Wildflower Day reveals Pacheco State Park’s hidden plants to locals

Pacheco State Park educates visitors on seasonal flora during annual Wildflower Day

Visitors hike paths lined with wildflowers during the Pacheco State Park annual Wildflower Day in Hollister, Calif., on Saturday, April 1, 2017.
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Visitors hike paths lined with wildflowers during the Pacheco State Park annual Wildflower Day in Hollister, Calif., on Saturday, April 1, 2017.

Residents tall and small got a taste of the more than 525 different plant species Saturday at Pacheco State Park during its 14th annual Wildflower Day.

Groups of about 20 people hiked through the park’s two-mile wildflower trail as guides pointed out the different plants, trees and wildlife that inhabit the expanse.

Pacheco State Park interpreter Jennifer Morgan said the goal of Wildflower Day, since its inception, was to bring people up to the state park.

“Most of Los Banos has never been here,” Morgan said, adding that many think of the local park off Pacheco Boulevard and Seventh Street in the city rather than the diverse state park when they hear “Pacheco Park.”

In addition to the wildflower hike, organizations including the California Native Plant Society, state Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Parks, Local Bird Club and Dark Sky Association set up stands for information and activities such as arts and crafts. Visitors also enjoyed a bird walk in the morning.

During one of the tours, retired state park ranger Dave Milam educated hikers from around the Los Banos and Gilroy areas about various micro-habitats and plants along the path, such as chickweed, butter and eggs, California buttercup and milkweed.

He also explained to them how plants, such as poison oak and miner’s lettuce, were used by Native Americans.

“The hills were like a grocery store for Native Americans,” Milam told the group.

Among the hikers were five Brownies from Girl Scout Troop 1139 in Los Banos.

“It’s fun to be here, out of bed, not be in the house all day,” 8-year-old Stella Thivierge said.

Julianne Gurgen, 8, said the trail was unique and that she wanted to learn about the different plants she couldn’t see near home.

“I just like being outside,” said 8-year-old Daijah Young. “We get to learn about flowers and have fun.”

Milam said the recent rains have yielded a much more colorful trail path than usual this year, adding that the best time to check out the park’s plants and views is in April.

“Once you get over the hill, it’s no civilization,” Milam said, noting that the noise from the highway and people gets overshadowed by bird chirps and other sounds of nature.

Morgan said that while Wildflower Day occurs once every year, Pacheco State Park is holding guided wildflower walks along the same trail every Saturday in April from 10 a.m. to noon.

Advance registration is needed for groups of 10 or more people, and the entrance fee is $10 per vehicle, which will also allow entry to the San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay. Anyone interested can call 209-826-1196 or email for more information.

Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562