What's beautiful today

Last updated on: September 29th, 2023

Foothill beardtongue 'GMR White'

Penstemon heterophyllus 'GMR White"
While white flowers are not unusual, a white flowered beardtongue certainly is. This is a variety closely related to the California native foothill beardtongue which has a more purple to blue coloration. Pollinators love to visit, especially since their blooming period can last for a while from spring to summer to potentially fall. They are also drought tolerant and perfect for the California weather.

Whitestem paperflower

The whitestem paperflower is native to the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts. One of the most eye-catching aspects of this flower are 3 lobed petals which look like teeth at the end. Being a part of the sunflower family, what looks like the flower at a glance is actually made of multiple smaller disk florets, the small center flowers, and ray florets, the petal flowers. This plant gets its name from the petals which, when dry, retain their color and become papery.

Hartweg's climbing milkweed

Funastrum heterophyllum
This plant, while called a milkweed, is a member of a different genus in the same plant family. It has a vine-like characteristic and is often found growing on a shrub. It has thin, narrow leaves and star-like, hairy purple flowers. Like milkweeds, pollen is distributed through pollinia, pollen sacs, that get stuck on an insect's legs when it visits the flower.

Seacliff buckwheat

Eriogonum latifolium
Seacliff buckwheat grows on the cliffs and sand dunes of coastal central and southern California. This buckwheat gets its name from the small leaves that cover the plant. The leaves can get thick and you might see some turn from green to yellow or red. The plant can flower year-round boasting inflorescences that can be whitish, pinkish, or greenish-yellow

Cholla cactus

Cylindropuntia prolifera
This native cactus grows along the southern California coast and on the Channel Island where it tends to grow on ocean bluffs. It can grow up to an impressive 8 feet! Be careful around them; the joints between the segments separate easily when they attach to something. The eye catching magenta flowers usually bloom during spring and sumer.

Totem pole cactus

Lophocereus schottii
This cactus is found in Baja California. The cactus is naked until it reaches maturity which is when it will form downward angled spines. This cactus is also called the senita cactus because pollinator of this cactus is the senita moth is attracted to the light pink flowers at night.

Dara's Gold flannelbush

fremontodendron 'Dara's Gold'
This cultivar is smaller than one would expect for a flannelbush. It grows up to 3 feet and as wide as 6-8 feet. It's full of bight shiny green leaves that can cause some irritation when touched due to stellate hairs. It usually flowers from late winter to summer but can flower in the fall. The flowers of this cultivar lack the darker orange color on the edge of the flower.

Panicled Willowherb

Epilobium brachycarpum
This herb is native and widespread in North America. This annual herb can reach up to 2 meters in height! The gangly appearance results from the thin stem and the narrow leaves. The flowers have four petals but are deeply lobed which almost makes them look like they have eight petals. The flower color ranges from light purple to pink.

Tornleaf Goldeneye

Senecio flaccidus
This plant from the sunflower family is a shrub native to coastal southern California and northern Baja. It is part of the chaparral and coastal sage scrub communities, living on dry mesas, canyons, and slopes. The showy yellow flowers of this plant can be seen most of the year.

Threadleaf Ragwort

Senecio flaccidus
Also known as Threadleaf Groundsel, this plant is native to the southwestern Great Plains and found throughout southern and central California. This plant is fast growing but only lives 4-6 years. From summer to fall, it produces many yellow flowers.

Baja Desert-Thorn

Lycium brevipes
Baja desert-thorn lives in southern California and northwestern Mexico on the coast, Sonoran desert, and some Channel Islands. It likes to live in coastal environments and in desert scrub environments. The shrub has thorny, tangled branches with small leaves covered with hairs. The funnel shaped flower is lavender and white to varying degrees, depending on the flower. The flowers usually have 4 petals but can vary in petal number.

California croton

Croton californicus
California croton is a small shrub perennial having small oval shaped leaves covered with hairs. These plants are dioecious which means that individual plants are either male or female. The male flowers look like cups filled with yellowish stamens while the female flowers are rounded and house immature fruits ready for pollination. Can you tell if the plant shown is male or female?

