June 28, 2013

Coastal Wildflowers of California

Now that my duties with Design Week and HOWLive are over, I have a little personal time to travel around the San Francisco area and botanize. Joined by my friend Wendi from LA who flew up to join me, we are traveling up the coast from San Francisco along the beautiful coastal highways which begin near the Muir Woods just over the Golden Gate Bridge, and along the shoreline from Bodega Ba, Fort Ross State Park, Salt Point State Park, Sea Ranch, ending at the foggy, and rocky shoreline of Mendocino, where we spent the night enjoying great food, and even better wine.

OK, I'm on a bit of a holiday for the rest of these week - traveling from San Francisco up the coast nearly to Oregon, and then back again through Napa and Sonoma, before returning to S.F. for the Garden Bloggers Fling. I'll be sharing a few photos showing highlights of this trip -  I hope you enjoy them!

Mimulus aurantiacus

Late June may not be the best time to see wildflowers and native plants, but I think that any time of the year would be interesting for a plantsperson in this part of the United States. We have been blessed with incredible weather, ( yes, it's been foggy and rainy here while my design conferences were happening, but today, the temperatures reached near 90º F and the fog has all but disappeared. Near the coast, the air temperatures remain cool, but I am certain that once we drive inland tomorrow, towards Sonoma and Napa, that we will be basking in temps nearing 100º.

Read more below:

Mimulus aurantiacus, ( seen today in many color forms, from pale apricot to deep orange) is often grown as a potted winter-blooming conservatory plants in the East, yet is found along streams and roadsides throughout the entire coastline of northern California in such abundance, that suddenly, my sickly little plants seemed rather boring.

Mimulus guttatus enjoys growing in this seep, near the oceans edge, yet still, high above on a cliff.

Indian Paintbrush, or Castilleja foliosa burns bright along the roadside and even near the beaches. Not certain of the species here, so please correct me, as that only identification book I could find was an older one.

Mesembryanthemum chiliensis

Mesembryanthemum edulis (magenta form), growing in massive colonies along the coast, high on the cliffs.

I have to laugh whenever I see these giant Echium fastuosum ( remember my 6  foot tall pathetic potted one that bloomed last year?). These are nearly 25 feet tall, and although not native to California, they are naturalized along the coastline, often stopping cars, passerbys and as we could see, hundreds of hummingbirds.

Many of the tidal lupine species that grow along the northern coast are the most noticeable plants, as they are the tallest. Lupinus chamissonis ( behind this yellow L. macrocarpus - you can't see it here). It  hybridizes into many forms, and I was hoping to find the rare and endemic species of L. tidestromii, but it was difficult for me to key out any without a book. Regardless, for sheer mass and beauty, all of these coastal lupines are nice to look at, with their silver, tight growing foliage, and dense habit.

The silver lupin species found along the coast of northern California inter-breed and hybridize, but I am not certain which one this one is. My best guess is Lupinis macrocarpus.

I had to included one image of California poppy, and this orange/yellow form on a cliff over the sea seemed like the best choice ( but some hybrid orange forms near our hotel, almost made it in!).

Along the California coast, some of the largest Redwood groves in the world exist. I think I may have driven Wendi crazy with my requests to see these giants, but thankfully she arrived with a map which her friend, who is
a school teacher, had marked up identifying the best colonies of trees.

Brodiaea elegans ssp. elegans

Many of our finest annuals come from species which are native to California, Godetia and Clarkia species come to mind. I could not find this one in my book, surely someone can let me know what species it is!
Yellow composites may all look the same, but once one can study the differences within each species, a new appreciation can be had. Along this part of the coast, Madia madioides blooms in drifts in the sea swept grass.


  1. hopflower9:37 AM

    Welcome, Matt! You are in my neck of the woods today. Yes, it is heating up and inland will be around 100 F. I hope you enjoy your travels here; Napa and Sonoma are wonderful.

  2. gorgeous gorgeous post. makes me want to jump in the car and head straight there. thanks!

  3. Hi Matt, I love this blog and I love your photos! Especially the dramatic wide angles. what sort of lens are you using?

    I lived for several years in SF but in NYC for almost 20 years now. I left my heart there--as the song goes--but visit often and am always in awe of its magnificent flora.

    And I escape each weekend to a farmhouse in the Catskills to nurture my growing plant addiction. so your blog speaks to me. Thanks for the inspiration

  4. Anonymous11:30 AM


  5. Thanks everyone. So, the long photo is from my friend Wendi's iPhone ( I could have created on too, using the new features), and the wide-angle lens I use sometimes is the Nikon AF Fisheye 10.5 mm lens.

  6. Looks like Clarkia purpurea ssp. quadrivulnera.


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