Posted by: Sandy Steinman | April 20, 2018

Southern California Wildflower Summary 4/20/18

Theodore Payne  most of report below. To see full report and  photos go to

From the Sierra foothills around Three Rivers, we have reports of an explosion of spring flowers coming up under beautiful blue oak (Quercus douglasii) canopies. There are fields of understory flowers including fiddleneck (Amsinckia sp.), miniature lupine (Lupinus bicolor), shooting stars (Primula clevelandii), California buttercup (Ranunculus californicus), wild hyacinth (Dichelostemma capitatum) and popcorn flowers (Plagiobothrys nothofulvus). A very special find is the delicate white flowered Greene’s saxifrage (Micranthes californica).

Last week, we took you up the eastern side of the Sierras along 395 to Nine Mile Canyon Road toward Kennedy Meadows. This week, we can include Short Canyon and Grapevine Canyon, as well. They are also west of Hwy 395 north of the 14/395 junction and south of Nine Mile Canyon. Short and Grapevine canyons are, however, unpaved roads. It slows you down enough to enjoy the small belly flowers. See if you can find a pygmy poppy (Canbya candida) in Short Canyon. Desert dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata), fiddleneck (Amsinckia tesselata), forget-me-not/popcorn flower (Cryptantha spp.), sun cups ( Camissonia sp.), white tidy tips (Layia glandulosa), purple mat (Nama demissa), chia (Salvia columbariae), freckled milkvetch (Astragulus sp.), goldfields (Lasthenia sp.) and more. Nine Mile Canyon Road is stunning. Masses of coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovii) and grape soda lupine (Lupinus excubitus) overwhelm the senses.

The warm weather is bringing out the wildflowers at Hungry Valley SRA at the I-5 and 138 split north of Pyramid Lake. The Gorman Hills are showing a patchwork quilt of orange, yellow, purple, and blue with poppies (Eschscholzia californica), coreopsis (Leptosyne bigelovii), goldfields (Lasthenia sp.), lupine (Lupinus excubitus) and globe gilia (Gilia capitatum). The next few weeks should be spectacular, so watch the weather and start thinking about a trip that way. The roadsides in the park are showing an abundance of yellow with the bladderpod (Peritoma arborea), golden bush (Ericarmeria sp.), goldfields (Lasthenia sp.) and blazing stars (Mentzelia sp.) blooming throughout the park between Lane Ranch Campground and Aliklik Campground. White tidy tips (Layia glandulosa) are in full bloom in this area too. Look closely and find the red stalks of the scarlet bugler (Penstemon centranthifolius) and the red-orange flowers Indian paintbrush (Castellija sp.), both adding a nice red contrast to the yellow and white flowers blooming along the roads. Purple sage (Salvia dorrii), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), the bush lupine (Lupinus excubitus) are flowering nicely along the S curves, near Edison Campground and Spaghetti Pass in the northern Park landscape. You may want to continue your trip along Gorman Post Road to see the Gorman Hills starting to show their beautiful mosaic of colorful wildflowers. Please remember that the warm weather is bringing out rattlesnakes, so please use caution while hiking through the grassy areas looking for flowers.

Placerita Canyon Nature Center is a pleasant place to take short strolls along trails close to the Nature Center, or longer hikes on trails that radiate farther out into the park. There are also wonderful family programs on weekends. Along the Oak Woodland trails, large coast live oak trees (Quercus agrifolia) and the shrubby scrub oak (Q. beberidifolia) are both flowering now. Look for long catkins of male flowers at the tips of the branches and tucked among the new spring foliage that is greenish- pink in color. The elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea) is also very showy. Handsome shrubs like the blue flowered hairy ceanothus (Ceanothus oliganthus), black sage (Salvia mellifera), Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon crassifolium), and deerweed (Acmispon glaber) are in bloom as well. Lower to the ground are white star lily (Toxicoscordion fremontii), common phacelia (Phacelia distans), stinging lupine (Lupinus hirsitussima), wild hyacinth (Dichelostemma capitatum), and sun cups (Camissoniopsis sp.). If you are on the trails in the late afternoon to twilight, look for the wispy white blossoms of the soap root plant (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) on longstalks arising above dark green undulating leaves. Interesting plant. Don’t miss it.

Wildflowers are starting to pop along the lower sections of the Mt. Wilson Trail above Sierra Madre in the San Gabriel Mountains. There is a good variety of species, but only a few of each species. There were some nice displays of wild Canterbury bells (Phacelia minor), stinging lupine (Lupinus hirsutissimus), wild hyacinth (Dichelostemma capitatum), wishbone bush (Mirabilis laevis), Coulter’s lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus), chaparral whitethorn (Ceanothus leucodermis) and hairy ceanothus (C. oliganthus). You will also find blunt-leaved lupine (Lupinus truncatus), eucrypta (Eucrypta chrysanthemifolia), two species of cudweed (Pseudognaphaliumspp.), climbing morning glory (Calystegia sp.), fringe pod (Thysanocarpus curvipes), common pea (Lathyrus vestitus), prickly cryptantha (Cryptantha muricata), sugar bush (Rhus ovata), chia (Salvia columbariae), purple nightshade (Solanum parishii),Douglas’s nightshade (Solanum douglasii), clematis (Clematis sp.), and Western wallflower (Erysimum capitatum). These are flowers you’d normally expect along this trail, but more than the hiker/reporter had expected this dry year.

