Plant Trail Reports, Santa Monica Mountains
22 March 2004: Backbone Trail, Stunt Road to Saddle Peak Loop (see Plant Trail Guide)
The bloom is simply fabulous on this trail right now. There are acres and acres of Ceanothus in bloom, mostly the beautiful blue and white of hairy ceanothus, Ceanothus oliganthus var. oliganthus, accompanied by buck brush, Ceanothus cuneatus var. cuneatus. Many times a striking specimen forced me to stop further botanizing and take a picture, or simply admire the stunning full bloom.
The trail is also filled with bush poppy, Dendromecon rigida, in full bloom. I have never seen such arborescent plants! Some of them were 12 feet high, and filled with many tens of open blooms. Nor have I seen such happy-looking blooms, since my previous experience with bush poppy has been in much drier areas such as Agua Tibia Mountain in San Diego County. What a difference a bit more water makes!
Both of these displays can also be seen by driving along Stunt Road. However, if the botanist is driving, be warned that this might be hazardous to your health since the botanist will not be able to keep his eyes on the road!
The third stunner on the trail is the purple nightshade, Solanum xanti. The ones on this trail are the most beautiful of all the forms of S. xanti. The one in the Santa Monica Mountains is a subshrub, var. intermedium, and it grows 2-4 feet high, with a very large number of large blooms. The blooms were beautiful during the day, but took on even a more special quality near dusk. If I could have captured this with a camera, I would have! But the camera would insist on using a flash, which would have destroyed the color seen by the human eye at dusk.
There are about 30 other species in bloom to accompany this show, of which the showiest is probably the few specimens of prickly phlox in full bloom, showing off its brilliant pink color.
I was surprised by how dry the trail and area was, since this area has received the most rainfall of any area I've surveyed recently, and it is a north-facing slope. I met no moist spots at all; everyplace was bone-dry. But few of the plants seemed to be showing any effects of the lack of water.
Of course, it couldn't hurt if we could pick up some more rainfall soon... (;-)
Plants in bloom on the Backbone Trail, Stunt Road to Saddle Peak Loop
Family Latin Name Common Name Fraction of Full Bloom Bloom Stage+ Apiaceae Tauschia arguta southern tauschia 0.05 b Asteraceae Eriophyllum confertiflorum var. confertiflorum golden yarrow 0.001 b Asteraceae Gazania X (mounding hybrid) *gazania 1 Asteraceae Gnaphalium bicolor bicolored everlasting 1 Asteraceae Gnaphalium californicum California everlasting 0.05 b Asteraceae Venegasia carpesioides canyon sunflower 0.03 b Boraginaceae Cryptantha muricata prickly cryptantha 0.05 b Cucurbitaceae Marah macrocarpus var. macrocarpus wild-cucumber 1 Ericaceae Arctostaphylos glandulosa ssp. glandulosa Eastwood manzanita 0.5 e Fabaceae Lathyrus vestitus var. vestitus wild sweetpea 0.1 b Fabaceae Lotus argophyllus var. argophyllus southern California silver-lotus 0.3 b Fabaceae Lotus grandiflorus var. grandiflorus chaparral lotus 1 Fabaceae Lupinus longifolius long-leaf bush lupine 0.01 b Fabaceae Lupinus succulentus arroyo lupine 1 Fabaceae Lupinus truncatus collar lupine 0.1 b Fabaceae Medicago polymorpha *California burclover 1 Fabaceae Melilotus indicus *sourclover 1 Fabaceae Spartium junceum *Spanish broom 0.05 b Fabaceae Trifolium hirtum *rose clover 1 Fabaceae Vicia villosa ssp. varia *winter vetch 0.3 b Fagaceae Quercus berberidifolia scrub oak 1 Geraniaceae Erodium cicutarium *redstem filaree 1 Grossulariaceae Ribes indecorum white-flowering currant 0.3 e Grossulariaceae Ribes speciosum fuchsia-flowered gooseberry 0.2 e Hydrophyllaceae Eucrypta chrysanthemifolia var. chrysanthemifolia eucrypta 0.1 b Lamiaceae Salvia mellifera black sage 0.05 b Malvaceae Malva parviflora *cheeseweed 0.5 b Myrtaceae Eucalyptus globulus *blue gum 1 Onagraceae Camissonia micrantha small-flowered evening-primrose 1 Papaveraceae Dendromecon rigida bush poppy 1 Polemoniaceae Leptodactylon californicum ssp. californicum prickly phlox 1 Polygonaceae Eriogonum fasciculatum var. fasciculatum California buckwheat 0.01 b Portulacaceae Claytonia perfoliata ssp. mexicana southern miner's lettuce 1 Rhamnaceae Ceanothus cuneatus var. cuneatus buck brush 0.2 e Rhamnaceae Ceanothus oliganthus var. oliganthus hairy ceanothus 1 Rosaceae Cercocarpus betuloides var. betuloides birch-leaf mountain-mahogany 0.1 Rubiaceae Galium angustifolium ssp. angustifolium narrowleaf bedstraw buds Rubiaceae Galium nuttallii ssp. nuttallii climbing bedstraw 1 Solanaceae Solanum xanti purple nightshade 1 Poaceae Avena barbata *slender wild oats 1 Poaceae Avena fatua *wild oats 1 Poaceae Bromus diandrus *ripgut brome 1 Poaceae Bromus madritensis ssp. rubens *red brome 1 Poaceae Hordeum murinum ssp. glaucum *foxtail barley 1 Poaceae Melica imperfecta small-flowered melica buds Poaceae Poa secunda ssp. secunda one-sided bluegrass 1 Poaceae Schismus barbatus *Mediterranean schismus 1
+ Bloom stage:
b = beginning
e = ending
1 = full bloom
The % of full bloom is measured against my estimate of a normal year's full bloom on this trail.
Copyright © 2004 by Tom Chester.
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Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 22 March 2004.