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Page Revised: 06/02/2012


Available Reviews

Point Mugu State Park

Circle X Ranch

Triunfo Canyon Park

Zuma/Trancas Canyons

Cold Creek Preserve

Topanga State Park

Zuma/Trancas Canyons

Rancho Sierra Vista

Malibu Creek State Park

Date of Review






05/15 & 04/28.

04/28 & 04/13 & 04/12.



Quick Links:

Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains - Photos of 950 SMM species.

Archive - Previous “What's Blooming” reports.

Outdoors - The Calendar of Events for the Santa Monica Mountains NRA.

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SMM WildFlowers - The Park's popular wildflower app for the iPhone.

Plants To Watch For - New - A short list of “Favorites” flowering now or soon.


        Early on this year there was little to report as the lack of rain made for a pretty barren winter.  The atypical deep dust of this past winter was knocked down by the late spring rains but things are still unusually dry and the dust has returned. One indication of the dryness is how little water there is in many of our seasonal creeks.  These creeks are largely spring fed and the lack of water is a result of unusually low water tables.  The flower displays I’ve seen recently seem a bit more typical of this time of year but I’d judge still not as good as normal.  It is interesting to note that the early extended dry spell followed by a fair quantity of rain rather late in the season has “confused” some of our plants. For example, many ceanothus are flowering again much latter in the season than is typical for them, with some plants simultaneously showing both mature fruit and flowers on the same shrub.  I suspect this weather pattern is at least partly behind the great display of the yucca and bush monkey flower this year.  Finally, the recent appearance of the California fuchsia is a sure sign that spring is moving on.  If you want to send in a flower report my email address is down at the bottom.  As always, happy hunting and I'll see you on the trails.  – ed.




Point Mugu State Park

La Jolla Canyon Loop Trail

 Date: 05/28



        I haven't taken this hike in many years and I'm not sure why because it is a true pleasure.  Although this has been a sparse season for flowers this hike has many and in great quantities.  

        Just in the parking lot there were cliff asters, sticky monkey flower, bush sunflower, giant coreopsis and blooming yucca on display.  As you start up the trail there are delicate mallows, datura, Indian paintbrush, morning glory, golden yarrow, deer weed, California buckwheat, purple sage and black sage, blooming prickly pear, heart leaf penstemon and California everlasting.  At the dripping waterfall we found both creek monkey flower and scarlet monkey flower.  Continuing on there were caterpillar phacelia, Indian pinks, wishbone flower, hedge nettle, canyon sunflower, both big pod ceanothus and green bark ceanothus, elder flower, California bee plant and hummingbird sage.  We looped through La Jolla Canyon which is just spectacularly beautiful.  Didn't see a whole lot of additional species but the beauty of the walk was well worth it.  We did see buttercups and white yarrow as well as both purple and white nightshade.  – Dorothy Steinicke


Circle X Ranch

Grotto Trail

 Date: 05/25



        While this trail is not the best flower trail around it is still one of my favorites. The drying up of the "flower alley" just below the first waterfall is a sign that summer is approaching. Ditto for the recent appearance of the California fuchsia on this trail. The late rains have left many of our perennial shrubs looking quite lush for this time of year with a number of them recently passing through a second bloom. With only a few exceptions the flower display on this trail was only fair, typical of the paucity of the year. Yellows are the color right now spearheaded by the sunflowers, bush monkey flower and the golden yarrow. Altogether I saw about sixty different species in bloom which is typical of even a good year, but the quantities of most were rather low. Other highlights included both greenbark and bigpod ceanothus, wild morning glory, yucca, deerweed, California buckwheat, elderberry, yellow monkey flower, black sage, a few chamise, California everlasting, elegant clarkia, heart-leaved penstemon, caterpillar phacelia, both purple and white nightshade, California wild rose, lance-leaved dudleya, sticky madia, a few popcorn flowers, woolly blue curls, a few Catalina mariposa lilies, golden stars, cliff aster, blue-eyed grass, and a nice display of humming bird sage.  – ed.


