Posted by: Sandy Steinman | May 24, 2013

Southern and Central California Wildflower Report 5/24/13

Theodore Payne has a new wildflower report today. Below are some excerpts. To see the full report, photos or older reports go to Wildflower Hotline.

In the Santa Monica Mountains, Red Rock Canyon Trail off of Old Topanga Road is not as showy as past years, but it is still worth a visit. There are many farewell-to-spring (Clarkia sp.) and elegant clarkia (Clarkia unquiculata) out in the open along the trail. The live-forever (Dudleya sp.) and a few fading larkspur blossoms (Delphinium sp.) peek out from around boulders. The most exciting blooms are the large yellow mariposa lilies (Calochortus clavatus) blending well with the paler yellow slender sunflower (Heianthus gracilentus).

If you are trekking Upper Zuma along the backbone trail, look for elegant and purple clarkias (Clarkia unquiculata and C. purpurea), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), white chaenactis (Chaenactis artemissiaefolia), and California thistle (Cirsium californicum). Chinese houses (Collinsia heterophylla), globe lilies (Calochortus albus), and creek monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus) are hiding in the few moist, shaded areas. Chaparral yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei), California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), black sage (Salvia mellifera), chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum), monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus), heart-leaved penstemon (Keckiella cordifolia), and golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum) are all reliable and showy chaparral bloomers. Some unusual cuties you may see include paintbrush (Castilleja sp.), red-skinned onion (Allium heamatochiton), canchalagua (Zeltnera venusta), checker bloom (Sidalcea malvaeflora), blue larkspur (Delphinium sp.) and cliff aster (Malacothrix saxatilis).

A segment of the Pacific Crest Trail in the San Gabriel Mountains between Little Rock Creek Road and Pacifico Mountain has a great diversity of flowering plants to explore. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the total number of these plants is low, so it may take some detective skills to find them. The most colorful trail species include pink splendid gilia, (Saltugilia splendens ssp. splendens), interior goldenbush (Ericameria linearifolia), the Mojave ceanothus (Ceanothus vestitus), flannel bush (Fremontodendron californicum), mountain currant (Ribes nevadense) and bush lupine (Lupinus excubitus ssp. austromontanus). Scattered about, you may spot Burlew’s wild onion (Allium burlewii), rock buckwheat (Eriogonum saxatile), Martin’s paintbrush (Castilleja applegatei var. martinii) and silver puffs (Uropappus lindleyi). A more intense search will reward you with canyon dudleya (Dudleya cymosa ssp. pumila) wallflower (Erysimum capitatum), scalebud (Anisocoma aculis) and rock cress (Boechera californica). This part of the trail is well maintained and rises from 5300 feet to 7100 feet in elevation.

Along the Waterfall Trail at Placerita Canyon Natural Area, you will be able to enjoy Humboldt lilies (Lilium humboldtii) very soon. The buds are about ready to pop! In those shaded canyon areas, you can also spot wild California rose (Rosa californica), and boykinia (Boykinia sp.). On the sunnier trails, you can view our iconic chaparral species of flowering shrubs and seasonal wildflowers. Look for chaparral honeysuckle (Lonicera interrupta), and the red-orange heart-leaved penstemon (Keckiella cordifolia) arching their branches over other shrubs to reach the light. Golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum), the fragrant vervain (Verbena sp.) and the interesting perezia (Acourtia microcephala) will definitely catch your eye. Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californicum), holly-leaf cherry (Prunus ilicifolia), blue elderberry (Sambucus nigra), woolly blue curls (Trichostema lanatum), sticky-leaf monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus), and chaparral yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei) are quite showy. The nice bloom of elegant clarkia (Clarkia unquiculata) and farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena), tell us that spring in the chaparral is coming to an end.

Eaton Canyon in Pasadena has loads of buckwheat flowering especially in the lower wash. Hang out at the buckwheat for a time and you will be delighted with the number of butterflies that visit the tiny flowers of the buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum). In the demonstration garden there is a spectacular stand of Matilija poppies (Romneya coulteri). White sage (Salvia apiana) and Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii) are in full bloom along with showy penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis) and California wishbone bush (Mirabilis californica). There are many other wonderful blooming plants in this foothill oasis.

