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Updated April 3rd
Available Reviews
Circle X Ranch
Topanga State Park
Malibu Creek State Park
Red Rock Canyon Park
Point Mugu State Park
Zuma/Trancas Canyons
Castro Crest
Date of Review
3/30 & 3/16 & 3/14 & 2/18.
3/11 & 2/23 & 2/18.

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, although still lingering in many locations have clearly passed their prime. Like the bigpod ceanothus before them they have had a good year. This has been true of a number of our perennial flowers. The annuals on the other hand have been much more hit and miss with some doing OK and others practically absent. Most of the hikes I've done this season have revealed reasonable species counts but the unusual dryness has taken a big toll on the quantity of flowers. In addition a lot of the plants I've seen have the rather stunted look I associate with drought stress. There are some good trails out there but it has been hard to use patterns from previous years to extrapolate what might be doing well this year. I suspect that this is because so much of the precipitation this year has come in the form of "showers." The patchy nature of rainfall from showers means that two stands of vegetation situated quite close to each other may be doing very differently. Indeed, even a hundred yards can make a huge difference. In a more typical year rainfall tends to average out over the season, but in a dry year things are further exacerbated because a site with less rain than it's neighbors may have crossed the line seperating plants that are merely stressed from those being literally dead. Very few people have been submitting flower reports this year probably because most of the flower displays are rather uninspiring. I note however, that in a sparse year the flower reports people submit to this newsletter are even more useful than in a great year when everyone can find flowers by just picking any old trail at random. Let me know what you see.
         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 season at 997. The good news it that I’ve already found my 1000th plant just this past week. I probably won't post any of these new plants until the season slows down and I can catch my breath.  ‑ ed.

Circle X Ranch
The Grotto Trail (with a couple of side spurs)
         I was expecting a paucity of flowers due to our lack of rain but found this hike to be very rewarding. Star lilies were the star of the hike, we saw more than a hundred of them in bloom. Leaving the group campground we saw canyon sunflowers, blue dicks, morning glory and greenbark ceanothus which seemed to be at the very end of its blooming. The stream was completely dry at the first and second stream crossing. Going uphill to the meadow there is a rocky seep that is always rewarding with spring flowers. Today there were blue larkspur and Chinese houses. Further along there were blooming black sage, woolly blue curls and popcorn flower and the first of the many star lilies. In the meadow there were several Catalina mariposa lilies as well as vetch, blue eyed grass and sticky monkey flower. Descending through the chaparral there were blooming chamise, Southern tauschia, purple nightshade, wishbone flower, mustard evening primrose and virgin's bower. Along the trail at the bottom of the canyon we saw California everlasting, hedge nettle, wild cucumber, peony, sweet pea, meadow nemophila and hummingbird sage. On the way to the grotto we stopped and watched newts in several pools. On our return we took a side trip to the old Happy Hollow campground which was carpeted in dove lupine with patches of johnny-jump-ups and common fiddleneck and a hillside of padres shooting stars. Also on our return we went a ways on the Canyon View Trail where we saw hundreds of yellow monkey flowers along with twining snapdragon, chia, caterpillar phacelia, globe gilia and collarless poppies.  ‑ Dorothy Steinicke

Topanga State Park
Sullivan Canyon Fire Road
         The paved road serves Camp Josepho, and there is a ridge trail with many wildflowers. About a mile in, you reach a large area that burned last September, extending uphill from the road and down the opposite side of the ridge. Last month there were many Wild Cucumber vines, most in flower, sprawled over the discolored ground. Now they are producing many of their spiny seed pods, which are just beginning to fade from their bright green. Some are brown and splitting, producing their large, light brown seeds. The fire killed many of the ceanothus within the burn area. Mountain Mahogany, Sumac, Chamise, Elderberry and Coast Live Oak are all sprouting from the stumps, except where the fire was hottest and the plants were evidently killed. If you walk up through the burn area, the trail following the ridge provides many wildflowers: Blue Dicks, Lupine, Phacelia (Giant and Wooly), Popcorn Flower, Twining Snapdragon, Star Lily, Shiny Lomatium, Bush and Canyon Sunflower. Once the ridge trail rejoins the road, and continuing north, you’ll see Pacific Sanicle, Fuschia-Flowering Gooseberry, more Sunflowers, Poison Oak, and when nearly to the point where the road goes downhill into the Scout Camp, there is a beautiful Virgin’s Bower (Clematis). Following the road back, when a few hundred yards beyond the burned area is a Bush Poppy (Dendromicon rigida.) There are more flowers blooming along the ridge trail than on the road itself. Be careful; bicycles use this trail also, and it is very narrow and severely eroded in places from the heavy bicycle traffic. At some points, you will be walking in a trench 2-3 feet deep. It's a great opportunity to see plants regenerating after a brush fire.  ‑ Carol Mathews