California copperleaf

Acalypha californica
The California copperleaf is native to the Peninsular range foothills into the lower desert of San Diego county. It grows in chaparral communities on crumbling granite slopes. It has an older common name as well being called the Pringle three-seeded mercury. The flowers look like reddish pink bumpy spikes with white spots. During the summer months, older leaves can turn pinkish to a copper color.

Palmer's Indian mallow

Abutilon palmeri
This is a relatively rare species in the mallow family, only growing in the southwestern California and northern Mexico. The beautiful orange flowers are eye catching for anyone that comes across it.

Oregon Grape

Berberis aquifolium
During the summer it produces blue berries that look like grapes - giving it the namesake Oregon Grape! While it looks like a grape, it is actually a barberry. It likes to grow in the mountains and foothills throughout California.

Hollyleaf Cherry

Prunus ilicifolia
This evergreen species in the Rose family is native to coastal California and northern Baja California. It produces red fruits, cherries, in the late summer which birds love. This species has two varieties and the spiky leaves give away that is mainland variety.

Pink honeysuckle

Lonicera hispidula var. vacillans
Common native honeysuckle that can be found growing in shady forest stream banks and slopes, especially in central and northern CA. In the late summer, the plant produces orange-red berries.

Boojum tree

Fouquieria columnaris
The boojum tree is often considered to be the strangest tree on Earth which is native to Baja California and part of the Sonoran desert. It has a single conical stem with numerous small twigs around the whole tree. While it can live for centuries, it grows very slowly and can take 10 to 20 years to reach one foot in height. The boojum tree usually loses its leaves in drought and develops more when it sarts to rain. In late summer, it develops yellow tubular flowers towards the top of the tree which attract insects and birds.


Frangula californica
Coffeeberry is an evergreen shrub that naturally grows throughout California and southwest Oregon. The most notable part about the plant is its berries that turn from green to red to black throughout the summer. The seeds of these berries are reminiscent of coffee beans which gives the plant its name. The berry and the bark of the plant have been used by indigenous peoples for medicinal use.


Solidago velutina ssp. californica
There are many species of goldenrod but this is main one found in the gardens. Goldenrods are in the sunflower family (Asteraceae). This native species grows throughout California, mostly in open, grassy places in elevations between 0 to 7500 feet above sea level. It loves to flower around the time when most plants don't so it's great for birds and insects. True to the name, the numerous golden yellow flowers densely cover the tops of the plant when in flower.

Salt marsh fleabane

Pluchea odorata var. odorata
The salt marsh fleabane is a plant in the sunflower (Asteraceae) family. It lives in wetlands, coastal habitats, and moist inland areas. These plants can also live in saline substrates. What apears as a magenta to pinkish-purple flower is actually a flower cluster made up of smaller disk flowers or florets. The odor of the plant has been described differently by different people so give it a sniff and experience what is smells like to you.


Datura wrightii
This perennial is in the Nightshade (Solanaceae) family, and it is often used as an ornamental. It is found in the southwestern US, and it grows in habitats from desert to coastal sage scrub. Its large white flowers are striking, often having a purple tinge.

Hall's Wyethia

Wyethia elata
This low-growing perennial is part of the Sunflower (Asteraceae) family! It is endemic to California and is only known from the Sierra Nevada foothills, living in woodland and pine forest habitats.

Bracken Fern

Pteridium aquilinum
This fern is widespread and found on all continents except Antarctica! It also grows in a variety of habitats from the woods, fields, and marshes.

Desert Globemallow

Sphaeralcea ambigua
This lovely perennial is also known as the Apricot Mallow. It grows in the western United States including California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, as well as Baja California. It has fuzzy leaves and beautiful flowers that bees love to visit! You can find this plant in the Cultivar and Flower Garden.

Island Morning Glory

Calystegia macrostegia
These magnificent flowers grow on a woody perennial vine, and are typically white to light pink or purple. They occur on the Channel Islands as well as along the coast from Monterey County to Baja California. At the Garden, you can find them growing along the fence near the Cultivar Garden!