Triunfo Canyon Park

Pentachaeta Trail

 Date: 05/20



        We visited the Pentachaeta Trail this morning and were pleasantly surprised with the number of blooms for this time of year and drought conditions.  In large numbers, they were chamise, golden yarrow,  California buckwheat, woolly blue curls, black sage, purple sage, sticky monkey flower, red stemmed filaree, yucca, black mustard, mariposa lily, elegant clarkia, speckled clarkia, farewell-to-spring, slender tarweed, caterpillar phacelia, and deer weed.  In smaller numbers but notable: blue larkspur, fleabane, bush mallow, golden stars, Calif. poppy, common celery, bush sunflower, California everlasting, rock rose, wild morning glory, sapphire eriastrum, vervain, purple nightshade, shiny lomatium, Spanish clover and blue eyed grass.  Fauna-wise, we came across a 4 ft. rattler with was just crossing the trail into the deerweed.  Saw a few spotted towhee and 2 flocks of black hooded parakeets.  – Kathy Jonokuchi


Zuma/Trancas Canyons

Backbone Trail

 Date: 05/18



        Backbone Trail from Encinal Cyn to about half way to Kanan Dume. We saw a great many wildflowers along the trail and here is the list:

Black Sage, Blue larkspur, Blue-eyed Grass, Black mustard, Bush Lupine, California Everlasting, California Poppy, Canyon Sunflower, Caterpillar Phacelia, Chinese Houses, Cinquefoil, Cliff Aster, Common Eucrypta, Deer Weed, Elegant Clarkia, Fiddleneck, Fuscia-flowered Gooseberry, Heart-Leaved Penstemon, Mariposa Lily, Mountain Dandelion, Prickly Phlox, Purple Clarkia, Purple Nightshade, Silver Puffs, Popcorn, Star Lily, Sticky Monkey Flower, White Chaenactis, Woolly Blue Curls, Yellow Monkey Flower, and Yucca.

        Off the trail by the stream we saw:

Annual Paintbrush, Canchalagua, Chalk Live-forever (not blooming), Checker Bloom, Creek Monkey Flower, Owl’s Clover, Parry’s Phacelia, Poison Hemlock, Red-skinned Onion, Southern Goldfields, and Water Speedwell.  – John & Barbara


Topanga Canyon State Park

Nature Trail

 Date: 05/14



        It is getting hot but there are still flowers there.  An early morning walk along the nature trail showed sticky monkey flower, mallow, black sage, popcorn flower, blooming yucca, wishbone flower, ceanothus, bush lupine, bush sunflower, California buckwheat and wild morning glory..  – Dorothy Steinicke


Cold Creek Preserve


 Date: 05/14



        It was a hot day and I just went to the riparian section of this hike to see if some of my special favorites were in bloom.  This riparian section is so shady, cool and lovely that it almost wouldn't matter if nothing were in bloom.  There were blooms, but not a lot.  As you enter, the trail is lined with blue eyed grass and caterpillar phacelia.  Entering into the shady part there were golden yarrow, purple nightshade, black sage, sticky monkey flower and Chinese houses.  There was a lot of lovely elegant clarkia.  Down alongside the creek the stream orchids are in delicate bloom.  On my return I was rewarded with the company of a four foot gopher snake.  It must have newly shed its skin, it was all glossy and shiny.  – Dorothy Steinicke


Topanga State Park

Backbone Trail

 Date: 04/28



        Today’s hike was the seventh leg of the 2012 National Park Service Backbone Trail Hike.  We are hiking west to east covering two segments per month.  Today we hiked in the Topanga Canyon area.  The effects of our late spring rains were evident in the 74 native species recorded in bloom.

        Along with the hardy perennials we were treated to many of the annuals that had evaded us earlier in the season.  This was particularly true in lower elevations where there was no mistaking the successful formula of sunshine and moisture.

        The trail should continue in bloom for a month save several days of extreme heat.  – Ralph (and others)


Zuma Canyon

Misc. Trails

 Date: 04/28



        We made a loop of it by turning right on the Ocean View Trail connecting to the Canyon View Trail and meeting up with the Zuma Loop Trail.  There was a solid rain earlier in the week so we were hopeful of seeing a lot of flowers in bloom.  The hike was initially disappointing; the two "shoulders" provided the best floral displays.  There are actually a large number of flower species in bloom but only on those shoulders are there great masses of blooming flowers.  

        Entering the trail there are elder flower, black sage, vervain, bush sunflower, California everlasting and California bee plant.  By the dry creek just before you head up the hill there is a spectacular bush lupine in full flower.  On the climb uphill you are rewarded with lovely ocean views every time you stop to catch your breath. On the way you will also see golden yarrow, sugar bush, deer weed, purple sage, wishbone flower, purple nightshade, morning glory and locoweed.  As you near the top there is sticky monkey flower growing in great abundance interspersed with white yarrow and Indian paintbrush with bunches of blue eyed grass here and there.  Well worth the climb.  Continuing into the area of morning shade in the folds of the canyon there are bush mallow, cliff aster, hedge nettle, big pod ceanothus (so late), Turkish rugging, caterpillar phacelia, canyon sunflower, and popcorn flower.  Dipping down into the riparian area there were Indian pinks, fuchsia flowering gooseberry, blue dicks, heart leaf penstemon, scarlet bugler, fiesta flower and virgin's bower seed pods.  Leaving the creek and taking the loop trail up to the other shoulder of the canyon we saw another display of masses of sticky monkey with lots of blue eyed grass, Indian paintbrush and Catalina mariposa lilies.  A very satisfying hike.  – Dorothy Steinicke


