Page Revised: 07/09/2011


Available Site Reviews

Topanga Canyon State Park

Circle X Ranch

Malibu Creek State Park

Newton Canyon

Rocky Oaks

Peter Strauss Ranch

Westridge-Canyonback Park

Upper Las Virgenes Canyon

Date of Review

07/08 & 06/28.

06/29 & 06/25 & 06/17 & 06/05 & 06/03.







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Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains - Photos of 850 SMM species.

Archive - Previous “What's Blooming” reports.

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        Much of the hiking I've done recently indicates that flower season is nearly over and summer is here. Granted, most of my recent hiking has been in some of the drier parts of the range but still the indications of the change of the season are here. There will still be some very nice flower species blooming for a while yet, like the Plummer’s mariposa lily and the scarlet larkspur, but the diversity of Spring is passing. For sure, flowers can be found throughout the summer and my camera is busy year round, but mostly gone is the best Southern California has to offer. Where before any old trail was bound to please from now on finding flowers will be a matter of the craftiness of the flower hunter. Look for sheltered sites with shade or water or near the coast. These places can offer flowers year-round and additionally may reward us with some of the rarest finds.

        Alternatively, consider re-defining your expectations of what defines a flower. Many of our true summer flowers are small and obscure or have a scraggly habit and not perhaps what the typical person would use in their flower arrangements (this value judgment is clear when we note many of them have the word “weed” in their names.) Now is the beginning of the season of the true flower enthusiast.

        As always, if you want to contact me or submit a flower report my email address is at the at the bottom of this page.  See you on the trails.

        – ed.




Topanga State Park

Trailer Canyon Trail

 Date: 07/08/2011



        Today we hiked up the Trailer Canyon Trail from Pacific Palisades to the Backbone Trail and back, about 4.5 miles each way. Even though we have been having hot weather the flora is still quite green, with some surprises. While the Laurel sumac, California buckwheat and Toyon dominate in quantities, Elderberry flower and fruit are plentiful. There is leftover Monkey flower, Deerweed, Golden yarrow, Purple nightshade, Filaree, Black sage, Caterpillar phacelia, and Heart leaved penstemon. Starting up the trail we saw Vervain, Chaparral honeysuckle, and Sunflower, giving way to Cliff Aster, Narrow leaved milkweed, Bush lupine, Two-tone everlasting. Of course there was plenty Yellow star thistle, Black mustard, Tree tobacco, Sweet fennel, and a few Bristly ox-tongue. I was surprised to see what appears to be re-blooming Greenbark ceanothus and Chamise. There are a few Hollyleaf redberry that are easy to identify with the berries. The expected Felt-leaf everlasting and Slender tarweed were represented. Not having hiked this trail before, I was surprised to see more than a few Braunton’s milkvetch in the final stages of blooming. When I referred to my iPhone app for SM Wildflowers, I see that the pictures posted for this plant were taken on Temescal Ridge Trail just above the trail that we are hiking. Rating: very good.

– Burt Elliott


Wildwood Park

Paradise Falls Trail

 Date: 07/05/2011



        We parked in the parking lot on Arboles across from Wildflower playfields, then went across the lawn behind the bathrooms to the trail entrance. This is where the fort used to be. We took this trail along the creek following the signs to Paradise Falls. After looking at the falls we continued on the trail, passed through the campground towards Lizard Rock and returned the same way we came following the creek. The highlight of the hike was viewing Paradise Falls. It is running vigorously and I feel sometimes I forget how lovely it is because it is so accessible. For the best view go to the base of the falls and carefully walk across the pond to the cliffs on the other side using the well placed rocks and branches. Many of the rocks have moss and are slippery so it is easy to slip in the water. The cliffs on the other side of the creek have an abundance of Conejo buckwheat in bloom growing out of them. I believe Wildwood is one of the few areas with considerable patches of Conejo buckwheat so seeing them in all over the cliffs was worth the hike. There were not many other flowers blooming in abundance. Summer has definitely arrived. That said, we still did see a large variety of flowers, just not in their peak. There was yerba mansa by the creek and California fuschia near the falls. We also saw perezia. false indigo in seed, a lot of California buckwheat and chalk dudleya, white and yellow clover, sticky monkey flower, wild celery, mule fat, bladderpod (unusual this far from the ocean) heart-leaf penstemon, toyon, purple sage (mostly dried up but a few blooms) lemonade berry in berry, honeysuckle, watercress near the stream, yarrow, tarweed, canyon sunflower, cliff aster, California everlasting, lance-leaf dudleya, hemlock, morning glory, snowberry in berry, and water plantain. As the days have been hot we went in the evening and found the temperature very conducive for hiking.  – Fred and Nellie


