool, … [But I think] it should be more intentional than that. If you get outside and you get that really cool picture, that’s great, but the point is get outside [and] enjoy nature,” Jazayeri said.
Recently, traveling to superbloom sites and posting images of the flowers on social media became a popular trend amongst Californians. However, many forget that staying on the path is vital to the fragile nature of these plants.
“If people want to go out to these sites, [they should] be careful to not destroy these flowers…If you’re going to lay in the flowers, it can kill them, so just be mindful of knowing your space in the environment and try not to damage the ecosystem,” senior Mary Laska said, “You can enjoy it, just [don’t] destroy it for others and … for the habitat.”
In order to protect these flower colonies, nature sites sporadically place signs, exclusively during superbloom seasons, requesting onlookers to keep the trail information private.
“The signs [say] not [to] post on social media [and] not [to] post the location. I’ve seen [them] at a few places because they don’t want too many people coming from around the Bay Area because people do. They’ll make a trip out to certain locations,” Asaravala said.
Despite the remarkable locations scattered around the Bay Area, known for their views of the superbloom, there is no need to spend time in the car to find the perfect spot. The superbloom is everywhere around the community, and students are appreciating it close to home.
“In my backyard, the flowers are starting to bloom and we just have a bunch of white roses, so, I always love it when the flowers come out,” Van de Poel said.
As seasons fade into one another and spring turns into summer, the sun that sprouted flowers from the Earth continues to uplift spirits around the community.
“The sun is out and everybody’s in a much better mood right now, so it definitely has an effect, and right now is a really fun time of year, you know, the end of the year, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s getting brighter every day and we know we’re going to make it,” Jazayeri said.