Wildflower Guide - Santa Monica Mountains

Wildflower Guide - Santa Monica Mountains

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Additional Information Object Type: Wildflowers

About this page

For the past several years I have become increasingly interested in wildflowers that I encounter on my outings. I spend quite a fair amount of time on trying to identify the various species. I was pondering for some months to collect all the photos and information I gathered to build this page. There are several reasons for doing that. First, it can guide other fellow hikers and outdoor lovers to identify common and not so common wildflowers along the various trails and paths. Secondly, it might give some people enjoyment and pleasure to just look the photos. And thirdly, I had a great time just doing it.

The flowers are organized by alphabetically according to their family category. By reading the various sources of information I learnt that the categorization into some families is sometimes subject to change or disagreement among scientists. So, it could be that some of the flowers are actually grouped into different families depending to the source. My goal is to eventually post three unique photos of all wildflowers that will help to identify them. I am not nearly at that point to have accomplished that. I used to take mostly (only) photos of the inflorescence itself. However, many species can only be properly identified it you look closely at other features also, e.g. leaves, overall height, environment, … So, eventually I will add or replace some of the photos in an effort to provide enough information to clearly identify the flower. Under “Location” I posted the trail or area where I last saw the flower and took a picture of it. That by no means is intended to mean that you will find that species only in that area or only along that trail. It’s just that I last saw that flower here and took a picture of it. Under “Description” I tried to provide similar information about every flower that might help additionally for identification. Some of that information is expressed in botanical terms that may be hard to understand.

Having said that I need to emphasize that I am not a botanist and don’t claim to be one. That means there may be mistakes on that page. I can assure you, however, that I did my best to correctly identify the flower and provide accurate information. I found that some species are very difficult to identify, e.g. lupines, morning glories. If I simply could not properly identify the exact species they are for now just listed under their family. If somebody find errors and can correct me, please send me the reference with the proper information and I will be more than happy to update the page. The table width is set to 1400 pixels.

Lastly I want to list some of the various online sources that helped me a lot for creating this page:

  • Calflora

  • Santa Monica Mountains Wildflowers

  • Jepson Interchange

  • USDA

    Enough said… please enjoy the beauty that are the Santa Monica Mountains Wildflowers.