Baja Rose

Rosa minutifolia
This rose, also called the small-leaved rose, grows in chaparral and succulent scrub communities in northern Tijuana and parts of San Diego. Much of its habitat has been destroyed and it is listed as endangered by the California Native Plant Society.

Narrow leaf milkweed

Asclepias fascicularis
Fruit of the narrow milkweed! When the fruit matures, it splits open and releases its seeds. The seeds are attached to hairs, called floss, that help the seeds get dispersed by the wind. These flowering perennials stand up tall and slender with their long narrow leaves that whorl around their stems.

Baja Pitcher Sage

Lepichinia hastata
Baja pitcher sage, Lepechinia hastata, is a shrub native to Baja California and Socorro Island, MX and it can be 1-8 ft tall. Though this plant is not in California, it is part of the California Floristic Province. The California Floristic Province is defined by a Mediterranean-type climate characterized by long dry summers and winter rains. Flowers are purple-reddish in color and attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Summer Holly

Comarostaphylis diversifolia
A rare shrub that is native to coastal chaparral habitats from southern California to Baja California. It can also be found on the channel islands. It is closely related to manzanitas and has similar flowers. The distinctive red fruits have bumpy texture.

Colorado four o'clock

Mirabilis multiflora
Ground-sprawling plant with large, vivd magenta flowers. Native to dry mountains and deserts in southern California.

Apache plume

Fallugia paradoxa
A rose-relative native to the desert with white flowers and very unique, wispy fruits

California rockflower

Crossosoma californicum
A rare endemic species, native to the Channel Islands, Guadalupe Island (off the coast of Baja California), and Portuguese Bend Nature Preserve in Los Angeles County.


Solanum spp.
Best known for their poisonous berries, nightshade or Solanum species are closely related to potatoes and have beautiful purple flowers! In Southern CA they can be found blooming even in the middle of winter.

California Bay Laurel

Umbellularia californica
California Bay Laurel is a tree with wonderful-smelling leaves. These have been used as a substitute for bay leaves in cooking. These two species are both in the Laurel family which also includes the plants cinnamon and avocados come from.


Ericameria pinifolia
This local native is one of the standout shrubs in the late fall. When most of the other plants are done flowering for the year, these shrubs color areas with bright yellow.

Rush milkweed

Asclepias subulata
Rush milkweed grows in the deserts of California and, like other milkweeds, is a host plant for the monarch butterfly. This plant has very narrow leaves that are only present part of the year. It does much of its photosynthesis via its green stems.

California buckeye

Aesculus californica
What's that tree with no leaves that is covered in big fruits? That's the summer-deciduous California buckeye. While the large nuts of this plant are enjoyed by squirrels at the Garden, they are toxic to people. They have been used medicinally and as food in the past but leaching out the toxins and rendering them safe to consume is a very labor-intensive process.


Rosa spp.
The fruit of a rose is often called a rose hip. Rose hips are a beautiful decoration on rose plants in the fall and a good reason not to cut off the flowers when they are done blooming. Rosehips have been used throughout the world in teas, syrups, jelly, and jam. Internet sleuthing suggests they taste best after a frost, so are possibly tastier in cooler parts of the state.

Telegraph Weed

Heterotheca grandiflora
Despite the common name, telegraph weed is a native wildflower in California. "Weed" is an arbitrary term used for plants that are unwanted in an area. In a garden of cultivated plants, telegraph weed may legitimately be considered a weed, but in the wilds of California, it is an important part of the ecosystem. It is, however, an invasive weed in wildlands of Australia where it has been introduced.


Quercus spp.
There are 18 species of oaks growing in the garden. The fruit of an oak is called an acorn, which you'll likely see squirrels and maybe woodpeckers collecting and storing. In some years an oak will produce a huge number of acorns relative to other years. This is called masting. Years of very high acorn production overwhelm the animals that would eat them, so many of the acorns the animals store in those years are not eaten and have a chance to grow into new trees and shrubs.