Rancho Sierra Vista

Satwiwa Loop to Waterfall

 Date: 04/14



        The flowers continue to be sparse, some are late with the cool April temps, but recent rains and warm weather are improving the season—with the waterfall running nicely, and a good flowing creek at the first crossing. Highlights among the 25 native species included wishbone bush, collarless California poppies, Parry’s phacelia, Mariposa lilies, fiesta flowers, hummingbird sage, and golden yarrow. While we didn’t see the usual rattlesnakes—always active in warm weather—we did hear some reports, and came across a 4-foot gopher snake stretched across the trail (plus an amorous pair of California tree frogs at the waterfall itself—ribbit). The “green meadows” (of weeds) along the way are still pretty but starting to turn, and willow seeds are flying around like snowflakes. It’s definitely time to soak up some classic spring weather, wildflowers, and waterfalls!  – Jack Gillooly


Malibu Creek State Park

Backbone Trail

 Date: 04/14



        Today’s hike was the sixth leg of the 2012 National Park Service Backbone Trail Hike.  We are hiking west to east covering two segments per month.  This hike we reversed our direction and started up near Saddle Peak and ended up on Malibu Canyon Road.  Today we hiked as a late winter rain had just moved east.   Conditions were muddy in places, but our pallets were moistened by the 66 native plants we counted in bloom.  

        Several species of ceanothus were in bloom along with lupines, clovers, oaks, sages, along with a variety other perennials.  Though low quantities within species, there were a large number of shy annuals: snap dragon, wall flower, blue larkspur, gilia, Chinese houses, clarkia, blue eyed grass, fiesta, to name a few.

 – R. Waycott (and others)


Lower Zuma Canyon


 Date: 04/13



        Lot’s of opportunistic non-native annual plants are blooming wherever possible on the Zuma Loop Trail. Since non-natives have to grow fast and bloom profusely,  they have been taking advantage of the hot/cold strange weather we have been having. Those include the usual suspects: milk thistle, mustard, yellow clover, etc. If you can ignore those non-natives there are a fair amount of things to see on the first half (the canyon bottom part) of the Zuma loop trail. The California walnuts are full of catkins. Both California everlasting and two-tone everlasting can be seen. Look at, but don’t touch, the poison oak flowers (very small, very pale white flowers) which are blooming profusely.

        For more serious botanists, you can see a large milkwort plant in early bloom at the first trail intersection. The red-purple flowers are small, but quite noticeable. Milkwort is the only member of it’s species that occurs in the Santa Monica Mountains. Snowberry (pale pink flowers) and hedge nettle (more intense pink flowers) are blooming as you descend closer to a moist, but dry streambed.

Many black sage plants are blooming, as well as fuchsia flowered gooseberry, and both bush and canyon sunflower.

        The trail had several patches where it was quite muddy, but it was easy to avoid the mud. We had to turn back at the last stream crossing, as the water was too deep to cross.

        I would give this trail * * * for nice blooms, with promise of more things to come. 

– Sheila Braden


Zuma/Trancas Canyons

Backbone Trail

 Date: 04/12



        One an overcast day between rainstorms, there was much blooming and much to see.  Immediately off the Newton Canyon trailhead, a magnificent hummingbird sage bloom fourteen inches tall.  Along the stream by the waterfall are spreads of periwinkles, and their blues harmonize with the dark forest growth.  Wood mint is blooming now, the entire mint family is well represented.  Other unusual finds in the woodland include coffee fern, a lot of caterpillar phacelia, horehound, fiesta flower, common eucrypta, canyon sunflower and miner's lettuce as well as wishbone bush, cliff aster, purple nightshade, California everlasting, bush monkey flower and canyon sunflower.  Higher up there is slender sunflower, wooly blue curls, blue-eyed grass, black sage.  Sprays of blue-eyed grass, falcons vocalizing and fog-shrouded ridgelines await you in Upper Zuma canyon.   Ceanothus and elderberry are blooming.  – Alexander Walker



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 you can e-mail the editor at:


or phone Tony at 310-457-6408

What’s Blooming

on the web at

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