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Updated May 27
Available Reviews
Circle X Ranch
Topanga State Park
Red Rock Canyon
Zuma/Trancas Canyons
Leo Carrillo State Park
Date of Review
5/25 & 4/30.
5/11 & 4/26

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.

         What a crazy Spring it has been. Recently everyone has been working on the fire so a lot of our regular business has been put on hold. Safety concerns keep the trails in the burn area closed until the situation can be fully assessed. Don't forget that this is not only about your safety but also that the environment is very fragile right now. It may look like just some burned-out moonscape but how it recovers next year will depend on how we treat it now. Thoughtless footprints through the burn (so very tempting now that everything is wide open and in plain view) can have a negative impact that will last for years. My "tread lightly" solution has always been to look at things, even things close by, with a pair of binoculars. I always buy my binocs with close-focusing characteristics so I can get a close-up view of flowers even when only a few feet off trail. They are a little more expensive than the typical pair but they have helped me avoid needlessly trampling things for years. Not only that they significantly reduce my risk of exposure to things like poison oak, ticks, and rattlesnakes by keeping me on-trail.
         As you probably know things remain excruciatingly dry. That said you can find flowers but you will need to use your "Summer" flower hunting skills to find them. The clarkias and other late season flowers are doing OK in some locations but a lot of reliable sites look pretty barren. Other plants we typically expect to still be blooming have prematurely withered. I've noticed that many plants that did flower this year did not have enough resources left over to produce seeds. For example, although they did flower this year it appears we've essentially lost the entire shooting star seed crop at many locations. Here at CXR we did the piece of the backbone trail south of Yerba Buena a few weeks ago and it had some sparse but nice displays on it. There are other sheltered trails worth exploring. Let us all know what else you have been seeing.  ‑ ed.

Circle X Ranch
Grotto Trail
         This was a CNPS-led hike for flower and plant enthusiasts. We had a small group that chose to hike the grotto trail because it has several sheltered habitats that tend to prolong flowering -- important in this very dry year. We saw close to 60 species in bloom but like other locations I've visited this year many were represented by only a couple plants of even just a single individual. Despite the sparse flower display we all enjoyed the hike, especially as this was a first exposure to CXR for a number of the participants. There was nothing very special to report but I'll mention the narrow-leaved milkweed, lance-leaved dudleya, heart-leaved penstemon, elegant clarkia, bush monkey flower, caterpillar phacelia, chamise, Indian pink, a couple of different popcorn flowers, woolly blue curls, golden stars, cliff aster, bush mallow, Fish's milkwort, California wild rose, hummingbird sage, California blackberry, snowberry, red-skinned onion, durango root, and one tiny farewell-to-spring. This is a nice list but you will be hard pressed to find all of these unless you take your time and have eagle-eyes.  ‑ ed. 

Topanga State park
Backbone Trail: Old Topanga to Saddle peak
         This section of the backbone is long enough that I prefer to do it with a two-car shuttle. We started at the Old Topanga Road trailhead and hiked uphill to the west. There is about a 1600 foot elevation gain but it is frequently shaded so it is a nice trail for exercise even when fairly warm (for an inland trail anyway.) The trail has recently received maintenance so it is wide and easy-going; a real pleasure to hike. I always enjoy the fossils along the trail near Saddle Peak. We saw over 60 species in bloom but many were represented by only a couple plants of even just a single individual. There was evidence of flowers blooming earlier in the season based on the dried up plants we saw, but even these remains indicated this trail experienced only a modest flower year. In addition, the weeds always seem to be winning this time of year. Probably the only thing that got me excited was a nice patch of wild brodiaea in a grassy meadow not far from Old Topanga. Otherwise we enjoyed the modest displays of clarkias, mariposa lilies, heart-leaved penstemon, Turkish rugging, white pincushion, gum plant, tar weeds, monkey flowers, cliff aster, elderberry, golden stars, and phacelias.  ‑ ed. 

Red Rock Canyon
         I went to Red Rock Canyon off of Old Topanga Road because it often has magnificent displays of spring flowers. This year is not its best showing, or possibly it flowered much earlier. The creek is completely dry and there are not dense banks of flowers as there often are but it is still worth a visit. There are many farewell-to-spring and elegant clarkia mixed with live-forever and few fading larkspur blossoms. The most exciting blooms are the large yellow mariposas. There are also slender sunflowers.  ‑ Dorothy Steinicke

Upper Zuma
Backbone Trail, Encinal Canyon about half way to Kanan Dume
         We saw, elegant clarkia, California poppy, white chaenactis, California thistle, Spanish clover, Chinese houses, blue larkspur, yucca, purple clarkia, California buckwheat, black sage, chemise, popcorn (two kinds), sticky monkey flower, cinquefoil, heart-leaved penstemon, cliff aster, black mustard, marsh parsley, bird’s beak, deer weed, golden yarrow, and globe lilies. Nearby at the creek we saw creek monkey flower, annual paintbrush, Red-skinned onion, Canchalagua, Checker bloom, and Water Speedwell.  ‑ John & Barbara Goldthwait

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 gillia and collarless poppies.  ‑ Dorothy Steinicke

Upper Zuma/Trancas Canyons
Backbone Trail: Kanan Dume to about half way to Encinal Canyon
         There were far more flowers than we expected and here is the list: marsh parsley, common eucrypta, common bedstraw, blue larkspur, hedge nettle, fiesta flower, fig wort, black sage, Spanish broom, vervain, sticky monkey, scarlet pimpernel, caterpillar phacelia, small flowered popcorn, prickly lettuce, annual malacothrix, black mustard, deer weed, sweet yellow clover, yucca, Mexican elderberry, California everlasting, canyon sunflower, heart-leaved penstemon, bush lupine, large-flowered phacelia, elegant clarkia, Hummingbird sage, blue dicks, miners lettuce, skullcap, Indian warrior, poison oak, woodland stars, California blackberry, Pacific sanicle, one globe lily with more coming, blue-eyed grass, silver puffs, lemonade berry, small evening primrose, southern tauchia, and checker bloom.  ‑ John & Barbara Goldthwait

Leo Carrillo
Ridgeline Trail
         Last Tuesday I hiked the trail from Leo Carrillo toward Nicholas Flat and in contrast to the above report on Upper Zuma/Trancas Canyons there was almost nothing. Many blooms were truncated or never came at all. Only a few purple sage plants, for example, had any blooms and most had none at all. It was as though that area had gotten even less rain than other areas. Some plants had started to bloom but there was not enough moisture with them to complete blooming.  ‑ John Goldthwait

Contact Information:

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

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