Page Revised: 5/15/09


Available Site Reviews

Nicholas Flat

Newton/Zuma Canyons

Circle X Ranch

Upper Solstice Canyon

Castro Crest

Backbone Trail

Date of Reviews



5/4 & 4/11 & 4/1.





What's Blooming photo gallery:
What's Blooming archive:
Calendar of Events:


        Late spring in SoCal always reminds me of summer or even fall elsewhere and this year is no exception.  The spring rains ended a bit too early to give a us a great blooming season but most of the flowers we see in any given year have made their appearance, if in smaller numbers and for a shorter period of time than typical. Many of the early spring flowers have been mostly gone for awhile now and are getting hard to find even in the sheltered areas.  On the other hand many of the later spring flowers like the appropriately named “Farewell to Spring” are up and blooming well now.  However, if you look carefully you may still find a few of those earlier species holding on in sheltered nooks and crannies.  Please note that because we are in transition from early spring to late spring many of the flower reports here are more out of date than you might otherwise expect.  This is especially true since many of the reports are getting a bit old – people frequently stop sending in reports once the drama of early spring subsides.     – ed.




Nicholas Flat


           Date: 5/15



        We did a quick hike out to the pond at Nicholas Flat and back to check on the water level and the red-winged blackbirds.  It was a nice cool day but the wildflowers are definitely transitioning out of the grand displays of early spring.  This area has a lot of weeds because the many years of ranching still lay heavily upon the land.  Nevertheless the pond is reliable enough to support true aquatic plants and the song of the blackbirds is worth hearing.  The hike to the pond is short, less than half a mile, but there is a lot of additional hiking to be done if you wish.  There is even a trail that goes all the way down to the coast at Leo Carrillo State Beach. Flowering highlights (few as they were) included golden yarrow, Indian paintbrush, deerweed, caterpillar phacelia, morning glory, Chinese houses, bush monkey flower, purple nightshade, a few crimson pitcher sage, canyon sunflower, California chicory, greenbark ceanothus, sugar bush, purple clarkia, sticky madia, mountain dandelion, black sage, blue-eyed grass, and common verbena.  Rating: Fair.  – ed.


Newton/Zuma Canyons

Backbone trail between Latigo and Kanan

           Date: 5/11



        We started at the Latigo trailhead of the backbone trail and hiked west to the Kanan trailhead and then hiked back. This section of the backbone is pretty short so the whole hike was less than five miles.  Of note is the appearance of several of the late spring/early summer flowers.  This particular section has an unusually high amount of tree cover for the Santa Monica Mountains so it is a nice hike on a hot day.  All told we saw a little less than seventy species in bloom which is pretty good this late in the season, especially for a dry year.  We can expect that number to drop soon as it continues to dry out.  There are already much lower quantities of most flowers in evidence.  Parts of this trail, especially near Latigo, have a disappointing number of invasive weedy species which are beginning to supplant the native wildflowers.  Flowering highlights included dense stands of bush monkey flower, chamise, purple sage, black sage, bird’s beak, California buckwheat, golden yarrow, hillside penstemon, three different sunflowers, several different lupines, a couple of early heart-leaved penstemon, caterpillar phacelia, sugar bush, purple nightshade, popcorn flowers, sticky madia, California chicory, morning glory, quite a few crimson pitcher sage still holding on, California figwort, the native western thistle with its beautiful purple flowers, elderberry, yucca, Catalina mariposa lily, globe gilia, miner’s lettuce, fiesta flower, Chinese houses, blue-eyed grass, mountain dandelion, blue larkspur, sticky cinquefoil, common vervain, elegant clarkia, and Indian paintbrush.  Rating: Good.  – ed.


