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
Wild Heliotrope or Heliotropium curassavicum is a succulent that favors disturbed saline soils (moist or dry), grows in dense stands and can handle cold well enough to grow in other mountain ranges in North and South America at elevations up to 6,300 feet. I located these plants in Pt. Mugu State Park. Other common names for this flower are Salt Heliotrope (hence the saline soils preference) and Quail Plant (Quail eat the seeds). Appearance-wise the plant is a fleshy, bluish-green, smooth plant with leafy stems low to the ground - the proper term this is prostrate, the most striking feature of this plant are coils of small, white or purplish-tinged flowers. Often these coils will be paired creating a very symmetrical appearance. The height of the plant can vary from six inches to about fifteen inches.
This perennial has several strategies for survival and proliferation. Wild Heliotrope can reproduce by seed or can develop from shoots (rhizomes) and buds. Once the plant has established itself in an area, seed germination is of less importance and further growth is thru the spreading of the shoots and buds. As pollination, the flowers change colors from white-yellow to purple. This strategy leads pollinators away from fertilized flowers towards the unfertilized flowers and has to be similar to Lupines that go thru a color changing process. In Lupines the plant releases Ethylene gas to make this happen. This is the same gas that ripens tomatoes and bananas.
This plant is a member of the same plant family as Phacelias - the one obvious trail is the coiled strand of flowers. The flowers are quite small and numerous, often appear in varying states of growth. The five sharply pointed petals with their delicate shades of color certainly add some beauty to the outdoor experience!
Name Origin: "heliotrope" derives from the old idea that the inflorescences of these plants turned their rows of flowers to the sun. The species name - curassavi'ca/curassavi'cum: the -ica suffix shows that this is a place name from Curacao, an island in the Dutch West Indies where one of the first collections were made (thanks to www.calflora.net for this description)