    Santa Monica Mountains Wildflowers

    NamePhoto 1Photo 2Photo 3LocationDescription
    Family: Asteraceae (SUNFLOWER)
    California Everlasting Red Rock Canyon (2010) California Everlasting (California Cudweed, Green Everlasting, California Rabbit-Tobacco) is native to the west coast of North America from Washington to Baja California, where it is a member of the flora of many habitats, including chaparral. This is an annual or biennial herb growing a branching stem reaching 8 to 30" in height. Stem branches bear linear to somewhat lance-shaped leaves 1-8" long. The inflorescence is a wide cluster of flower heads, each enveloped in an involucre of rows of bright white phyllaries.
    Pseudognaphalium californicum
    Treasure Flower Will Rogers State Historic Park (2011) Treasureflower (Gazania) is native to southern Africa, but it can be found in other parts of the world with similar climates where it has taken hold as an introduced species, such as in California. This is a mat-forming or clumping perennial herb growing from rhizomes. Its leaves have long, winged petioles and form basal rosettes at the ground around the branching stem. The leaves have oval-shaped, dull green leaflets with woolly undersides. The plant produces large, solitary daisy-like flowers in shades of bright yellow and orange. Each flower head may be up to 3" across and has a dark reddish center of disc florets and an outer fringe of about 20 long ray florets. The ray florets may have dark spots near the bases, curl upwards along their edges, and close at night.
    Gazania linearis Saddle Peak Trail (2008)
    Bush Sunflower Solstice Canyon (2011) Bush Sunflower (California Encelia, California Brittlebush) is a much-branched perennial shrub to about 4' tall with alternate, entire, 3-veined, lanceolate to ovate leaves on slender glabrous to slightly pubescent stems, and showy floral heads with 15-25 yellow ligules and a red-brown to purplish disk. This species is commonly seen on coastal bluffs and open, brushy slopes in coastal sage scrub and chaparral to 2,000'. It blooms from February to June.
    Encelia californica
    Golden Yarrow Solstice Canyon (2011) Golden Yarrow (Yellow Yarrow) is an abundant and widespread perennial shrub or subshrub somewhat woody at the base with numerous erect, slender, simple or few-branched stems and alternate leaves that are pinnately 3-5 lobed with very narrow linear almost filiform divisions, green above and white-tomentose beneath, and with revolute margins. The many flowers appear in dense, corymbose clusters at the ends of branches and have 4-6 orange-yellow rays and 10-75 tubular, 5-lobed disk flowers with puberulent to glandular corollas. Golden yarrow grows 1'-2' tall and blooms usually from March to August. It occupies dry slopes and washes in coastal sage scrub and chaparral, and is exceedingly variable.
    Eriophyllum confertiflorum Topanga Ridge
    Family: Brassicaceae (MUSTARD)
    Milkmaids Hondo Canyon (2011) Milkmaids (California Toothwort, Bitter Cress, Toothwort) is a small perennial plant that sprouts from underground tubers. Leaves near the base are roundish, while those occurring along the stem usually have 3 leaflets that can vary in shape, with the central larger leaflet being about 2" in diameter. Flowers form in a loose cluster at the top of the singular stem. The flowers are white to pale-rose colored, about 1" in diameter, and have 4 petals and 4 sepals. Milkmaids bloom from January through April.
    Cardamine californica
    Family: Caryophyllaceae (PINK)
    Indian Pink Mesa Peak Motorway Indian Pink (Cardinal Cathfly, Mexican Pink) is an erect, weak-stemmed, glandular-pubescent, herbaceous perennial that grows 1'-3' tall from a fleshy taproot. The leaves are opposite, linear-lanceolate, and 2" to 4" long. The flowers are terminal on the pedicels of a panicle, the pedicels 3/4" to 1-1/2" long and finely woolly, the flowers sometimes in clusters, and ascending to erect. The calyx is 5-cleft and tubular to 3/4" long, and the corolla is comprised of five scarlet petals each of which is deeply 4-cleft into linear lobes and has two broad toothed appendages. It is common on grassy or brushy slopes and shaded areas below 5,000' in coastal sage scrub, chaparral and oak woodland and blooming from May to July. The genus Silene is referred to collectively as catchfly because of the stickiness of the herbage, which often traps insects.
    Silene laciniata var. laciniata
    Family: Convolvulaceae (MORNING-GLORY)
    Morning Glory Temescal Rivas Canyon Trail (2011) Calystegia (Bindweed, False Bindweed, or Morning Glory) is a genus of about 25 species of flowering plants in the Convolvulaceae family. The genus has a cosmopolitan distribution in temperate and subtropical regions, but with half of the species endemic to California. They are annual or herbaceous perennial twining vines growing to 3 to 15 feet tall, with spirally arranged leaves. The flowers are trumpet shaped, 1-4" diameter, white or pink, with a sometimes inflated basal calyx.
