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The Hills are on Fire...

Spring has definitely sprung in here in Topanga Canyon. The hills are so alive with Wild Mustard, Nasturtiums, Sunflowers and Lupines. In this post, we are featuring Slender Sunflower. Helianthus gracilentus is a species of sunflower known by the common name Slender Sunflower. It is native to central and Southern California (from Napa County to San Diego County) and Baja California, where it is a member of the dry wildfire-prone chaparral ecosystem. We see them primarily on the coastal end of the canyon and along the bluff facing the ocean, although we do see them scattered around the upper canyon as well.

The close up image was taken in the canyon approx. 1 mile in and the wide shot was taken on the coastal bluffs across from Will Rogers State Beach. 

Happy California Poppy Day!

Not many people know but April 6 is designated as California Poppy Day… so, to celebrate the official flower of the great state of California we salute the Poppy!

You may have noticed that Eschscholzia californica is pictured on welcome signs along highways entering California and official Scenic Route signs. It was selected as the state flower by the California State Floral Society in December 1890, besting the Mariposa lily (genus Calochortus) and the Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) by a wide margin, but the state legislature did not make the selection official until 1903. Its golden blooms were deemed a fitting symbol for the Golden State.

The Poppy is a perennial or annual plant growing to 5–60 in tall with alternately branching glaucous blue-green foliage. The flowers are solitary on long stems, silky-textured, with four petals, each petal 2 to 6 cm or 0.79 to 2.36 in long and broad.  Flower color ranges through yellow, orange and red (even with some pinks). Flowering occurs from February to September in the northern hemisphere (spring, summer, autumn).

It's petals close at night (or in cold, windy weather) and open again the following morning, although they may remain closed in cloudy weather. The fruit is a slender, dehiscent capsule 1 to 3.5 in long, which splits in two to release numerous small black or dark brown seeds. It survives mild winters in its native range, dying completely in colder climates.

With the wet season having been such a success the poppy fields in California have had a record number of petal peepers this year, if you choose to hit the fields to see this glorious show always remember to stay on the trails as to not hurt our very delicate friend.


Ceanothus thyrsiflorus

 As promised our next spectacular canyon bloom is Ceanothus thyrsiflorus, known as Blueblossom or Blue Blossom Ceanothus, an evergreen shrub in the genus Ceanothus that is endemic to California. As soon at the Ceanothus crassifolius came to the end of its bloom cycle the Blueblossom Ceanothus started and has been increasing for the last three weeks. Looking out at the canyon now it appears that at least 25% of the chaparral is Ceanothus thyrsiflorus. As mentioned previously we don’t remember the bloom ever being this intense, it truly is amazing to see the native plants following the natural watering cycle. The term 'Californian lilac' is applied to this and other varieties of Ceanothus, though it is not closely related to Syringa, the true lilac. C. thyrsiflorus can grow more than 20 ft. tall in its native chaparral habitat but varies dramatically in form and size over its natural range, with some plants growing fairly upright to 30 feet and others growing in a mounding form to only 2-3 feet tall.  Flowers vary from different shades of blue to close to white. It is popular with birds, butterflies, and other pollinators, its flowers are important for bees and butterflies, and its seed pods are an important food source for birds and small mammals. Blueblossom Ceanothus is evergreen, with leaves range from bright green to dark green. It has small flowers that are produced in dense, puff-shaped clusters that are white, light blue, dark blue or purple. They bloom in the late winter through early spring, and then mature into a dry, three-lobed seed capsule. These images were taken in Topanga canyon approximately 2 miles from the beach.


Ceanothus in the Canyon

The abundant rains this year have gifted us with the most spectacular bloom of one of our native Ceanothus seen in years. Ceanothus crassifolius is a species of flowering shrub known by the common name Hoaryleaf Ceanothus. This Ceanothus is found throughout the coastal mountain ranges of the southern half of California, and its range extends into Baja California. C. crassifolius typically occurs in coastal and montane California chaparral habitat associations. This year was especially spectacular with huge drifts of white flowing down the sides of the west end of Topanga Canyon. Amazing what a little bit of rain can do!

Up next Ceanothus thyrsiflorus (just starting to show now)...


Agave is a genus of monocots native to the hot and arid regions of Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Some agave species are also native to tropical areas of South America. The plants are perennial, but each rosette flowers once and then dies. Some of the products you may know that come from Agaves include Agave Nectar ( a sweetener)  and Tequila. This variety is Agave ‘Blue Flame’ photographed at the Huntington botanical gardens in Pasadena.