Matilija Poppy

Romneya spp.
The two species of Matilija poppies are generally known for having the largest flowers in California. Their beauty doesn't stop there though. Once done flowering, the fruits dry out and valves open from the top to allow seeds to fall out. These strange fruits are definitely a garden highlight in the fall.

Common sunflower

Helianthus annuus
Common sunflowers are the tall plants with yellow flowers that greet you in the Wildflower Meadow when you first step into the garden. This species is native to much of North America where it has been cultivated by Indigenous Americans for thousands of years. The sunflowers you grow with giant flowers are this same species but selectively bred for bigger flowers and thus the bigger, tasty sunflower seeds you eat.

Birch-leaf Mountain-mahogany

Cercocarpus betuloides
The genus name Cercocarpus means tailed-fruit, which you can see in the photo is an appropriate name for this plant. The hairs on the tail help the fruit better catch the wind and blow it to new locations. The tail curls when dry and uncurls when moist. This change between curled and uncurled can actually drill the seed into the soil where it may grow to become a new shrub.

Abbott's bushmallow

Malacothamnus abbottii
Abbott's bushmallow was presumed to be extinct at one point and is now known from just 11 occurrences in Monterey County, all on private property. You can, however, see it here in our conservation groves of this species, which protect the genetic lines in case the wild populations are lost. The best place to see Abbott's bushmallow is on the unpaved loop in the California Habitats section of the garden.

Indian Tobacco

Nicotiana quadrivalvis
Indian tobacco is one of four species of tobaccos native to California where it has long been cultivated by indigenous peoples.

California Wild Grape

Vitis californica
Immediately recognizable, the California wild grape is a vine with leaves that turn red, orange, or yellow in the fall, small yellow-green clusters of fuzzy flowers, and purple grapes. It grows mainly in Central or Northern California where there is more water, but can grow in damp areas here in Southern California. This plant is really drought tolerant though, and its grapes serve as food for humans and small animals. A yellow dye can also be made from its leaves.

Joshua tree

Yucca brevifolia
The Joshua tree is an iconic member of the southern California flora. If you can't make it out to the desert, our garden is a perfect place to see these majestic plants! There are some particularly interesting examples in the California Habitats section of the garden.

Mexican Blue Fan Palm

Brahea armata
Did you know that the California Floristic Province also includes part of Baja California in Mexico? Visit the Baja California section of the garden to see these beautiful pale blue palms and other species from the southernmost reaches of the California Floristic Province.

Mission Manzanita

Xylococcus bicolor
While mission manzanita looks similar to other manzanitas, it's actually in a different genus. The bicolor part of the scientific name means two-colored and refers to the leaves being green on one side and white on the other. The leaves of true manzanitas (Arctostaphylos spp.) are the same color on both sides.

Wokas or great yellow pond lily

Nuphar polysepala
These charismatic water lilies flower late in the year, like many aquatic plants. In nature, this plant is found in calm streams and ponds throughout northern California and all the way up into Alaska. The leaves and flowers of Nuphar grow from rhizomes rooted in the muddy bottom and float at the water’s surface. The bright yellow flowers are sometimes red-tinged and they can be up to several inches in diameter. The starchy seeds can be popped and eaten like popcorn!

Hoary Aster

Dieteria asteroides
Also known as Fall False Tansy Aster and a member of the sunflower family, the plant produces small purple “flowers.” However, like the common sunflower, these “flowers” are actually composites of many flowers, including both central disc and marginal ray florets. The ray florets are the purple petaloid structures. These biennial to short-lived perennial plants grow in branching clusters arising from one main taproot. They are shade tolerant plants that bloom into October, adding a nice pop of color in late summer when other native plants have ceased flowering.

Pancake Prickly-Pear

Opuntia chlorotica
This spiny cactus gets its name from its round, flat pads, similar to pancakes in shape. Plants tend to be at least as broad as tall, from three to eight feet. Its beautiful yellow blossoms will bloom in May, followed by magenta colored, fleshy fruit. When ripe, the fruit can be picked and used in syrups, candy, jellies and, yes, ice cream! Be cautious when planting near borders as the spines and glochids are sharp and can be difficult to remove!