Circle X Ranch

Mishe Mokwa Trail

 Date: 06/29/2011



        We did just a quick hike down toward split rock near sunset. The evening was cool and the light lovely but in the end we had to turn back before we got there because it was getting too dark. I made a flower list but is was very brief because so many things have dried up in the last few weeks. The best of the lot was plentiful scarlet larkspur and Plumber's mariposa lily, both still approaching their peak. The other things I made particular note of was the appearance of the tarweeds and the dropping of the leaves on the salvias -- both signs that spring is over and summer is here, at least on this trail. Still looking good was woolly blue curls, heart-leaved penstemon, white pitcher sage, bird's beak, both caulk and lance-leaved dudleya, bush mallow and california buckwheat. Additional highlights were scarce and most of the remaining things I will mention here are on the way out or even essentially done. They include black sage, yucca, sapphire wool stars, golden yarrow, small-flowered dwarf-flax, Turkish rugging, deerweed, yellow monkey flower, chamise, sticky madia (another tarweed), one golden stars, and several sticky monkey flower shrubs with only a few sad flowers showing on a bush that had hundreds of dried up blossoms. The mariposa lily and scarlet larkspur on their own keep the rating of this trail "good."  – ed.


Topanga State Park:

Trippet Ranch

Santa Ynez trail to waterfall

 Date: 06/28/2011



        Our goal for this hike was to visit the Santa Ynez Waterfall. We hadn't been here for a few years. Several people we talked to along the trail told us it was dried up and no longer existed. Fortunately, they were wrong. Surprisingly we saw quite a few flowers for this time of year and there was a lot of variety also. The hike started as a ridge trail and this portion of the hike had the most flowers. There were large bushes of lupine and heart-leaf penstemon. There was also quite a few Plummer’s mariposa lilies and a large smattering of crimson larkspur. Other flowers in bloom on the upper trail included: sticky monkey flower, pitcher sage, scarlet pimpernel, tarweed, deerweed, buckwheat, filaree, California everlasting, bush mallow, verbena, elderberry, cliff aster, morning glory, black sage, red berry in berry, bush sunflower, honeysuckle, yucca, narrow-leaf milkweed, bull thistle, toyon, yarrow, laurel sumac, chamise, wooly blue curls, narrow-leaf dudleya, twiggy wreath plant, bedstraw, woolly blue sapphire, cudweed aster, and chalk dudleya.

        The trail then descends into the Santa Ynez Canyon. It was cool and pleasant with a lot of foliage, but not as many flowers. We saw: wild rose, blackberries in berry (tasty) canyon sunflower, and holly-leaf red berry. As I mentioned earlier our goal was to go to the waterfall. After about 15 or twenty minutes in the canyon you will come to a post that says "waterfall" with an arrow pointing to a trail. Take that trail. A sign states that the trail in not maintained. However, it is pretty easy to navigate. You will cross the creek several times and will sometimes have to walk in the creek bed to find the trail start up again. One crossing leads to a false trail, so be sure the trail is going parallel to the creek. There is a lot of poison oak. We saw quite a bit of Spanish broom, some more pitcher sage, a few Indian pinks, and several Humboldt lilies on the way to the waterfall. You will come to a point where the trail stops. Getting to the waterfall requires boulder climbing and wading through the creek. Your shoes will probably get wet. When we arrived at the waterfall, which fell into a small pond and grotto and was quite beautiful, we were delighted with the scarlet monkey flowers growing out of the fern covered rocks. As a side note, near the post that says, "waterfall" there are two chimneys from a homesteaders house hiding in the brush. Have fun!.  – Fred and Nellie


Malibu Creek State Park

Backbone Trail

 Date: 06/28/2011



        The Backbone trail crosses Piuma Road about 1.2 miles east of the junction of Piuma Road and Las Virgenes.  There is a small area to park on the right. I crossed the street and took the east bound trail, up a small hill, then down to the stream, then going up the mountain.  Despite it being so late in the season, there are still flowers to see on this trail.  There is much Bush Mallow blooming right now and there are some beautiful Plummer's Mariposa Lily still blooming at various points along the trail.  At the beginning of the trail there is some California Fuchsia and some Scarlet Larkspur.  Other flowers that I saw blooming were California Buckwheat, Cliff Aster, Slender Tarweed, Bush Sunflower, Sticky Monkeyflower, White Morning Glory, Black Sage, Deerweed, and Golden Yarrow.  Near the top of the trail (two miles up) there is a spot where a good number of Indian Pinks are blooming.  A little past here, there are some Chaparral Yucca in bloom.  – Jim Garafalo


