Posted by: Sandy Steinman | May 18, 2019

Santa Monica Mountains Wildflowers 5/18/19

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area has one new report

This has been a year when almost any hike you take in a wild place is going to give you a gratifying display of wildflowers. The popular media has frequently provided us all with dramatic flower reports and suggestions of where to see the more spectacular displays. Added to that is the drama and beauty of the recovering burned landscapes here in the Santa Monica Mountains. All in all this is a flower season not to be missed.

Malibu Creek State Park Phantom Trail 5/12
         We took the southern half of the Phantom Trail again yesterday [5/12/19]. This is the Mulhollland end, heading north towards Liberty Canyon Road. It’s still quite an experience, but changed from last month. Now, it’s Butterfly Central – – millions of them [no exaggeration]. They’re swarming all around you at the trailhead, and they’re all over the flowers in front of and beside you as you walk. You’ll flush them off the plants as you go. We were totally alone on the trail, yet far from alone – – no other people, but more butterflies in a couple hours than you’ll likely see the rest of your life.
As for plants, the flower mix is now mostly wild mustard and at least three types of phacelia, including the large flower kind. There are still poppies in bloom here up near the highest peak along the trail; a few thousand there and along the nearby ridges, not many elsewhere. We did also see lots of other flowers, but in smaller quantities: datura, scarlet pimpernel, owls clover, Indian paintbrush, snakeroot, common sunflower, and something white and vaguely snapdragonish [see photo] among others we couldn’t identify. As expected, the lupine were all but gone, having turned into tan crunchy hollow stalks that crumble easily.
As for trail conditions, the mustard has really taken over for much of the first mile; it wraps around your feet as you hike, whaps you in the face, and tugs at your arms. Very bush-whacky, not suitable for children. Even finding the trail is more of a challenge now; the half-burned sign is now shrouded in mustard, and the path is overgrown enough that you have to pick your way along it carefully. But if you need a final flower fix before the season ends, or want to be totally surrounded by butterflies, check it out.
How many butterflies can you count? Less than a dozen and you’re not trying.

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