Plants & Flowers Resource Page

Spring 2017 Wild Flowers

Spring flowers are in bloom throughout the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The 2017 bloom was phenomenal with flowers we had not seen in years popping up all over in some large quantities. The 2016 bloom was more like the typically beautiful display that we have come to expect. The arrival of the first Wild Cucumber flowers started the season, followed by Shooting Stars, Star Lilies, Wild Hyacinth, Milk Maids, Fringed Red Maids and Chocolate Lilies. This list is by no means inclusive of every kind of flower in bloom. If you find something you want to share, please do! Send to our email address or share on our Facebook page.

As the Shooting Stars have faded, their place was taken by Fringed Linanthus, Coastal Goldfields, Fiddlenecks, Peninsular Onion and many others. Next, up should be Golden Stars, Mariposa Lilies, Large Flowered Phacelias and a smattering of Mariposa Lilies in Yellow. The arrival of the Slender Tarweed kept the hillsides covered in yellow as the Goldfields and Fiddlenecks begin to fade. The aptly named Farewell-to-Spring will herald the end of Spring and provide color. As of this update, we are waiting for the arrival of the Chinese Houses, Fairy Lanterns, Soap Plant, Humboldt Lily and the Plummer's Mariposa Lily flowers. After their turn in the Sun, Cliff Asters, Buckwheat, and other small flowers will then keep our pollinators fed and busy until the rains of November.

The ephemeral nature of these flowers allows a short window of time to enjoy them. Set aside some time, grab a camera and head out before the window closes for the year on these beautiful flowers.

P.S. Take your time when viewing the flowers - imagine running through the Louvre to see "everything" - you are going to miss considerable amounts of soul stirring beauty!

Pt. Mugu State Park was a hotbed for wildflowers in 2015 because of the Springs fire of 2013 - the fire provided many a seed that had been patiently waiting, an opportunity to grow. Not every year will dazzle the general public but every Spring has the potential to reacquaint you with the promise of Spring!

Pick a trail, any trail and you will be rewarded with the sight of flowers in dazzling colors drawn from a large palette of whites, yellows, reds, blues and purples.

Tips for Flower Finding
  • Bring your kids! Kids are often better at finding the few different flowers in a large grouping than adults. Seeing flowers outdoors provides excellent visual stimulation and a little fresh air as well.
  • Take lots of pictures of the flowers you want to identify. Make sure you take pictures of leaves, flowers and the whole plant. This will help you or someone else to identify the flower after you get home.
  • On your next visit, try to identify these 10 wild flowers: Lupine, California Poppy, Parry’s Phacelia, Wild Sweet Pea, Canyon Sunflower, Morning Glory, Paintbrush, Wild Hyacinth, Mariposa Lily and Red Stemmed Filaree. Our web site is a good resource for identifying what you find.
  • After you master that list, start looking for some of the more uncommon flowers: Chocolate Lily, Globe Gilia, Spreading Larkspur, Humboldt Lily or any of 900+ species known to exist in our mountains.
  • Pattern recognition skills are easy to develop. Once you can identify a flower, suddenly that flower seems to be everywhere - it is like putting on glasses.
  • Where there is one there is usually more, if you see one flower start scanning the area for more specimens.
  • While enjoying the trails, it is easy to get drawn into a splash of purple running from the top to the bottom of a canyon wall. Start looking for what is different in that splash of red or purple. The diversity of Nature is incredible.
  • Move slower and focus on the tiny flowers - often they make up in mass what they lack in size. Whispering Bells and Eucrypta are two small flowers that will color the edges of a trail in white or yellow. If you see some tiny red flowers, take a closer look - they could be Red Maids.
  • Spend an extra fifteen minutes in one location and sit. If there are flowers, there are going to be butterflies, moths, bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators. They have a lot of work to do and are amazing in and of themselves.
  • Return on the same trail you went out on. It is surprising how many more flowers you will see after you have some familiarity with an area.
  • When you learn to identify a flower be sure to tell your friends and family. The more you repeat the name to someone else the better the retention.


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The Santa Monica Mountains are blessed with more than 1,000 different kinds of plants and flowers. Our Plant of the Month Pages were designed to help us learn the names of the flowers we encounter while enjoying the Santa Monica Mountains. Why not learn to identify a few of the more common flowers?

Knowing the names of flowers only enhances your experience outdoors. During the time of year that wild flowers bloom - whether you run, hike, bike or ride a horse - you are bound to encounter flowers of every color and stripe.

Taking a little time to know and appreciate their names may not result in you being a better athlete but it should help you connect to the open space that hosts your activity.

Image Gallery

Heart Leaved Penstemon (Keckiella cordifolia) is a spreading vine-like perennial shrub that sports some colorful flowers that vary from Orange to Scarlet. Sprawling over other plants, Heart Leaved Penstemon can reach up to six feet in height and spread out for ten feet in width. The plant has opposite leaves and flowers with one pistil and five stamens, only four of which are fertile. The sterile stamen (Botanists refer to it as a staminode) has no anther, and its purpose may be to guide pollinator to the available nectar. After the flower falls off, this stamen often remains connected to the plant. Adapted for pollination by hummingbird rather than insects, the reddish or orange narrow tube-shaped flowers have little odor, abundant nectar and present exserted (sticking out from the flower) anthers and stigmas.

Careful examination of the plant reveals five pointed green unequal sepals covering the base of the flower tube; the weight of the flowers on the end of the woody stalks cause them to bend down. Leaves are smooth to partially serrated, oval and become heart-shaped with age.
While reading up on this plant, I saw a reference or two suggesting that this plant was not an actual Penstemon but was related to the Penstemon family. Botanists have recently moved Heart Leaved Penstemon from the Figwort family to the Plantain family. Nice things to know but not essential to appreciating how this California native plant brightens up the trails and provides nourishment for Hummingbirds.
Native peoples boiled the leaves for treating Colds and wounds. Jan Timbrook's book was the source of this information.
Name Origin: Keckiel'la: after David Daniels Keck (1903-1995), an American botanist known for his work on experimental taxonomy who collaborated with Philip Munz on A California Flora (ref. genus Keckiella) www.calflora.net is the source of this info.
cordifo'lia: in Latin means with "heart-shaped leaves"