Plants & Flowers Resource Page

Spring 2016 Wild Flowers

Spring flowers are in bloom throughout the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The 2015 bloom was phenomenal with flowers we had not seen in years popping up all over. The 2016 bloom is 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 reaquaint 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
Consider yourself lucky if you happen to find this distinctive looking perennial on one your adventures in the Santa Monica Mountains. Though distributed widely this plant with tiny flowers and often short blooming periods they are just not common in our mountains. California Saxifrage (Micranthes californica) is native to much of California, and up to southern Oregon and down to the northern parts of Baja California.
Thin moist soil along with some rocks are the preferred habitat. From the the desert to the sea, this plant fits in quite a few different environments. This perennial herb has a small gray-green basal rosette of thick toothed oval leaves up to 10 centimeters long. A cousin of the Woodland Star, one key difference is leaves above the basal rosette indicating Woodland Star. If there no leaves above the basal rosette this would indicate California Saxifrage. Long, delicate, hairy leafless stalks arise from rhizomes and are up to 35 centimeters tall bearing clusters of flowers, often all on one side. Each flower has five green to reddish sepals, five small white petals, and ten stamens at the center. The center of flower looks to be translucent - like jelly. This part is the Pistil -and it has two separate styles protruding from it. There are five very small sepals, bending down as they with age, often purplish; Flowering takes place from February to June. My experience has been that this plant blooms depending on when it rains. In light rain years the plant does not bother blooming and becomes dormant as soon as the soil dries during springtime.
These flowers are small even when compared to a dime. It is a treat to pull out a hand lens and observe the details of this flower. Details are revealed along with some startling beauty when you take the time to pause and take the time! Why be in such a hurry to get back your routine.
Name Origin: Micranthes means small flowers - definitely true for this plant! Saxifraga means stone-breaker this refers to the rocky habitats of some species