The wildflower news is all good out of the Santa Ana Mountains, particularly on the trails along the Ortega Highway. The higher elevation chaparral on public trails is still beautiful and well worth the hike. There is a spectacular variety of wildflowers in the Blue Jay Camp ground, Chiquito Trail, the Los Pinos Peak Trail and the Bear Ridge Loop. The Cleveland National Forest’s very own monkeyflower (Mimulus clevlandii) stands out as a yellow beacon along the trails. There is still a ceanothus in bloom—the pretty blue wartleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus papillosus). Other iconic chaparral species that you will enjoy include chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum), bush poppy (Dendromecon rigida), woolly blue curls (Trichostema sp.), sticky-leaf monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus), showy penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis), paintbrush (Castilleja sp.), woolly Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon crassifolium) and golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum)

In the San Jacinto Mountains between Idyllwild and Pine Cove, the well maintained forest service roads will accommodate wandering botanists very nicely. The walk will take you through several habitats including pine forest, chaparral and grassy meadows. This area has been greatly thinned as part of a fuel reduction project. Botanically speaking the big winners are scarlet bugler (Penstemon centranthifolius) and Chaparral whitethorn (Ceanothus leucodermis) which our now thriving as a result of the open canopy. The heady fragrance of ceanothus wafts on the breeze. The showy pink bracted manzanita (Arctostaphylos pringlei ssp. drupacea) which is in its prime right now and the few-leaved checkerbloom (Sidalcea sparsiflora) is frequently encountered in the open grassy spaces along with the less conspicuous is Oak violet (Viola purpurea ssp. quercetorum). Quite amazing is the giant chain fern (Woodwardia fimbriata) with leaves up to 9 feet long. In much of Idyllwild one can see Indian milkweed (Asclepias eriocarpa), but at the lower elevations you may be lucky to spot its showier cousin the California milkweed (Asclepias californica). Other characteristic plants include bush poppy (Dendromecon rigida) and canyon sweet pea (Lathyrus vestitus var. vestitus). It is easy to miss the cryptic long-flowered thread plant (Nemacladus longiflorus var. longiflorus) because it blends with the background landscape so well. But look at the flower of this plant with a hand lens to see it’s tiny orchid like flower. It is a small splendor. The baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii var. menziesii) range in color from deep blue to white. The bright red snow plants (Sarcodes sanguinea) are still popping up everywhere in the pine needle litter.

If you are traveling further afield this weekend, the dogwoods (Cornus nuttallii) are still in bloom at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The best place to see them is in Giant Forest and Grant Grove; and the flannel bush (Fremontodendron californicum) with its large yellow-gold flowers—is still flowering near Potwisha. The California buckeye (Aesculus californica) is in peak bloom along Highway 198 through Three Rivers into the national parks; and lastly, the farewell-to-spring clarkias (Clarkia sp.) can be seen dotting the landscape here and there.

The eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is also very nice. There are showy displays of desert sena (Senna armata) in full bloom along Highway 395 south of Ridgecrest. The road to Upper Gray’s Meadow west of Independence is spectacular with bush lupine (Lupinus excubitus). Pumice Valley including Panum Crater and the Convict Lake area has a blush of pink all over the landscape. Dwarf monkeyflower (Mimulus nanus ssp. mephiticus), desert peach (Prunus andersonii), desert phlox (Phlox stansburyi), wax currant (Ribes cereum). and mountain pride penstemon (Penstemon newberryi), are all “pretty in pink” right now. The trail around Convict Lake had tons of beautiful serviceberry (Amelanchier utahensis) in full bloom and in lower Lee Vining Canyon mountain mule ears (Wyethia mollis), Nuttall’s linanthus (Linanthus nuttallii) and wallflower (Erysimum capitatum) were in various stages of flowering. Continuing along Highway 395 south of Lee Vining, look for Sierra sulphur flower (Eriogonum umbellatum ssp. nevadense) and silvery lupine (Lupinus argenteus) lining the road.


  1. Thank you for your list of plants in the Santa Ana Mountains! Yesterday on my way home from work I took the Ortega Highway east and saw so many beautiful yellow flowering shrubs and I HAD to find out what it was. Based on your list, I believe it is either golden yarrow or bush poppy. Thank you for your help!


  2. […] Southern and Central California Wildflower Report 5/24/13 ( […]


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