The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

Poppies season not popping at Lancaster Poppy Reserve

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The hills never came alive.

Instead of carpets of orange-colored poppies, brown hills are plentiful at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, which has seen a zero percent bloom this year.

The number of visitors has plunged more than 90 percent, said Norman Lee, who works in park aid administration for California State Parks' Mojave sector office.

“Usually we get thousands of people coming in to see the poppies,” Lee said. “They fly in from the East Coast. They fly in from Japan. We get busloads of people from the Asian community coming up from the Los Angeles area and we haven’t seen any of that this year.”

In order to get a decent bloom, poppies need at least two or three inches of rain, Lee said. Last year, the area only received a half an inch of rain, resulting in dismal growth for poppies, he said.

At the Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, it has been four years that the poppies haven’t been in full bloom. Last year, the reserve had less than one percent of a normal bloom. In 2011 it was ten percent and in 2010 it was a 75 percent bloom, Lee added.

It costs $10 to park your car at the reserve. Lee expects that the park will only make $3,000 this fiscal year, compared to $15,000 in its last fiscal year.

The park will close at the end of the month, when normally it’s opened until Mother’s Day, Lee said. The visitor center is open only on weekends, instead of seven days a week, he added.

“If we’re lucky, we’ll get rain this winter. We’ll have poppies next spring,” Lee said. “If we’re not lucky, then we’ll have another dud next year and no poppies.”

In the meantime, Lee said visitors hoping to see poppies can view them in San Luis Obispo – about a three-hour drive north of L.A.

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