Circle X Ranch

Mishe Mokwa Trail

             Date: 5/4



        We hiked out to split rock and then up the canyon west to the stream crossing and then turned back.  Things are definitely drying out now.  All told we saw about 70 species in bloom but several were on their way out even as the later spring flowers are beginning to show nicely.  Flowering highlights included blue dicks, black sage, wooly blue curls, golden yarrow, Catalina mariposa lily, spotted, purple, and willow-herb clarkias, California chicory, popcorn flowers, chamise, yellow and bush monkey flowers, turkish rugging, tarweed, dwarf flax, golden stars, purple clarkia, star lily, caterpillar, mountain, and Parry’s phacelias, stick-leaf, chia, collarless California poppy, sugar bush, yucca, both yellow and white pin cushions, miner’s lettuce, purple nightshade, chinese houses, canyon sunflower, sticky cinquefoil, angel’s and globe gilias, red-skinned onion, blue larkspur, stinky gilia, fiesta flower, white thorn white pitcher sage, sticky madia, California blackberry, morning glory, yellow cress, an early bird’s beak, and California buckwheat.  Rating: Good.  – ed.


Upper Solstice Canyon

Backbone Trail

             Date: 5/3



        A two-hour round-trip hike netted over 60 species in bloom along the

Backbone Trail through Upper Solstice Canyon -- including Caterpillar

Phacelia, Golden Yarrow, Black Sage, Woolly Blue Curls, Bush

Monkeyflower, Slender Sunflower, California Chicory, Rush Rose, Catalina

Mariposa Lily, Mouse-eared Chickweed, Red-skinned Onion, the native

California Mustard, Fiesta Flower, Globe Gilia, Silver Puffs, Sticky

Cinquefoil, Skullcap, and two kinds of Vetch (American Vetch and

possibly Slim Vetch).

        On the drive up to Castro Crest  the hills along Corral Canyon Rd.,

burned in the most recent Malibu fire, were covered with Morning Glories

plus an occasional Large-flowered Phacelia.   – Jay Sullivan.


Castro Crest

Backbone Trail west of the  Corral Canyon trailhead

             Date: 5/1



        This nice section of the Backbone Trail passes through several different ecosystems and thus affords a diverse array of plant species.  There is quite a bit of shade along some sections but others are very exposed and dry so be sure to bring your hat and sun block. I descended from the Corral Canyon trailhead and passed through the area that burned recently.  Most of the flowers there are you typical fire-followers but many have already passed their prime.  I moved down to the lowers section that parallels the creek and was pleased to see some persistent pools of water in the creek bed.  I had made the trip down to the creek to find a particular flower that I wanted to photograph and add to our flower gallery.  However, the hike was so inviting I spent much of the day down there even after I found my goal.  In all I saw about eighty species in bloom – not bad at all for this time of year.  However, I expect that number to drop fast in the near future – many were clearly finishing up their blooming season.  Flowering highlights include morning glory (they are robust fire-followers), both bush and yellow monkey flowers, California chicory, whispering bells, a couple of different evening primroses, blue dicks, purple nightshade, greenbark ceanothus, chamise, golden yarrow, slender sunflower, wooly blue curls, turkish rugging, star lily, caterpillar phacelia, several different popcorn flowers, several different lupines, red-skinned onion, silver puffs, miner’s lettuce, skullcap, angel’s gilia, globe gilia, fiesta flower, milk maids, sticky cinquefoil, winter cress, western pearlwort, woodland star, Jonny jump-up, blackberry, collarless California poppy, mountain dandelion, blue-eyed grass, Chinese houses, American vetch, scarlet bugler, and fuchsia-flowered gooseberry.  Rating: Good.  – ed.



Backbone Trail East of Malibu Creek SP

           Date: 4/11



        Today’s hike was number eight of the NPS sponsored Backbone Trail hikes in the 2008 – 2009 series. We are hiking west to east, one section of the Backbone Trail each month.

        With great weather for hiking, cool and sunny, we traverse numerous plant communities on the eastern slope of Malibu Canyon from Saddle Peak to Tapia.  The grandeur of the soaring, boulder-strewn ridgelines gives way to chaparral(s), spotted with grasslands and coastal sage scrub.  With the boulders standing watch high above, the trail winds in and out of drainages until the inviting light, sounds and smells of Dark Canyon beckon a rest.  Continuing the decent into Monte Nido offers intimate groves of ceanothus, coast live oak and California bay.