In San Diego County, check out the Pacific Crest Trail section between Lake Henshaw and Barrel Springs. There are many lovely species in bloom now, including grand patches of baby blue-eyes (Nemophila menziesii) with exceptionally large and bright blue flowers. Others that occur in great abundance are fiddleneck (Amsinckia intermedia), chaparral gilia (Gilia angelensis), hundreds of blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum) and common cryptantha (Cryptantha intermedia). The sheer number of cryptantha make it unusually showy this year. In between good thickets of cup-leaved ceanothus (Ceanothus perplexens) are patches of goldfields (Lasthenia sp.), and some cream cups (Platystemon californicus). Check out the large, handsome specimens of sugar bush (Rhus ovata) and chaparral yuccas (Hesperoyucca whipplei), as well. On the drive to Lake Henshaw along Route 76 and through the Cleveland National Forest, you will see huge numbers of blue flowering ceanothus. Roll down the window to smell the sweet fragrance of these wild lilacs as you pass them by.

There are lots of wildflower happenings on the San Jacinto River alluvial benches in San Jacinto-Hemet area. There are trails around the Soboba Indian Reservation andBautista Creek. The sand verbena (Abronia villosa) are especially heavy as are goldfields (Lasthenia sp.), sun cups (Camissiopsis bistorta) and forget-me-not (Cryptantha sp.). Phacelia (Phacelia sp.) is also popping up in this area.

The Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach has exploded with color this week. Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), flannel bush (Fremontodendron californicum), Island snapdragon (Galvesia speciosa), sticky monkeyflower (Diplacus longifflorus [Mimulus auranticus}), black sage (Salvia mellifera), elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea), and desert mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) have all been flowering, but something happened this week, the excellent weather maybe, made them actually burst in full bloom! Along with all that detonation of flower color comes the showy spikes of the California buckeye (Aesculus californica) and their amazing fragrance of grape soda. Take several rest breaks while walking through this garden to accommodate your sensory overload!

Watch out for the blue witch (Solanum umbelliferum) seen along the trails at Pinnacles National Park. Other colorful characters you will encounter are milk maids (Cardamine californica), Johnny jump-up (Viola pedunculata), lacey parsnip (Lomatium dasycarpum), Douglas wallflower (Erysimum capitatum), Fremont star-lily (Toxicoscordion fremontii), and buck brush (Ceanothus cuneatus). I don’t know forsure, but I really hope the baby blue-eyes and the pretty pink California hedge nettle (Stachys bullata) are growing side by side, because the blue and pink colors are wonderful together! One flower that you definitely need to see is the bitter root (Lewisia rediviva). It is a tiny plant with a flower that looks like it is just sitting on the ground, so keep a watchful eye for it. There is lots of blue along the trails from displays of Bajada lupine (Lupinus concinnus), blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum), blue fiesta flower (Pholistoma auritum), Parry’s larkspur (Delphinium parryi) silver bush lupine (Lupinus albifrons), and chia (Salvia columbariae).

Spring has really sprung at the E.L.C. Habitat Gardens in Cudahy as many new species are flowering. Most can be observed from the sidewalk on Elizabeth Street in front of the campus. The Desert Garden contains prickly poppy (Argemone munita), wishbone bush (Mirabilis laevis retrorsa), prince’s plume (Stanleya pinnata), beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris), showy penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis), pale sun-cup (Camissoniopsis pallida), cream cups (Platystemon californicus), desert lavender (Condea emoryi), apricot mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), Spanish needle (Palafoxia arida), cryptantha (Cryptantha sp.), desert dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata), fish hook cactus (Mammillaria dioica), desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata), brittle bush (Encelia farinosa), chuparosa (Justicia californica), blue bells (Phacelia campanularia), bird’s eye gilia (Gilia tricolor) and Coulter’s lupine(Lupinus sparsiflorus). Their Vernal Pool Garden has Otay Mesa mint (Pogogyne nudiuscula), toothed calicoflower (Downingia cuspidata), Lindley’s blazing star(Mentzelia lindleyi), California sage (Salvia californica), globe gilia (Gilia capitata), truncate-leafed lupine (Lupinus truncatus), miniature lupine (Lupinus bicolor), Arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus), tidy tips (Layia platyglossa), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), chia (Salvia columbariae), woolly marbles (Psilocarphus brevissimus), vernal popcorn flower (Plagiobothrys undulatus), and beautiful blankets of goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata). Additional species in the Chaparral Garden include woolly Indian paintbrush (Castilleja foliolosa), wine cup clarkia (Clarkia purpurea), Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa), black sage (Salvia mellifera), pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla), tornleaf goldeneye (Viguiera laciniata), sugar bush (Rhus ovata), Santa Cruz Island buckwheat (Eriogonum arborescens), Channel Island tree poppy (Dendromecon harfordii), and blue paloverde (Parkinsonia florida). Elizabeth Learning Center is located off Elizabeth Street between Atlantic and Wilcox Avenues in Cudahy.


This week is California Native Plant Week. Many celebrations are taking place statewide. Go to the California Native Plant Society website and check out the activities, plant sales and local hikes of the Chapter near you.

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