Plants & Flowers Resource Page

Spring 2016 Wild Flowers

Spring flowers are in bloom throughout the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The 2015 bloom was phenomenal with flowers we had not seen in years popping up all over. The 2016 bloom is more like the typically beautiful display that we have come to expect. The arrival of the first Wild Cucumber flowers started the season, followed by Shooting Stars, Star Lilies, Wild Hyacinth, Milk Maids, Fringed Red Maids and Chocolate Lilies. This list is by no means inclusive of every kind of flower in bloom. If you find something you want to share, please do! Send to our email address or share on our Facebook page.

As the Shooting Stars have faded, their place was taken by Fringed Linanthus, Coastal Goldfields, Fiddlenecks, Peninsular Onion and many others. Next, up should be Golden Stars, Mariposa Lilies, Large Flowered Phacelias and a smattering of Mariposa Lilies in Yellow. The arrival of the Slender Tarweed kept the hillsides covered in yellow as the Goldfields and Fiddlenecks begin to fade. The aptly named Farewell-to-Spring will herald the end of Spring and provide color. As of this update, we are waiting for the arrival of the Chinese Houses, Fairy Lanterns, Soap Plant, Humboldt Lily and the Plummer's Mariposa Lily flowers. After their turn in the Sun, Cliff Asters, Buckwheat, and other small flowers will then keep our pollinators fed and busy until the rains of November.

The ephemeral nature of these flowers allows a short window of time to enjoy them. Set aside some time, grab a camera and head out before the window closes for the year on these beautiful flowers.

P.S. Take your time when viewing the flowers - imagine running through the Louvre to see "everything" - you are going to miss considerable amounts of soul stirring beauty!

Pt. Mugu State Park was a hotbed for wildflowers in 2015 because of the Springs fire of 2013 - the fire provided many a seed that had been patiently waiting, an opportunity to grow. Not every year will dazzle the general public but every Spring has the potential to reaquaint you with the promise of Spring!

Pick a trail, any trail and you will be rewarded with the sight of flowers in dazzling colors drawn from a large palette of whites, yellows, reds, blues and purples.

Tips for Flower Finding
  • Bring your kids! Kids are often better at finding the few different flowers in a large grouping than adults. Seeing flowers outdoors provides excellent visual stimulation and a little fresh air as well.
  • Take lots of pictures of the flowers you want to identify. Make sure you take pictures of leaves, flowers and the whole plant. This will help you or someone else to identify the flower after you get home.
  • On your next visit, try to identify these 10 wild flowers: Lupine, California Poppy, Parry’s Phacelia, Wild Sweet Pea, Canyon Sunflower, Morning Glory, Paintbrush, Wild Hyacinth, Mariposa Lily and Red Stemmed Filaree. Our web site is a good resource for identifying what you find.
  • After you master that list, start looking for some of the more uncommon flowers: Chocolate Lily, Globe Gilia, Spreading Larkspur, Humboldt Lily or any of 900+ species known to exist in our mountains.
  • Pattern recognition skills are easy to develop. Once you can identify a flower, suddenly that flower seems to be everywhere - it is like putting on glasses.
  • Where there is one there is usually more, if you see one flower start scanning the area for more specimens.
  • While enjoying the trails, it is easy to get drawn into a splash of purple running from the top to the bottom of a canyon wall. Start looking for what is different in that splash of red or purple. The diversity of Nature is incredible.
  • Move slower and focus on the tiny flowers - often they make up in mass what they lack in size. Whispering Bells and Eucrypta are two small flowers that will color the edges of a trail in white or yellow. If you see some tiny red flowers, take a closer look - they could be Red Maids.
  • Spend an extra fifteen minutes in one location and sit. If there are flowers, there are going to be butterflies, moths, bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators. They have a lot of work to do and are amazing in and of themselves.
  • Return on the same trail you went out on. It is surprising how many more flowers you will see after you have some familiarity with an area.
  • When you learn to identify a flower be sure to tell your friends and family. The more you repeat the name to someone else the better the retention.


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The Santa Monica Mountains are blessed with more than 1,000 different kinds of plants and flowers. Our Plant of the Month Pages were designed to help us learn the names of the flowers we encounter while enjoying the Santa Monica Mountains. Why not learn to identify a few of the more common flowers?

Knowing the names of flowers only enhances your experience outdoors. During the time of year that wild flowers bloom - whether you run, hike, bike or ride a horse - you are bound to encounter flowers of every color and stripe.

Taking a little time to know and appreciate their names may not result in you being a better athlete but it should help you connect to the open space that hosts your activity.

Image Gallery
One of the more delicate flowers you will come across as you hike in the Santa Monica Mountains is the Woodland Star. Small white flowers hanging off of thread like stalks that would be just another white flower if not for the five ragged 1.3 centimeter long petals with their three sharp lobes at the tip. This decorative touch gives the flower a frilly appearance. These plants seem to have a short flowering season - they seem to come and go in a few short weeks during the March to May timeframe. Annual rain fall certainly is a factor in this.
Woodland Star is the common name and Lithopgragma affine is the scientific name. The Woodland Star is found in the coastal hills (Santa Monica Mountains and others) as well as the mountains of California and southern Oregon. Colder temperatures are likely to keep the plant from existing beyond 2000 meters of elevation . Favored habitats are open grasslands in oak and oak-conifer woodlands on moist, sometimes rocky sites. This plant is a perennial which means that as long as there is adequate rainfall you should find the plant in the same locations year after year. The pollinated seed of the plant is simply droppped onto the soil and left to chance.
Despite the delicate appearance, this plant is a robust perennial herb with thin stems 8-20 inches tall. Two kinds of leaves: a rosette of basal leaves about two inches wide with 3-5 lobes, and of deeply three-lobed and smaller cauline leaves(of, having or growing off a stem). Flowers develop on nodding racemes as much as two feet in height. There can be 3 to 15 flowers on a stalk. The leaves alternate on the stems - the other variety of Woodland Star Lithopragma cymbalaria found in our mountain have opposite leaves. Upon closer inspection you will see Ten Stamens and Three Pistils in cup shaped Calyx. Underground, a mass of roots send up shoots as well as stores starches - this allows the plant to die back and re-grow after the flowering period has completed. The Botanical term for that is Rhizome.
The most fascinating piece of information that I learned regarding the plant is how it is pollinated by the Greya moth. Everything in nature is amazing at some level? How about this - a female lands on the flower, an egg from her ovary is transferred from her body via an ovipositor and slides through an opening in the side of the style (a part of the plant that holds the ovaries). In essence the moth simultaneously pollinates the flower with the pollen of other flowers collected on her abdomen and deposits an egg to insure future generations of her species. That is amazing, right? For those who want to know more here is the source of this information http://www.pnas.org/content/110/28/11487.full.pdf
Name Origin: Woodland-star [Greek lithos, stone, and phragma, hedge or fence, alluding to rocky habitat; or an unsuccessful attempt to render Saxifraga in Greek] http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=118740