Newton Canyon Trailhead

Backbone Trail

 Date: 06/25/2011



        The trail starts on Kanan Road.  Most of the flowers that we saw were on the Backbone trail.  There were quite a few flowers and a good variety.  We didn't get started until 5:00, but as it doesn't get dark until 8:00 this wasn't a problem.  The Backbone trail is wide and easy to hike.  We also descended down into the canyon and visited 3 waterfalls.  To view the first waterfall, take the first trail to the left that deviates from the main trail.  It is fairly wide and easy to follow. Whenever there is a fork in the road go to the left.  There was quite a lot of water falling and a good sized pond under it, but we were most delighted by the large Humboldt lily that greeted us at the base of the falls.  It had about 10 blooms.  Retrace your steps up to the main trail.  A little further down you'll find a more obscure trail.  This trail is overgrown and very steep.  You will have to use both of your hands to navigate down and to get back up.  This trail is only for hearty hikers.  When you reach the bottom of the trail you will be walking along the streambed.  Unless you are pretty good at stone jumping and horizontal rock climbing, your shoes may get wet.  If you turn right and walk upstream you will find Zuma Falls.  There are many interesting rock formations surrounding the falls.  Spectacular really. The water in the ponds was delightfully clean.  Retrace your steps, go a little further downstream and turn left at the next canyon.  You will come to Newton Falls.  This is more of a moss and fern covered area with water dribbling over it.  Quite picturesque.  Retrace your steps and go back up the very steep trail.  Someone had put a black garage sack on a stick which was helpful in finding the trail up.  The flowers that we saw in canyons were:  purple nightshade, chalk dudleya, lots of creek monkey flower, wild rose, yarrow, snowberry, feverfew, and wild celery.  When we reached the Backbone trail again we hiked a quite a bit further down and then turned around and came back.  As I mentioned earlier, while the canyons were lush with foliage. most of the flowers we saw were on the Backbone trail.   Those flowers included: a lot of Spanish broom, California everlasting, an abundance of sticky monkey flower, heart-leafed penstemon, narrow-leaf dudleya, hedge nettle, coast figwort, elegant clarkia, canyon sunflower, chamise, caterpillar phacelia, black sage, slender sunflower, cliff aster, deerweed, sweet yellow clover, several areas with bush mallow, yucca, California buckwheat, verbena, mugwort, purple clarkia, bush lupine, fennel, tree tobacco, greenbark ceanothus, popcorn flower, crimson larkspur and two perfect Parry's phacelia.  It was delightful.  – Fred and Nellie


Circle X Ranch

Canyon View Trail

 Date: 06/24/2011



        Things have definitely begun to dry out now, although this trail, with its south aspect, dries out early anyway. It is one of the first to start flowering nicely in the spring and one of the first to enter summer. Except for some scattered holdouts most of the flowers in this list tell us summer is just around the corner. In addition most of the flower reported here were present in only modest numbers, much less than just a few weeks ago. Highlights include elegant clarkia, a few greenbark ceanothus, several Plummer’s mariposa lily, perezia, slender tarweed, bird’s beak, annual paintbrush, bush monkey flower, creek monkey flower, Spanish clover, Turkish rugging, black sage, golden yarrow, morning glory, California wild rose, heart-leaved penstemon, California buckwheat, both chalk and lance-leaved dudleyas, several nice stands of scarlet larkspur, chamise, yucca, bush mallow, woolly blue curls, laurel sumac, California chicory, and deerweed. All told about 35 species in bloom. Except for the larkspur and the lilies not too much to brag about.  – ed.


