The North Coast of Santa Barbara County

The superbloom is in full swing in California’s deserts, so for my trip today of course I headed in the complete opposite direction.  I did find some sand though!

2017-03-31 07.40.56

These are the Guadalupe Dunes in the Northwestern corner of Santa Barbara County–due east of Bakersfield. Don’t worry–I’ll be back to the desert soon.

I hiked around the dunes all morning, and I’ll give them 10/10, would botanize again. Coastal Dunes–never a common habitat to begin with, have suffered much habit loss through coastal development. This was the largest dune complex I’ve been to in the state, and other than a couple of invasive species, it was amazingly pristine. In addition to many more familiar species, I found four rarities here, all of which only occur on coastal dunes.

Erysimum suffrutescens (Woody Wallflower, Brassicaceae). Wallflowers have made a habit of speciating in sandy places–for instance there’s a species in the Santa Cruz Sandhills and another on the Monterey Peninsula. This one is found at scattered populations from San Luis Obispo County (the county north of Santa Barbara) south to the Long Beach area, and as it’s name would suggest, it was impressively bushy.


Malacothrix incana (Asteraceae). This might be my favorite common name for a plant ever–Dunedelion! It was the only one I found all morning, so I felt pretty lucky.


Monardella undulata (Wavyleafed Coyote Mint, Lamiaceae). A species only found on the Southern San Luispo and Northern Santa Barbara Coast. You can see the characteristic wavy leaves in the upper right. This genus usually blooms later in the season, but because the coastal climate is more constant than inland, many coastal species have longer bloom periods. This one blooms from April through November.

Mondardella undulata

Cirsium rhothophilum (Surf Thistle, Asteraceae), with surf in the background! Another very rare plant (with the same range as the Monardella). This plant is still in bud–you can see the white flower head starting to stick out on the left side).

Cirsium rhothophilum 2

After a morning hiking around on the dunes, I headed several miles south to spend the afternoon in the coastal chaparral and prairie at Point Sal State Park.

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This was also a very successful stop, with three particularly noteworthy species.

Ceanothus impressus (Santa Barbara Ceanothus, Rhamnaceae). I try to look up all the potential rarities for the spots I’m going to, but this species somehow wasn’t on my radar. However, I knew Ceanothus is very diverse , and I hadn’t seen this one before, so I made sure to snap a picture and grab a small branch to identify later. It turns out, it’s only found in a few spots in Western Santa Barbara County


Scrophularia atrata (Blackflower Figwort, Scrophulariaceae). This one I did know was here. It’s a relative of the way more common Scrophularia californica but the flower differs in having a much more constricted opening and that dramatic dark reddish-brown color.


Amazingly that wasn’t the only flower with a very dark color palate that I found today. Fritillaria biflora (Chocolate Lily, Liliaceae). This is a fairly uncommon plant that I’ve been wanting to meet for a while, but it’s actually the most common species in this post. It was a good day!



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