for wildflower identification
I can remember the first time I attempted to identify a wildflower in the bay area. Hunched over a lovely blue blossom in the woods of Russian Ridge, I paged through a field guide, with no success. There were too many choices. What I wanted was a guide that would show the more common flowers for the bay area. I haven't found such a source, and have created this list to help you identify flowers around the bay area.
Keep in mind that flowers arrive early in low elevations and persist on the highest hills, and that some blossoms have short lives, while others just keep blooming. Also, what you see depends on where you hike. The best wildflower displays are usually found in grassland parks and preserve. This is just a list of the most common annual flowers, and you'll likely come across more unusual blooms.
Milkmaids, trilliums, and Fremont's camas usually can be found in the woods or in partial shade, hound's tongue prefers deep woods, and buttercups thrive everywhere.
Mission bells (brown)
Shooting stars (purple)
Blue-eyed grass (blue-purple)
Irises (white also purple)
Wild radish (pastel shades)
Look for irises and mission bells in the shade, and shooting stars, creamcups, checker-bloom, blue-eyed grass, fiddleneck, mustard, wild radish, and suncups in the grass.
Lupines (blue, white, and yellow)
California poppy (orange)
Tidytips (white and yellow)
Popcorn flower (white)
Owl's clover (pink)
Woodland and prairie star (white)
Chinese houses (blue and white)
Cow parsnip (white)
Seek Chinese houses, cow parsnip, and woodland star in deep or partial shade, while the other flowers sprawl through grassland.
Mule ear sunflowers (yellow)
Mariposa lilies (yellow also white also tawny)
Fairy lanterns (yellow also white)
Ithuriel's spear (blue-purple)
Fairy lanterns and madias prefer woods, and all the rest can be found throughout the grassland.
I've had good luck with the following parks and preserves (your experience may vary, and I don't pretend to have visited every park at its peak).
East Bay: Sunol, Pleasanton, Morgan Territory, Mount Diablo, Briones, Black Diamond Mines, Chabot
North Bay: Phoenix Lake, Abbott's Lagoon, Chimney Rock
South Bay: Calero, Henry Coe, Edgewood, Monte Bello, Russian Ridge, Santa Teresa, San Bruno, Stile Ranch
Links and books:
Plants of the San Francisco Bay Region, by Eugene Kozloff and Linda Beidleman (order this book from Amazon.com).
Botanical Data Hosted at the Digital Library Project http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/photos/flora/
Wildflowers at Coe Park http://www.coepark.org/wildflowers/flower-album.html
California Academy of Sciences Wildflowers site http://www.calacademy.org/research/botany/wildflow/
California Wildflowers Hotsheet http://www.calphoto.com/wflower.htm