Rocky Oaks

Misc. Trails

 Date: 06/21/2011



        We started at the parking lot, hiked over to the pond and stopped to watch the coots and their chicks forage in the tule. From there we went north and picked up the Rock Oaks Loop Trail, which was in very good condition as it was just recently groomed. After circling around and returning to the pond we decided to loop around again, this time on the Glade Trail before returning to the parking lot. Rocky Oaks has a pretty heavy burden of non-native weeds but still can provide a decent showing of wildflowers in some areas. Flowering highlights included golden yarrow, California buckwheat, black sage, deerweed, several nice stands of hillside penstemon, yucca, loosestrife, purple nightshade, slender tarweed, Turkish rugging, a few hoary-leaved ceanothus, bush mallow, woolly blue curls, golden stars, a few scarlet larkspur (with more to come,) California everlasting, Spanish clover, chicory, water smartweed, the attractive native cobweb thistle, bird’s beak, purple clarkia, a few blue-eyed grass, slender sunflower, and a couple of chamise holding onto their last blossoms. All told about 45 species in bloom. Without the pond I’d probably not visit this site very often.  – ed.


Circle X Ranch

Mishe Mokwa Loop

 Date: 06/17/2011



        We hiked on a heavily overcast day.  It was cool and the colors of the landscape were fully saturated.  We had hiked two weeks ago and then it looked as though the scarlet larkspur was on the brink of blooming so we came to see if it was now in bloom.  The answer is, mostly, no.  We did see a very few plants in full bloom but mostly it was still more promise than even buds.  I remain surprised at the great sense of the landscape being in full bloom even as we are heading into July.  I believe that we saw a fewer number of varieties of plants in bloom but on this hike you will be constantly surrounded by flowers. 

        We started from the northern parking lot and headed to Sandstone Peak when we joined the loop trail.  Immediately we saw California buckwheat, deerweed, black sage, chamise, golden yarrow, Turkish rugging, woolly blue curls, slender tarweed, yellow monkey flower and many blooming yuccas.  On this spur trail we saw a single, perfect Plummer’s mariposa lily, a harbinger of beautiful things to come. 

        Once we joined the loop trail we saw many goldenstar lilies, bush mallow, sticky monkey flower, bush lupine, lance leaf dudleya, scarlet larkspur, heart leaf penstemon, popcorn flower, farewell-to-spring and sticky madia.  The star of this section of trail remains the exquisite yellow mariposas.  We counted more than 80 in the loop.  There are a few remaining caterpillar phacelias, purple nightshade, virgin's bower seedpods and even a little greenbark ceanothus. 

Once beyond Sandstone Peak we saw blue dicks, some blue larkspur, California everlasting, chalk live forever, purple clarkia and wild brodiaea.  White pitcher sage began to appear frequently in bloom.  As we moved into the moist areas approaching Split Rock we saw California chicory, wild morning glory, chaparral honeysuckle, cinquefoil, vervain and peninsular onion.  There was creek monkey flower in the creek.  Flower watching is still very good at Circle X.  – Dorothy Steinicke


Peter Strauss Ranch


 Date: 06/12/2011



        We went to the ranch a few hours before the free concert on Sunday so we could fit in a hike and finish the afternoon with the concert.  It was a nice combination.  There are several free concerts at the Peter Strauss Ranch during the summer.

        The trailhead goes two ways.  The first right will take you back to the house and is a short but lovely walk.  If you pass the first right and go to the second right you will go up the mountain.   There were quite a few flowers blooming.  Highlights of the hike included a lovely area at the top of the hill that was covered with slender sunflowers and we were surrounded by two sisters butterflies.  We were also happy to find a false indigo in bloom which is somewhat rare.  There were several patches of foothill penstemon, quite a few areas with elegant clarkias, and many canyon sunflowers in bloom.  At the beginning of the trail there were several coffeeberry plants in bloom.  Other flowers we spotted in bloom include: purple nightshade, morning glory, pitcher sage, sticky monkey flower, fuschia gooseberry in berry, caterpillar phacelia, sow thistle, California everlasting, popcorn flower, heart-leaf penstemon, black sage, chamise, buckwheat, tarweed, blue-eyed grass, scarlet pimpernel, bull thistle, California poppy, purple clarkia, Indian pink, Turkish rugging, yucca, cud weed aster, wooly blue curls, bedstraw, a fairly large patch of media, golden stars and strigose lotus, Finally there was one delightful creek monkey flower at the bottom of the hill. 