        At least 95 native species were observed in flower.  Most were familiar, but a few stymied and humbled us.  At the higher elevations perennials like Eastwood manzanita, ceanothus (hairy-leaved, buck-brush and white thorn) and interior live oak were quite spectacular.  Winning the popularity contest were: tomcat clover (one patch of owl's-clover), globe gilia, chia, mariposa lily, fiesta flower, Chinese houses, collarless  poppy, purple larkspur, baby blue eyes, yellow pincushion, and blue-eyed grass.  Trail-side displays throughout included: purple nightshade, blue dicks, lupine (var.), caterpillar phacelia, lomatium, and miners lettuce.  At lower elevations the ceanothus species gave way to green bark and hoary-leaved.  Some bashful species were spotted, perhaps for the last time this season.  They were: chocolate lily, Indian warrior, and summer holly.

        Rating: Very Enjoyable.   – R. Waycott (and others).


Circle X Ranch

Mishe Mokwa Loop

           Date: 4/11



        This hike was a NPS sponsored flower hike out to Split Rock and back.  Several of us decided to continue on and do the entire six mile loop even though the trip to Split Rock is the best section for viewing flowers. We are in a transition period right now where many of the early spring flowers have left us and the late spring flowers are just starting up. For example, we saw only a few shooting stars blooming in fields where hundreds were blooming only a few weeks ago.  Similarly, we saw a few early chamise starting to bloom when most are barely in bud. All together we saw about ninety different species in bloom.  Highlights include many chocolate lilies, blue dicks, several different lupines, yellow monkey flower, bush monkey flower, a few early heart-leaved penstemon, twining snapdragon, several different members of the wooly-head tribe, purple nightshade, hairy-leaved ceanothus, hoary-leaved ceanothus, Parry’s phacelia, mountain phacelia, caterpillar phacelia, evening primroses, chia, California chicory, collarless California poppy, several different native mustards, globe gilia, star lily, yellow pincushion, miner’s lettuce, virgin’s bower, several different members of the wild celery family, coast goldfields, owl’s clover, blue larkspur, over a half-dozen different popcorn flowers, California saxifrage, California peony, milkmaids, skullcap, prickly phlox, Chinese houses, and Eastwood manzanita.     Rating: Very Good.   – ed.


Circle X Ranch

Canyon View Trail

              Date: 4/1



        When time is short and we only have half an hour for a quick evening hike we often turn to the trail which offers the most: The Canyon View Trail. A short walk down the hill to the campground and then through the beautiful riparian area below and we quickly come to the first waterfall, still running despite another fairly dry season.  We pass a few hundred yards beyond to take in the many flowers on and below the stony walls above the creek. We turn around before rising up into the chaparral and retrace our steps to fork in the trail just before the waterfall.  The beginning of the canyon view trail rises up from the grotto trail into the more open vegetation of sage scrub and chaparral. Walking only a few tenths of a mile we take in slopes dramatically covered with lovely trail-side flowers. Our half hour is up by the time we reach the north-bound curve in the trail and we head back the way we came in the gathering dusk. I've done this walk so many time I can't begin to count but it is always worth the quick break it provides.

        We counted a little over fifty species in bloom with many now in good abundance. Highlights included three different lupines, wild cucumber, several different native mustards, black sage, popcorn flowers, clovers, both white and purple nightshades, sunflowers, elderberry, fiddleneck, greenbark ceanothus, hairy-leaved ceanothus, blue dicks, eucrypta, a couple of different bedstraws, blue larkspur, california saxifrage, miners lettuce, chinese houses, fiesta flower, Parry's and caterpillar phacelias contrasting very nicely with masses of wishbone bush, windmill pink, several representatives of the wooly-head tribe, twining snapdragon, yellow monkey flower, mustard evening primrose, california collarless poppy, and a whole hillside of globe gilia. Finally, if you have keen eyes you will notice several different trees in bloom now with their small green flowers (they make no attempt to attract pollinators but instead rely on wind to disperse their pollens.)  Rating: Good.   – ed.



Contact Information:


Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area


401 West Hillcrest Drive
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360




If you would like to contribute to the wildflower report:




or phone Tony at 310-457-6408