Southwestern California

I had so much fun in the Peninsular Ranges last week that I headed that way again. This time, I stay much more coastal, botanizing in a three spots north of San Diego–Mission Trails Regional Park, Torrey Pines State Reserve, and Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve (confusingly, the Santa Rosa Plateau is not in the Santa Rosa mountains where I botanized last week, nor is it anywhere near the bay area city of Santa Rosa). I chose these locations to be about as different in their vegetation as possible. Mission Trails has fairly typical Coastal Sage Scrub–a chaparral habitat characterized by aromatic shrubs such as Salvia apiana (White Sage, Lamiaceae), and Mimulus aurantiacus var puniceus (Red Sticky Monkeyflower). The later is a hummingbird pollinated coastal form that grades into the more typical orange, bee-pollinated form as you move inland.

These two plants, along with the delightfully abundant Calochortus splendens (Splended Mariposa Lily), were the only species I photographed that were present at all three locations.


A couple bushy pink flowers in the mallow family were blooming in good numbers in the park–  Malacothamnus fasciculatus (Chapparal Mallow), and Sidalcea sparsiflora (Southern Checkerbloom). These species are in the same plant family as hibiscus and cacao (the plant from which chocolate comes).

Zeltnera venusta (Charming Centuary, Gentianaceae), with its crazy corkscrew-shaped anthers and ribbed sepals, was a nice surprise on an open hillside.


I was the most excited to see a couple southern Clarkia species–the only all white flower in the genus, Clarkia epiloboides (Willow-Herb Farewell-to-Spring), and the rare Clarkia delecata (Delicate Farewell-to-Spring).

As their common name suggests, these are some of the last spring flowers to bloom in an area, which makes seeing them a little bittersweet. Luckily, however, I can just move my botanizing north and up in elevation.

My next stop was the Torrey Pines Reserve, just up the coast from San Diego and home of the one of the world’s rarest Pines, Pinus torreyana, a species found only here and on Santa Rosa island (Another place in California named Santa Rosa that is not near the other 3! What’s going on here?).  I managed to forget to photograph the pine trees, as I came for the coastal bluff plant community:

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If you are ever in the San Diego area, I highly recommend making a stop here–it’s San Diego’s version of Point Lobos, for bay area folks familiar with that State Park. I’ve written about coastal bluffs previously on this blog. The south coast’s version of this habitat receives much less rain and fog than the central or north coast, and subsequently has cacti, such as the Opuntia sp in the above photo and the rare Ferocactus viridescens (San Diego Barrel Cactus).


A few more stand outs from this location:

The showy and rare Leptosyne maritima (Sea Dahlia, Asteraceae)


The tiny Linanthus dianthiflorus (Fringed Linanthus, Polemoniaceae)


And the honey-scented Piperia cooperi (Cooper’s Rein Orchid, Orchidaceae)


For my last stop i headed North and inland to Santa Rosa Plateau, an area with unique soils and vernal pools. Oak woodlands and grasslands dominate the landscape. This is still Southwestern California, so even here, cacti are everywhere, even growing out of the grass near a large vernal pool.

2017-04-22 08.50.28

This is the only place in the world where Brodiaea santarosae (Santa Rosa Brodiaea, Themidaceae) is found. This species is told from more common relatives by its small, triangular stamenodes (sterile stamens).


Navarretia prostrata (Pincushionplant, Polemoniaceae) was just beginning to bloom


And finally, I found a couple species of one of my favorite genera, Downingia cuspida (Toothed Calicoflower, Campanulaceae) Downingia bella (Beautiful Calicoflower).


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