Big Bear

‘Belly Plants of the Pebble Plains' May Sound Sci-Fi, but the Big Bear Buds Are Real

This is not a "Star Trek" episode: The tiny flora are only found in this one rocky (and very real) spot.

Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve

What to Know

  • Belly Plant season has begun in the San Bernardino Mountains
  • Visitors can join a free wildflower walk (select April and May 2023 dates)
  • Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve near Big Bear Lake

POKING ABOUT DISTANT GALAXIES, the sort of vast spaces you reach by engaging warp drive with the sole purpose of finding some of the most fantastical flora in existence? It's the sort of mission a science-loving "Star Trek" character might take on as part of a comical but thrilling storyline. Of course, in a fictional realm, those space flowers might talk or wage battle or pilot spaceships, making it unlikely we'd ever find such strange specimens on our own planet. But there are wonderfully weird growing things all around us, and even if they don't spring from a sci-fi plot, we can still pause to appreciate their unusualness and beauty. Take the Belly Plants of the Pebble Plains, which seems very much like a title that should appear on a colorful '60s-era dime-store paperback, the sort of speculative novel rife with alien life. But Belly Plants are real, they're here on Earth, and they're only found in one place: a pebbly expanse of the San Bernardino Mountains.

DO BELLY PLANTS BANTER, quip, or pilot spaceships? They do not, but that makes them no less impressive for the diminutive flowers pop up among pebbles, displaying true durability. The Pebble Plains make up a "... 92-square mile area (that) exhibits a type of soil found nowhere else in the world," says a team representing the Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve, where the flowers may be found, albeit for a limited time each spring. They're blooming now, as they often do in late April and May, and they're looking gorgeous from all the copious amounts of wintertime rain. Want to hike these mountain plains with a Discovery Center guide in order to see the Belly Plants, which get their name from the notion that you need to be flat on your belly to see them? Find out more about the free hikes happening on select spring 2023 dates.

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