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Updated March 15
Available Reviews
Circle X Ranch
Castro Crest
Zuma/Trancas Canyons
Cold Creek Preserve
Date of Review
3/14 & 2/18 & 1/29.

Quick Links:
Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains - Photos of 1000 SMM plants.
Archive - Previous “What's Blooming” reports.
Outdoors - The Calendar of Events for the Santa Monica Mountains NRA.
Wildflowers Facebook - A place where people can share about flowers.
SMM WildFlowers - The Park's popular wildflower app for the iPhone/iPad.

         The blue ceanothus, greenbark ceanothus and hairy-leaved ceanothus, are now on center stage and have been so for a couple of weeks. It seems the rain we got recently is encouraging them to have as fruitful a flowering season as the bigpod had. Most of the hikes I've done recently show rather sparse flower displays. Perhaps more noteworthy, some flowers have the rather stunted look they can assume when they are drought stressed. However, it is still early in the season and I don't see a lot of leaf yellowing so it's anybody's guess as to how the season will turn out. Indeed, given the conditions it might be surprising to see which trails do well this year. Keep me informed. As always, happy hunting and I'll see you on the trails.
         I spent all of my spare time in January and February working to finalize the fourth update for the SMM WildFlowers iPhone app. Thanks to the fast turnaround at iTunes I met my goal of having it available for download by March 1st. Although I've included optimizations for iPhone 5, this update is really just the content update from last season: about 40 new plants and about 800 new or updated pictures. I really wanted to make 1000 plants for this update but stalled out last year at 997. I’ll start looking again in earnest this week.  ‑ ed.

Circle X Ranch
Canyon View Trail
         This trail is one I frequently send people to when they visit CXR looking for flowers. It is a good producer in the early spring because of its sheltered south-facing aspect and multiple habitats . It is often overlooked compared to the more dramatic hikes at CXR and consequently can be relatively quiet even on a busy weekend. Including the rather productive hike back along Yerba Buena road we counted 45 species in bloom (although personally I would not hike along the road on the weekend with all the traffic coming and going.) Highlights included twinning snapdragon, blue dicks, wishbone bush, collarless California poppy, mustard evening primrose, Parry's phacelia, popcorn flowers, globe gilia, blue larkspur, lacepod, both stinging and succulent lupins, California peony, yellow monkey flower, shooting stars, chia, and the diminutive strigose lotus. We even saw a lone yucca in full bloom on the hillside far above the trail. Some of these were rather plentiful so this was a pretty good showing for a dry year.  ‑ ed.

Zuma/Trancas Canyons
Zuma Loop Trail
         We saw Mexican elderberry, black mustard, Chinese caps, yellow sweet clover, red-stem filaree, fuchsia-flowered gooseberry, bush sunflower, wild morning glory, Indian paintbrush, deer weed, blue dicks, snake root, blue-eyed grass, Canyon sunflower, golden yarrow, bur clover, a nice display of chocolate lilies, poison oak, purple nightshade, green bark Ceanothus, wishbone, California everlasting, California blackberry, hedge nettle, virgin’s bower, Bermuda Buttercup, mule fat, popcorn flower, wild cucumber, succulent Lupin, wild radish, tobacco tree, Cretan mallow, fiddleneck.
         For those interested in butterflies we saw a California sister, several Monarchs, a mourning cloak, a Sara orange tip, and a possible great purple hairstreak that we could not positively identify because it never landed.  ‑ John and Barbara

Castro Crest
Backbone Trail
         Today’s hike was the fifth leg of the 2013 National Park Service Backbone Trail Hike. We are hiking west to east covering two segments per month. Today we hiked in the headwaters of Newton and Solstice Canyons, threaded Castro Crest, and followed Mesa Peak Motor Way before descending into Malibu Canyon. The effects of our dry winter continue to be interesting. The spectacular big pod ceanothus bloom has given way to all other ceanothus species in blues and creams. Including these shrubs we counted 46 species in bloom.
         Again we enjoyed what seem to be extraordinarily high numbers of peony, holly-leaf red berry, and milk maids. As with the forth segment the gooseberry, hummingbird sage, everlasting, 4 o'clock, and others were in profusion. Paintbrush, popcorn, eastwood manzanita, several lupines, wild sweet pea, were showing well along with some of trees and larger shrubs. There was a smattering of Parry’s phacelia. Only one very lonely monkey flower was tallied in contrast to a mixed carpet of small-flowered dwarf-flax and brewer’s red maids. Summer holly is always a treat. With warm weather this week the woolly blue curls and bush lupine buds should be opening.
         This section should continue to improve.  ‑ Ralph (and others)