– Fred and Nellie


Westridge-Canyonback Park

Westridge Fire Road

 Date: 06/10/2011



        We began at the trailhead at the end of Westridge Road in Brentwood. This fire road is the only off-leash dog trail that I know in the Santa Monica Mountains.  It is completely exposed so it is best to go early in the morning or on a June Gloom sort of day.  The habitat is chaparral.  There are no unusual blooms but a great quantities of the usual ones.  Elderberry flower, California buckwheat, black sage, bush lupine, golden yarrow, sticky monkey flower, flowering yucca, purple nightshade, deer weed, chamise, cliff aster and heart leaf penstemon are all massed on the banks bordering the road.  There are a few bushes of blooming bush poppy and, as you go higher, quite a lot of farewell-to-spring.  You can walk all the way to the old Nike missile site at the top of the hill where there is a viewing station to look out on both sides of the mountain.  – Dorothy Steinicke


Circle X Ranch

Grotto Trail

 Date: 06/05/2011



        It's getting late in the season so I was not expecting as good a showing as this trail provided. No doubt we can thank the recent cool weather for that. Flowering highlights include yucca, bush monkey flower, yellow monkey flower, a spectacular wall of creek monkey flower still dripping moisture, the first few specimens of cliff aster, black sage, California everlasting, a couple of different shrubby sunflowers, elderberry, elegant clarkia, chamise, heart-leaved penstemon, morning glory, sticky madia, lance-leaved dudleya, caterpillar phacelia, woolly blue curls, golden stars, Catalina mariposa lily, blue-eyed grass, a few remaining wishbone bush, greenbark ceanothus, one stinging lupine, chaparral honeysuckle, the fascinating Fish's milkwort, purple nightshade, a beautiful example of the native cobweb thistle with its deep crimson flowers, farewell to spring, several hummingbird sage, the native California chicory, California wild rose, and finally, a few snowberry flowers. All told almost sixty species in bloom; a great showing thanks mostly to the perennials.  – ed.


Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve


 Date: 06/04/2011



        Head North on Las Virgenes Canyon Rd. (opposite from heading to the ocean) and drive to the end of the road.  It dead ends at the trailhead.  We saw quite a few varieties of flowers, but not very many of them.  Our goal was to find wand or moth mullein.  We were successful.  They were on the left hand side of the trail about 45 minutes to an hour in.  There was also a delightful patch of white sage in bloom.   Some places were covered in sticky monkey flower adding large sections of orange to the green and brown hills.  It was very pretty.  There were abundant tadpoles in a section of the steam.  We also enjoyed peering into and going inside of the burned out trunks of a few oaks and a sycamore tree; evidence that a large fire passed through here at some point. The trail is wide and flat and in most places.  We went a little over an hour in and returned though one biker said it goes all the way to Simi Valley.  Flowers that we saw include: horehound, verbena, elderberry, milk thistle, purple nightshade, elegant clarkia, sweet yellow clover, groundsel, bull thistle, jimson weed, long beaked filaree, black sage, deerweed, caterpillar phacelia, scarlet bugler, yucca, a large patch of wild rose bushes, morning glory, narrow leaf milkweed, farewell to spring, mulefat, yerba santa, blackberry, bush mallow and cliff aster.  – Fred and Nellie


Circle X Ranch

Sandstone Peak /

Mishe Mokwa Loop

 Date: 06/03/2011



        This was one of the most spectacular flower walks I've taken this season,  which is a surprise because most flowers are usually done by June.  We parked in the Sandstone Peak Parking lot.  From the trailhead we could see flowering yucca, golden yarrow, deer weed, black sage and chamise.  Heading up the hill we encountered cliff aster, golden star lilies, woolly blue curls, bush lupine, sticky monkey flower, popcorn flower, farewell-to-spring, heart leaf penstemon, Chinese houses and purple nightshade.  There was rarely a stretch of trail that wasn't bordered with banks of flowers.  Then we came upon the star of this hike, lovely yellow mariposas, we counted 65 on the loop. We encountered someone who said that she does the loop every week and that there had been none the week before.  Continuing on past Sandstone Peak we saw lance leaf dudleya, virgin's bower seed pods, blue dicks, purple clarkia, blue larkspur, globe gilia, owl's clover, yellow pincushion, Turkish rugging and wild morning glory.  Another star of the walk was the lovely white pitcher sage which we started to see on the spur trail up to Sandstone Peak and then saw intermittently for the rest of the loop.  The meadow past Inspiration Point which hosts shooting stars in February was filled with wild brodiaea.  Heading down to Split Rock we saw cinquefoil.  Climbing back up to the trailhead we passed yellow monkey flower, Parry's phacelia, and a few Catalina mariposas.  The scarlet larkspur were not out yet but looked like they would be coming soon.  – Dorothy Steinicke










Contact Information:


Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area


401 West Hillcrest Drive
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360



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