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

FamilyLatin NameCommon NameFraction of Full BloomBloom Stage+
ApiaceaeTauschia argutasouthern tauschia0.05b
AsteraceaeEriophyllum confertiflorum var. confertiflorumgolden yarrow0.001b
AsteraceaeGazania X (mounding hybrid)*gazania1 
AsteraceaeGnaphalium bicolorbicolored everlasting1 
AsteraceaeGnaphalium californicumCalifornia everlasting0.05b
AsteraceaeVenegasia carpesioidescanyon sunflower0.03b
BoraginaceaeCryptantha muricataprickly cryptantha0.05b
CucurbitaceaeMarah macrocarpus var. macrocarpuswild-cucumber1 
EricaceaeArctostaphylos glandulosa ssp. glandulosaEastwood manzanita0.5e
FabaceaeLathyrus vestitus var. vestituswild sweetpea0.1b
FabaceaeLotus argophyllus var. argophyllussouthern California silver-lotus0.3b
FabaceaeLotus grandiflorus var. grandifloruschaparral lotus1 
FabaceaeLupinus longifoliuslong-leaf bush lupine0.01b
FabaceaeLupinus succulentusarroyo lupine1 
FabaceaeLupinus truncatuscollar lupine0.1b
FabaceaeMedicago polymorpha*California burclover1 
FabaceaeMelilotus indicus*sourclover1 
FabaceaeSpartium junceum*Spanish broom0.05b
FabaceaeTrifolium hirtum*rose clover1 
FabaceaeVicia villosa ssp. varia*winter vetch0.3b
FagaceaeQuercus berberidifoliascrub oak1 
GeraniaceaeErodium cicutarium*redstem filaree1 
GrossulariaceaeRibes indecorumwhite-flowering currant0.3e
GrossulariaceaeRibes speciosumfuchsia-flowered gooseberry0.2e
HydrophyllaceaeEucrypta chrysanthemifolia var. chrysanthemifoliaeucrypta0.1b
LamiaceaeSalvia melliferablack sage0.05b
MalvaceaeMalva parviflora*cheeseweed0.5b
MyrtaceaeEucalyptus globulus*blue gum1 
OnagraceaeCamissonia micranthasmall-flowered evening-primrose1 
PapaveraceaeDendromecon rigidabush poppy1 
PolemoniaceaeLeptodactylon californicum ssp. californicumprickly phlox1 
PolygonaceaeEriogonum fasciculatum var. fasciculatumCalifornia buckwheat0.01b
PortulacaceaeClaytonia perfoliata ssp. mexicanasouthern miner's lettuce1 
RhamnaceaeCeanothus cuneatus var. cuneatusbuck brush0.2e
RhamnaceaeCeanothus oliganthus var. oliganthushairy ceanothus1 
RosaceaeCercocarpus betuloides var. betuloidesbirch-leaf mountain-mahogany0.1 
RubiaceaeGalium angustifolium ssp. angustifoliumnarrowleaf bedstraw buds
RubiaceaeGalium nuttallii ssp. nuttalliiclimbing bedstraw1 
SolanaceaeSolanum xantipurple nightshade1 
PoaceaeAvena barbata*slender wild oats1 
PoaceaeAvena fatua*wild oats1 
PoaceaeBromus diandrus*ripgut brome1 
PoaceaeBromus madritensis ssp. rubens*red brome1 
PoaceaeHordeum murinum ssp. glaucum*foxtail barley1 
PoaceaeMelica imperfectasmall-flowered melica buds
PoaceaePoa secunda ssp. secundaone-sided bluegrass1 
PoaceaeSchismus barbatus*Mediterranean schismus1 

+ 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.

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Copyright © 2004 by Tom Chester.
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Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 22 March 2004.