Superblooms — sometimes it seems like it’s all you’re hearing about these days. And unfortunately, while you’re hearing about the beautiful native wildflower displays and fields of stunning color, you’re probably also hearing about some of the negative side effects of these superbloom crowds: trampled plants, picked flowers, hillsides destroyed by user-created ‘trails.’ And all, it seems, “for the Gram.”
It can be a major bummer for people who care about the outdoors. Just a few days ago, I was wishing the whole idea of “superblooms” would just go away forever.
A casual browsing of some of the bloom locations or hashtags reveals a lot of very lovely photos that sadly also contain a lot of very bad outdoor behavior. People picking wildflowers for bouquets; people laying in, rolling on, and otherwise destroying the very plants whose beauty inspired them to travel there in the first place. Many times, it’s pretty clear these folks are well off the established trails — if trails exist at all.
If an influencer with a high number of followers post a photo of themselves rolling around in a beautiful orange carpet of California poppies and destroying or picking them (illegal on all public lands in California as well as on state and county rights of way according to California Penal Code Section 384a), there’s a pretty good chance they’re going to inspire some copycat behavior in their feeds. Following the 2017 superbloom, the after-effects were depressing to say the least, leading to trail and park closures and the destruction of untold amounts of prime habitat for California native plants and animals. In some places, people had destroyed the wildflowers so badly that the areas needed to be reinforced and replanted by hand.
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Neither Facebook nor Instagram currently has a way to report illegal activity such as this – despite sizable petitions asking them to do so … but that can be an imperfect solution, too. Other than things like graffiti and flagrant vandalism or rule violations, it can be tough to tell via a photograph if someone’s going off-trail or picking flowers or if it’s just a skillful use of angles and perhaps flowers grown in their own yards — not to mention that different states and different types of parks may have different laws surrounding these sorts of actions.
So … how do we, as people who enjoy both visiting and preserving these special places, try to combat this behavior? What is the best way to teach those values to people who may not understand exactly how fragile and important these wildflower blooms are?
I was sort of mulling this over a lot on our Instagram stories this weekend (they’re bookmarked under Wildflowers if you’d like to see) – and our friends at Grown in LA reached out with an idea: why not utilize a hashtag to help focus attention on this side of the superbloom craze and help promote responsible behavior in the outdoors? They pitched #nowildflowerswereharmed and I thought it was a great idea.
When you’re posting photos of wildflowers, I encourage you to use the hashtag #nowildflowerswereharmed when:
- You didn’t go off-trail to get the image
- You left the flowers and habitat as you found them
- You didn’t damage any other trails or habitat to get the image
- Ideally, you’re sharing this philosophy in the text of your post, too
You can also use #nowildflowerswereharmed when a certain angle might make it look like you did / are doing one of those things — which can serve as a nice way to help teach some of your followers ways to get incredible photos without having to destroy the very things you’re there to photograph.
We need to remember that these flowers are not here for our likes on social media. They are not here to make us look ‘natural’ or ‘earthy’ or to help our outdoor clothing or gear brands. These places are habitat, first and foremost. It’s food and shelter for hundreds of species, many of which are already under a whole lot of stress. If we want to enjoy incredible and inspiring wildflower displays like these in the future, we’ve got to step up and take better care of these places now.
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