Malibu Creek State Park
Phantom Trail
         I used the signed trailhead on Mulholland Hwy for the Phantom Trail. Along the first 1/8 of a mile I found nice displays of Purple Nightshade, Eucrypta, Bush Sunflower, White Popcorn Flower, Indian Paintbrush, and Greenbark Ceanothus. There were also a few Sticky Phacelia . For the next half a mile there is not much happening till you start to get to the top of the ridge. There, I found more Popcorn Flower, Indian Paintbrush, Bush Sunflower, and some Owls Clover. Going on, there is a fork in the trail with the main trail bypassing the ridge, and a trail continuing up the ridge. On the main trail, there are Fiesta Flowers, Fiddlenecks, Ceanothus, and California Peony. On the ridge trail there are some California Poppies on the lower north facing slopes of the first two summits that you come to. The second one has the best display of Poppies, with some Red Maids mixed in. A nice loop can be made by combining the two trails.  ‑ Jim Garafalo

Red Rock Canyon Park
Red Rock Trail
         Flowers are starting to bloom at Red Rock Canyon Park. I walked up Calabasas Peak MW from Stunt Road, down into Red Rock Canyon to the Red Rock Trail. Starting up Calabasas Peak MW, there is some Morning Glory, Popcorn Flowers, Burr Clover,Bush Sunflower, and Green Bark Ceanothus. Further up the hill there is a nice spot with Coulters Lupine, Chia, and Popcorn Flowers, all growing together. Turning right on the fire road , and heading down into the canyon I saw Prickly Phlox, a Hummingbird Sage,Indian Paintbrush, and more Greenbark Ceanothus. Turning left and going up the Red Rock Trail, there is more Popcorn Flower which becomes more numerous the higher you go. Indian Paintbrush, Chia, and Woolly Blue Curl and starting to bloom here. I also saw a few Yellow Monkey Flowers, Fern Leaf Phacelia and a Slender Tarweed , and at the top of the trail were some Baby Blue-Eyes growing on the north side of the rock formation.  ‑ Jim Garafalo

Point Mugu State Park
La Jolla Canyon
         Our St. Patrick's Day hike took us to La Jolla Canyon where giant coreopsis was in full glory along with greenbark ceanothus. Bad news is that the waterfall and pond were DRY. Other species noted were blue dicks, star lily, poison oak, bush sunflower, canyon sunflower, California everlasting, western wallflower, bladder pod, morning glory, wild cucumber, so cal locoweed, coastal lotus, deerweed, canyon pea, succulent lupin, red-stem filaree, wishbone bush, chaparral currant, fuchsia-flowered gooseberry, Indian paintbrush, bush monkey flower, tree tobacco, purple nightshade, padre's shooting star, and hedgenettle.  ‑ Kathy Jonokuchi

Circle X Ranch
backbone Trail
         Yesterday (Saturday March 16th) a few of us did a make-up hike on the third section of the Backbone Trail from Mishe Mokwa to Encinal Canyon Road. We identified approximately 53 flowering plants, which is a huge improvement over the original hike back in late February. Highlights included: transition from big pod ceanothus to greenback, white thorn and hoary leaved; creek monkey flower; yellow monkey flower; Parry's phacelia; collarless poppy; twinning snapdragon; popcorn flower; four different (bush, stinging, dove, and coulter) lupines; coastal lotus; canyon sunflower; prickly phlox; skull caps; star lily; rock rose; and Indian warrior. We also encountered a baby rattlesnake, so watch your step now that the weather is warming up.  ‑ Greg Sweel

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

Contact Information:

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

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