    Genus Calystegia
    Morning Glory Solstice Canyon (2011) Calystegia (Bindweed, False Bindweed, or Morning Glory) is a genus of about 25 species of flowering plants in the Convolvulaceae family. The genus has a cosmopolitan distribution in temperate and subtropical regions, but with half of the species endemic to California. They are annual or herbaceous perennial twining vines growing to 3 to 15 feet tall, with spirally arranged leaves. The flowers are trumpet shaped, 1-4" diameter, white or pink, with a sometimes inflated basal calyx.
    Genus Calystegia
    Family: Fabaceae (PEA)
    Wild Sweet Pea Hondo Canyon (2011) Wild Sweet Pea (Pacific Pea, Bolander's Pea) is a pubescent to slightly glabrous climbing perennial to 9' long with a raceme of 5-12 whitish to pale pink sometimes lavender flowers and leaves which are even-pinnate with 8-12 linear to ovate mucronate leaflets up to 2" long and branched, coiling terminal tendrils. Sweet Pea is a common and widespread inhabitant of dry to shaded places below 5,000' in chaparral, coastal sage scrub and oak woodland. It is quite variable and may hybridize with other species, and its blooming period is April to June.
    Lathyrus vestitus var. vestitus
    Lupine Fossil Ridge (2011) Lupines belong to the legume family (Fabaceae). The genus comprises between 200 and 600 species, with major centers of diversity in South and western North America and in the Mediterranean region and Africa. The species are mostly herbaceous perennial plants 1–5' tall, but some are annual plants and a few are shrubs up to 10' tall with one species a tree up to 8 m high with a trunk 8'' in diameter. They have a characteristic and easily recognizable leaf shape, with soft green to grey-green leaves which in many species bear silvery hairs. The flowers are produced in dense or open whorls on an erect spike, each flower ½-1'' long, with a typical peaflower shape with an upper 'standard' or 'banner', two lateral 'wings' and two lower petals fused as a 'keel'.
    Genus Lupinus
    Family: Hydrophyllaceae (WATERLEAF)
    Parry's Phacelia Solstice Canyon (2011) Parry's Phacelia is native to southern California and Baja California, where it grows in coastal and inland mountain ranges and deserts. It grows in many types of local habitat, such as coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and open, recently burned slopes. It is an annual herb growing a mostly erect stem 4 to 30'' long. It is glandular and coated in soft and stiff hairs. The leaves are up to 5'' long with toothed oval blades borne on petioles. The inflorescence is a cyme of widely bell-shaped flowers each ½ to 1'' long. The flower is purple in color, sometimes with pale coloration in the throat, and an arrangement of five white spots. The five protruding stamens are hairy and tipped with white anthers.
    Phacelia parryi
    Caterpillar Phacelia Solstice Canyon (2011) Caterpillar Phacelia is an erect or ascending, widely-branched annual densely covered with long white bristly hairs and growing to 2' tall. The leaves are alternate, roughly ovate to oblong-ovate in outline, from 1' to 6" long, and pinnately compound into toothed leaflets or lobes. The flowers are many and short-pedicelled in a dense coiled inflorescence that becomes lax in maturity. The calyx is stiff-hairy and has five grayish, linear to spathulate lobes, and the corolla is dirty white to pale lavender. There are 5 stamens to ½'' long with blue-ish anthers and a style which is cleft to the middle and about the same length. Caterpillar phacelia is very common and abundant on dry slopes of the chaparral, and is also found in coastal sage scrub, open oak woodland and grassland. It blooms from March to June.
    Phacelia parryi
    Family: Lamiaceae (MINT)
    Chia Solstice Canyon (2011) Chia grows to 4 to 20" in height. Its stem hairs are generally short and sparse in distribution. It has oblong-ovate basal leaves that are 1-4" long. The leaves themselves are pinnately dissected and the lobes are rounded irregularly. The inflorescence is more or less scapose, meaning it has a long peduncle that comes from the ground level that has bracts. The bracts are round and awn-tipped. There are usually 1-2 clusters of flowers within the inflorescence. The calyx is 8 to 10 mm long and the upper lip is unlobed but has 2 (sometimes 3) awns. The flower color can be pale blue to blue and purple tipped. The stamens of the plant are slightly exserted. Chia can be found in dry undisturbed sites in chaparral, and coastal sage scrub. It generally grows at elevations lower than 3,600 feet.
    Salvia columbariae
