Plants & Flowers Resource Page

Blessed with more than 1,000 different kinds of plants and flowers, the Santa Monica Mountains provide impressive displays of flowers to those who seek them. Our Plant of the Month Page feature is designed to help learn the names of the flowers encountered while traveling along canyons, slopes, and ridges. Over the years as plants have been added to this list, we realized that our previously myopic vision towards the plants and flowers along the trails had been "corrected". This change had the added benefit of improving our enjoyment of time spent in the mountains.

Our lives do not depend on knowing which flowers are edible or which plants could make that headache go away. The native peoples knew when and where they could find the flora that would be of benefit to them because they required them to survive - there was no Costco or Home Depot nearby. We’re so used to eating domesticated, carefully bred plants, that the idea of eating wild plants seems exotic, unattractive and somewhat dangerous. We have become tourists in our local mountains. So much goes on behind the scenes that we are oblivious to the life flow of the plants, insects, and animals. James Loeb said it more succinctly "We still depend on the natural world and its resources for survival even if we are separated from that reality by many layers of plastic packaging." This came from an article in Bay Nature October-December 2017.

“I'm comforted by the act of naming. It's a kind of befriending, a recognition, however temporary, of individuality and provenance.” - Richard Mabey - The Cabaret of Plants: Botany and the Imagination

Every plant that is native to our mountains has figured out how to thrive - whether it is by staking out damp & wet places, some by adapting to fire and sparse rainfall and some by blooming when other plants are not. If you take the time to immerse yourself in the environment - you can be more than a tourist, and you will become more appreciative of the life beyond the edges of the trail.

Having knowledge of the flowers and plants may not result in you being a better athlete but it will add another dimension to your hike, amble, walk, ride or run!

The local wildflowers bloom throughout the year - whether you run, hike, bike or ride a horse - you are bound to encounter flowers of every color and stripe on every visit.

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.

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 faded, their place was taken by Fringed Linanthus, Coastal Goldfields, Fiddlenecks, Peninsular Onion and many others. Next, up wre the 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.