Zuma/Trancas Canyons
Backbone Trail
         Today’s hike was the fourth leg of the 2013 National Park Service Backbone Trail Hike. We are hiking west to east covering two segments per month. Today we hiked in the headwaters of Trancas, Zuma and Newton Canyons. The effects of our dry winter continues to be interesting.
         During the last month the second and third segments of the BBT have offered spectacular displays of big pod ceanothus, but little else. The few other species in bloom were in very low numbers. However, on section number four we counted 29 species in bloom. Some timing is unusual as with the big pod ceanothus and chaparral currant still going strong. Some other species are in seed while siblings are just in bud. There were those, too, that stood out due to their extraordinarily high numbers as with the big pod (again), peony, holly-leaf red berry, and milk maids.
         Many of the usual suspects are finally peering out to see if it is safe: eucrypta, gooseberries, hummingbird sage, everlasting, 4 o'clock, deer weed, and many more. Perennials as well as annuals appear to be interested. It is possible that even with the dry season many species stalled their bloom due to repeated cold snaps. At least we can hope.
         This section should improve in March.  ‑ Ralph (and others)

A quick survey of Zuma Ridge
         Prickly phlox, Everlasting spp., Deer weed, Paintbrush, Rockrose (naturalized on unoccupied private property), Wild cucumber, Manzanita, CA currant, Purple nightshade, Wishbone plant, CA encelia, Ashy leaved buckwheat, Gazania (naturalized mostly on private prop.), European black mustard, Lemonade berry (planted at Busch trailhead), and Bladder pod (planted at "Busch" Zuma Ridge Trailhead). Most of it has just starting blooming, including the green bark ceanothus.  ‑ Bonnie Clarfield

Circle X Ranch
Mishe Mokwa Trail
         The big pod ceanothus is the highlight of this hike. Entire mountainsides are in bloom to the degree that one wonders if there are any other shrubs on the hillside. The trail is dusted with the "snow" of fallen petals. This trail features both big pod ceanothus and hoary leaf ceanothus. Additionally there are blooming manzanita and chaparral current with wild cucumber climbing over them in certain places. I was surprised at how few prickly phlox plants are in bloom, we only saw a couple. There are several openings alongside the trail that were carpeted in Padre's shooting stars which are always a treat. There was a single blooming bush of hillside gooseberry just above Split Rock. I saw two early blue dicks in the chaparral.  ‑ Dorothy Steinicke

Upper Zuma/Trancas Canyons
Backbone Trail from Encinal Canyon east toward Kanan Dume
         The star of the show was Bigpod Ceanothus, which was blooming beautifully all over the slopes, just as Tony said it was at Circle X Ranch. We also saw many milk maids and two chaparral currant.  ‑ John and Barbara

Circle X Ranch
Backbone Trail from the Mishe Mokwa parking lot east
         A short way down the trail on the left there was the most magnificent display of shooting stars that I think I have seen in 15 years. Proceeding further down the trail there are more excellent displays of shooting stars. We hiked up a slope on which there were many more shooting stars at various levels continuing all way up to the road. Shooting stars are one of our favorites and if they are yours too, we heartily recommend this trail. Among the shooting stars there were Slender Pectocarya and Shining Pepperweed. There were, of course, Bigpod Ceanothus everywhere.  ‑ John and Barbara

Cold Creek Preserve
Stunt Ranch High Trail
         We hiked this lovely trail today and saw the first real flowers of the winter, all of them white. In the wooded, early part of the trail, there were pure white milkmaids growing on both sides. A little further up into the chaparral there was big pod ceanothus and some wild cucumber in bloom. After the first road crossing we encountered manzanita in bloom and some white chaparral current. It was all lovely.  ‑ Dorothy Steinicke

Contact Information:

Santa Monica Mountains NRA
401 West Hillcrest Drive
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

If you would like to contribute a wildflower
report you can e-mail the editor at:
or phone Tony at 310-457-6408

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or go to
click on "Things to Do"
and "Look for Wildflowers"

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