    Purple Sage Red Rock Canyon (2011) Purple Sage (San Luis Purple Sage) is an evergreen shrub that grows up to 3 to 5' tall and wide. Leaves are a light green in the spring, turning grayish-white as they mature, with graceful branches that arch to the ground, sometimes rooting when they touch the ground. Flowers grow in tight whorls on 6 to 8'' long inflorescences, with a pinkish-purple flowering stem. The 1'' flowers are pinkish-purple, held in a purple-tinged gray calyx. The plant is typically found on dry hillsides and in gravelly soils.
    Salvia leucophylla
    Hummingbird Sage Solstice Canyon (2011) Hummingbird Sage (Crimson Pitcher Sage) is a coarse perennial with a stout glandular-villous 1'-3' stem growing from creeping rhizomes. Its leaves are opposite, oblong to ovate and arrowhead-shaped with rounded teeth, a dark green slightly wrinkled upper surface and an ashy-tomentose under surface. The inflorescence is a spike of five or more viscid whorls subtended by purplish bracts. Both the calyx and the corolla are two-lipped, the calyx bristly and the corolla red to salmon-colored with two exserted stamens. This species is a common inhabitant of grassy or shaded slopes to 2,000' in chaparral, coastal sage scrub and oak woodland, and blooms from March to May.
    Salvia spathacea
    Woolly Bluecurls Topanga Ridge(2011) Woolly Bluecurls is a spectacular many-branched perennial growing as much as 5' tall with opposite, sessile, linear-lanceolate leaves, green above and lanate beneath. The flowers are in a series of dense, sessile clusters along the upper part of the stem, and the stem and calyces are covered with blue, pink or white woolly hairs. The flowers are two-lipped and blue, the corolla tube slender and deeply 5-cleft, and the four 1-1/2" long stamens greatly exserted and arching. Woolly bluecurls inhabits dry slopes below 4,500' in coastal scrub and chaparral. It is quite common, blooming from May to August.
    Trichostema lanatum
    Family: Liliaceae (LILY)
    Humboldt Lily Red Rock Canyon (2011) Humboldt Lily (Spotted Humboldt's Lily, Ocellated Lily) is a tall (to 8') stout-stemmed perennial growing from a large underground bulb with 4-8 whorls of 10-20 bright green, oblanceolate, wavy-margined leaves either spreading or ascending. The few to many nodding flowers are orange-yellow with dark red blotches. The three sepals and three petals are very similar, and are rolled back and under. There are six 2"-long pendent stamens with orange to brown colored anthers and three carpels united to form a single pistil. This lily prefers shaded woodsy areas often near seasonal moist places in chaparral, oak woodlands and yellow pine forest to 5,500', and blooms from June to July.
    Lilium humboldtii ssp. ocellatum
    Plummer's Mariposa Lily Backbone Trail - Will Rogers State Park Segment (2011) Plummer's Mariposa Lily is a slender-branched perennial that grows 1-2' tall from a bulb and has 2-4 erect, widely bell-shaped pink to rose flowers with 3 sepals and 3 sometimes irregularly-toothed and sometimes fringed petals, the insides of which are covered with long yellow hairs. The mostly basal leaves which grow to 16" long and 1/2" wide are usually withered at the time of flowering. This beautiful Mariposa Lily inhabits dry, rocky slopes, brushy areas and openings in chaparral below 5,000'. It blooms from May to July. It is described in the Jepson Manual as rare.
    Calochortus plummerae
    Catalina Mariposa Lily Solstice Canyon (2011) Catalina Mariposa Lily is endemic to Southern California where it is found along the coastline, and especially on the Channel Islands. This plant produces long basal leaves and tall, branching stems up to 25" high. The purple-tinted sepals are up to 1 ½" long and the longer petals are usually white or very pale pink with a blotch of purple or deep red at the bases. The bowl of the petals may have sparse long hairs. The anthers are usually light in color, often pink.
    Calochortus catalinae
    Family: Malvaceae (MALLOW)
    Bush Mallow Temescal Rivas Canyon Trail (2011) Bush Mallow (Chaparral Mallow, Mendocino Bush Mallow, Santa Cruz Island Bush Mallow) is an open-branching perennial shrub growing to 15' tall with hairy leaves, which are round to ovate in shape and 3-5 lobed. The flowers of bush mallow have five petals and stamens with golden brown anthers fused into a central column surrounding the style. The flowers appear in sessile clusters in the leaf axils and are pink to lavender in color. This is a common shrub throughout chaparral and coastal sage scrub on dry slopes to about 2,500' and is often seen on disturbed ground and along roadsides. It often forms large colonies and blooms from April to July.
    Malacothamnus fasciculatus Will Rogers State Historic Park (2011)
