Posted by: Sandy Steinman | April 3, 2013

Santa Monica Mts. Wildflower Report 4/3/13

Santa Monica  Mountains  posted the following wildflower bloom updates today :

The blue ceanothus, although still lingering in many locations have clearly passed their prime. Like the bigpod ceanothus before them they have had a good year. This has been true of a number of our perennial flowers. The annuals on the other hand have been much more hit and miss with some doing OK and others practically absent. Most of the hikes I’ve done this season have revealed reasonable species counts but the unusual dryness has taken a big toll on the quantity of flowers. In addition a lot of the plants I’ve seen have the rather stunted look I associate with drought stress. There are some good trails out there but it has been hard to use patterns from previous years to extrapolate what might be doing well this year. I suspect that this is because so much of the precipitation this year has come in the form of “showers.” The patchy nature of rainfall from showers means that two stands of vegetation situated quite close to each other may be doing very differently. Indeed, even a hundred yards can make a huge difference. In a more typical year rainfall tends to average out over the season, but in a dry year things are further exacerbated because a site with less rain than it’s neighbors may have crossed the line seperating plants that are merely stressed from those being literally dead. Very few people have been submitting flower reports this year probably because most of the flower displays are rather uninspiring. I note however, that in a sparse year the flower reports people submit to this newsletter are even more useful than in a great year when everyone can find flowers by just picking any old trail at random.


Circle X Ranch    The Grotto Trail (with a couple of side spurs) 03/30/13
I was expecting a paucity of flowers due to our lack of rain but found this hike to be very rewarding. Star lilies were the star of the hike, we saw more than a hundred of them in bloom. Leaving the group campground we saw canyon sunflowers, blue dicks, morning glory and greenbark ceanothus which seemed to be at the very end of its blooming. The stream was completely dry at the first and second stream crossing. Going uphill to the meadow there is a rocky seep that is always rewarding with spring flowers. Today there were blue larkspur and Chinese houses. Further along there were blooming black sage, woolly blue curls and popcorn flower and the first of the many star lilies. In the meadow there were several Catalina mariposa lilies as well as vetch, blue eyed grass and sticky monkey flower. Descending through the chaparral there were blooming chamise, Southern tauschia, purple nightshade, wishbone flower, mustard evening primrose and virgin’s bower. Along the trail at the bottom of the canyon we saw California everlasting, hedge nettle, wild cucumber, peony, sweet pea, meadow nemophila and hummingbird sage. On the way to the grotto we stopped and watched newts in several pools. On our return we took a side trip to the old Happy Hollow campground which was carpeted in dove lupine with patches of johnny-jump-ups and common fiddleneck and a hillside of padres shooting stars. Also on our return we went a ways on the Canyon View Trail where we saw hundreds of yellow monkey flowers along with twining snapdragon, chia, caterpillar phacelia, globe gilia and collarless poppies.  ‑ Dorothy Steinicke

Topanga State Park    Sullivan Canyon Fire Road 03/25/13
The paved road serves Camp Josepho, and there is a ridge trail with many wildflowers. About a mile in, you reach a large area that burned last September, extending uphill from the road and down the opposite side of the ridge. Last month there were many Wild Cucumber vines, most in flower, sprawled over the discolored ground. Now they are producing many of their spiny seed pods, which are just beginning to fade from their bright green. Some are brown and splitting, producing their large, light brown seeds. The fire killed many of the ceanothus within the burn area. Mountain Mahogany, Sumac, Chamise, Elderberry and Coast Live Oak are all sprouting from the stumps, except where the fire was hottest and the plants were evidently killed. If you walk up through the burn area, the trail following the ridge provides many wildflowers: Blue Dicks, Lupine, Phacelia (Giant and Wooly), Popcorn Flower, Twining Snapdragon, Star Lily, Shiny Lomatium, Bush and Canyon Sunflower. Once the ridge trail rejoins the road, and continuing north, you’ll see Pacific Sanicle, Fuschia-Flowering Gooseberry, more Sunflowers, Poison Oak, and when nearly to the point where the road goes downhill into the Scout Camp, there is a beautiful Virgin’s Bower (Clematis). Following the road back, when a few hundred yards beyond the burned area is a Bush Poppy (Dendromicon rigida.) There are more flowers blooming along the ridge trail than on the road itself. Be careful; bicycles use this trail also, and it is very narrow and severely eroded in places from the heavy bicycle traffic. At some points, you will be walking in a trench 2-3 feet deep. It’s a great opportunity to see plants regenerating after a brush fire.  ‑ Carol Mathews

Malibu Creek State Park    Phantom Trail 03/21/13
I used the signed trailhead on Mulholland Hwy for the Phantom Trail. Along the first 1/8 of a mile I found nice displays of Purple Nightshade, Eucrypta, Bush Sunflower, White Popcorn Flower, Indian Paintbrush, and Greenbark Ceanothus. There were also a few Sticky Phacelia . For the next half a mile there is not much happening till you start to get to the top of the ridge. There, I found more Popcorn Flower, Indian Paintbrush, Bush Sunflower, and some Owls Clover. Going on, there is a fork in the trail with the main trail bypassing the ridge, and a trail continuing up the ridge. On the main trail, there are Fiesta Flowers, Fiddlenecks, Ceanothus, and California Peony. On the ridge trail there are some California Poppies on the lower north facing slopes of the first two summits that you come to. The second one has the best display of Poppies, with some Red Maids mixed in. A nice loop can be made by combining the two trails.

To see older reports go to: Santa Monica  Mountains


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  1. […] Santa Monica Mts. Wildflower Report 4/3/13 (naturalhistorywanderings.com) […]

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