    Bull Mallow Solstice Canyon (2011) Bull Mallow (Mallow of Nice) is native to Eurasia and North Africa, and it is known on other continents as an introduced species and sometimes a weed. It is an annual or biennial herb producing a hairy, upright stem up to 25" long. The leaves are up to 5" wide and have several slight lobes along the edges. Flowers appear in the leaf axils, each with pinkish to light purple petals around ½" long.
    Malva nicaeensis
    Family: Nyctaginaceae (FOUR O'CLOCK)
    Wishbone Bush Temescal Rivas Canyon Trail (2011) Wishbone Bush (California Four o'Clock, Desert Wishbone Bush) is a low, much-branched perennial with slender, somewhat weak stems. The opposite, entire-margined leaves are ovate to heart-shaped. The flowers are in green, calyx-like involucres which are campanulate and clustered near the ends of branches. The five petaloid sepals are cleft and pink to purple-red in color. Wishbone bush has no petals. The five long-exserted stamens are whitish with yellow anthers. This is a fairly common bush on dry slopes and stony washes mostly below 2,500' in coastal sage scrub, chaparral and foothill woodlands blooming from December to June.
    Mirabilis laevis var. crassifolia
    Family: Onagraceae (EVENING PRIMROSE)
    California Fuchsia Chumash Trail (2010) California Fuchsia (Hummingbird Trumpet, Zauschneria) is native to dry slopes and in chaparral of western North America, especially California. It is a perennial plant, notable for the profusion of bright scarlet flowers in late summer and autumn. It is a subshrub growing to 25" tall. The small leaves may be opposite or alternate, lance-shaped or ovate, with short to nonexistent stalks, and range in color from green to nearly white. The racemes of tubular or funnel-shaped flowers are terminal, and colors are mostly reddish, ranging from fuchsia to pink to red-orange.
    Epilobium canum
    Elegant Clarkia Red Rock Canyon (2010) Elegant Clarkia (Woodland Clarkia) is a stout erect, glabrous and glaucous annual, growing 3-4' tall with alternate, toothed, linear to linear-lanceolate leaves on short stems. The showy flowers are solitary in the leaf axils, nodding in bud. The four green to dark red sepals are covered with soft spreading hairs, united and turned to one side, and the four bright pink to purple, sometimes white, petals are almost diamond shaped or triangular and narrow to a stalk-like claw. There are eight stamens with four red-orange anthers and four cream-colored ones, and a stigma that protrudes beyond the anthers. Elegant clarkia is a common woodland plant and is often found on open slopes and shaded places below 5,000' in chaparral, valley grassland and coastal strand from San Diego Co. to northern California. It blooms from May to June.
    Clarkia unguiculata
    Speckled Clarkia Red Rock Canyon (2011) Speckled Clarkia has pinkish-purple, 4-petaled flowers blooming in spring. The flowers are about 2-3" in diameter. They have a reddish purple center, changing to white and then a lighter-reddish purple at the petals' ends. The speckles on Speckled Clarkia are not always prominent. The thin leaves of the Speckled Clarkia are sparse and unremarkable. The flowers generally appear one per stem. The plant is 1-2' tall.
    Clarkia cylindrica
    Family: Oxalidaceae (OXALIS)
    Bermuda Buttercup Temescal Gateway Park (2010) Bermuda Buttercup is a glabrous herbaceous somewhat weedy perennial with most of its stem underground and with numerous slender flowering stems 6-12" long arising from the root crown. The flowers are in short umbels on individual 1/2" long stems usually with 10-12 flowers in each cluster. There are five sepals and five showy bright yellow petals, two whorls of stamens with hairy filaments, five long (inner) and five short (outer), and five pistils united at the base and free above. Bermuda buttercup often grows in dense colonies is becoming naturalized in waste places and grasslands below about 1,500', blooming from November to March. It is a native of South Africa.
    Oxalis pes-caprae
    Family: Papaveraceae (POPPY)
    Tree Poppy Hondo Canyon (2011) Tree Poppy (Bush Poppy) is a small shrub, rarely exceeding 10'. The leaves are alternate, narrow lanceolate, 1-4" long, more than three times as long as broad. The margin of the evergreen leaves is finely toothed. The inflorescences are solitary and terminal. The flowers are 1-3" in diameter, with four satiny yellow petals. Plants bloom in late winter to mid-spring. It occurs on mainland California (Pacific Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada foothills) and northern Baja California. Plants grow on dry slopes and washes, and prefer areas that have just been burned. They occur in these regions up to 5,400'.
    Dendromecon rigidaStunt High Trail
    Matilija Poppy Topanga Ridge Matilija Poppy (Coulter's Matilija Poppy) is a glabrous, shrubby perennial, heavy branched and woody at the base, growing to 8' tall. The showy white flowers are the largest of any plant native to California. There are 5-8 per stem and the six petals are usually crinkled with many yellow stamens and a single large pistil. The leaves are alternate and have 3-5 main segments which are somewhat dentate or cleft. Matilija Poppy inhabits dry washes and canyons below 4,000' in coastal sage scrub and chaparral away from the immediate coast. It blooms from May to July.
    Romneya coulteri
    Family: Polemoniaceae (PHLOX)
    Prickly Phlox Fossil Ridge Trail (2011) Prickly Phlox is a widely-branched perennial shrub growing 2-3' tall with stems that are densely lined with prickly needle-like leaves. The leaves are 1/8"-1/2" long, light green, and 5-9-lobed. The flowers (about 1" in diameter) are clustered on the outer edges of the plant, and range from pink to lavender to almost white. It grows on dry slopes and banks to 5,000' in chaparral, coastal sage scrub and foothill woodland, blooming from March to June.
    Leptodactylon californicum
    Family: Ranunculaceae (BUTTERCUP)
    Scarlet Larkspur Castro Crest Scarlet Larkspur (Cardinal Larkspur) is a striking and colorful plant where it occurs in the chaparral and coastal sage scrub. It is a tall (to 6'), erect thick-stemmed perennial firmly attached to a deep woody root. The flowers are widely spaced on an open raceme with red, generally forward-pointing, ovate sepals, the spur being 5/8" to 1" long. The upper two petals are exerted, and are yellowish with scarlet tips, and the lower two are narrowly oblong, somewhat flattened, and have the sinus closed. Scarlet larkspur inhabits dry, open areas in brush and woods to 5,000' from Lower to central California, blooming from May to July.
    Delphinium cardinale Red Rock Canyon (2010)
    Family: Rosaceae (ROSE)
    California Wild Rose Castro Crest California Wild Rose is a species of rose native to California and Oregon and the northern part of Baja California, Mexico. The plant is native to arid regions, such as chaparral and woodlands and the Sierra Nevada foothills, and can survive drought, though it grows most abundantly in moist soils near water sources. It is a bush or thicket-forming shrub with prickly, curving stems. The fragrant flowers may grow singly or in inflorescences of several blooms. Each rose is open-faced and generally flat, with five petals in any shade of pink from almost white to deep magenta. It produces typical rose hips containing yellow seeds.
    Rosa californica
    Family: Scrophulariaceae (FIGWORT)
    Bush Monkey Flower Red Rock Canyon (2011) Bush Monkey Flower (Sticky Monkey Flower, Island Monkey Flower) is a flowering plant that grows in a subshrub form, native to southwestern North America from southwestern Oregon south through most of California. It grows up to 4' tall, has deep green sticky leaves. The flowers are tubular at the base and about one inch long with five broad lobes; they occur in a variety of shades from white to red, the most common color being a light orange. They are honey plants pollinated by bees and hummingbirds.
    Mimulus aurantiacusFossil Ridge Trail (2011)
    Indian Paintbrush Solstice Canyon (2011) Coast Indian Paintbrush is native to western North America from Washington to Baja California, where it grows on hills and mountains slopes along the coast and inland. It is a perennial herb growing an erect stem up to about 25" in maximum height. It is greenish to purple in color and may be hairless to quite hairy. The leaves are variable in shape and up to 3" long. The inflorescence is a series of bracts in shades of bright red to yellowish. Flowers appearing between the bracts are a bit longer and covered in hairs. They are green to purple lined with red or yellow.
    Castilleja affinis
    Chinese Houses Red Rock Canyon (2011) Chinese Houses gets its name from its towers of inflorescences, of decreasing diameter, which give the plants in full flower a certain resemblance to a pagoda. It is an annual plant growing in shady places, and can be found in most of California, other than desert regions, below about 3,000'. It blooms from mid spring to early summer. The plant is 4–20" tall.
    Collinsia heterophylla
    Family: Solanaceae (NIGHTSHADE)
    Purple Nightshade Solstice Canyon (2011) Purple Nightshade (Chaparral Nightshade, San Diego Nightshade) is native to the southwestern United States and Baja California, Mexico, where it grows in chaparral, woodlands, forests, and other habitat. It is a perennial herb or subshrub producing a branching hairy stem up to about 40" in maximum height. The leaves are up to 3" long and are lance-shaped to oval, mostly unlobed. It bears an umbel-shaped inflorescence with many purple-blue flowers up to 1.5" wide. All parts of this plant are toxic if ingested.
    Solanum xanti Hondo Canyon (2011)