Nevin's Woolly Sunflower

Constancea nevinii
The beautifully silver, fuzzy leaves of this small shrub stand out on their own merit, but when contrasted with its bright yellow clustering flowers, this plant is a show stopper. It blooms in spring through late summer. This rare plant is endemic to three of the Channel Islands where it grows in coastal sage scrub habitat. Until recently, it was identified as Eriophyllum nevinii - DNA studies found it to be only distantly related to Eriophyllum, and now is the only member of the monotypic genus Constancea.

Scarlet Monkeyflower

Erythranthe cardinalis
With its bright red, nectar rich flowers that bloom from spring through fall, this is a favorite of local hummingbirds. This relatively easy to grow perennial has downy, toothed leaves and spreads horizontally, before stretching upward. It is found growing in riparian environments, so should fare well in a moist, partly shady area of your garden.

Rose Mallow

Hibiscus lasiocarpos
The large blooms of this shrub are sure to catch your eye with its white to light pink color and crimson center. The plants stand tall and upright, growing about four feet and sporting attractive heart shaped, fuzzy leaves. As this rare native perennial likes to grow in wet soil along streams and ponds, you will be certain to find it near the Reflecting Pond here at the garden. Consider planting this perennial along a sunny border of your native rain garden.

Tall Evening-primrose

Oenothera elata
The bright yellow flowers of the tall evening-primrose contrast beautifully against the plant’s aloe- colored leaves and add beautiful pops of color to the garden. This summer blooming plant will open its flowers in the late afternoon into early evening, and the flowers will then wilt in the heat of the following day. That bright yellow color stands out at night too and provides visual cues to attract a special pollinator in the dim light of the evening, the night flying hawkmoth. The hawkmoth will use its very long tongue to probe into the long floral tube for nectar.

Red-flowered Buckwheat

Eriogonum grande var. rubescens
Named for its red flowers, this rare native perennial grows on the dry cliffs of three of the Channel Islands of California. It's vibrant blooms rise up on long stalks above a base of leaves that are dark green on the upper side and pale green on the underside. The blooms will last well into summer, making it great for attracting pollinators, especially butterflies. Even after the flowers have faded into fruits, these plants retain their architectural interest.

Catalina Island mountain mahogany

Cercocarpus traskiae
Perhaps one of the most endangered trees in all of North America, this beautiful tree is native to Catalina Island. There are only seven known individuals left in the wild! Here at the garden, though, these trees are thriving!


Phacelia sp.
An annual, this beautiful purple flower pops up in our California Habitats (Plant Communities) section! A member of the Borage family, it can cause contact dermatitis for some. The purple flowers have a particular growth habit called a scorpioid cyme which makes the inflorescence look like a scorpion tail, giving the plant the nickname "scorpion-weed."


Rosa spp.
Did you know there are native California roses? There are several species throughout California, and here at the garden!

California Poppy

Eschscholzia californica
Our state flower can, of course, be found throughout the Garden! Watch out for flashes of bright orange petals and happy pollinators!

California Redbud

Cercis occidentalis
These trees are a sight to behold! Their bright pink flowers pop for just a few short weeks. Visiting the garden while they're in bloom is a must!

Creeping Snowberry

Symphoricarpos mollis
Also known as trip vine or wild honeysuckle, creeping snowberry is a small plant with vine-like branches and light pink or pink bell shaped flowers. It is very adaptable and can be found all across Western North America. This plant is commonly used as groundcover in gardens, and was used as eye drops by the Native Americans. It also attracts birds with its bitter berries and bees and butterflies, such as the Variable Checkerspot that you can see in our Butterfly Pavilion, with its flowers.


Ceanothus sp.
The eye-catching ceanothus are giant shrubs in the genus of the same name, and have wrinkled, oval shaped, sometimes spiky leaves and big, beautiful clusters of fragrant blue, purple, or white tiny flowers. They grow in well-drained soils across Western North America, but particularly here in California. You’ll often see ceanothus in gardens and along streets since it is fast-growing and drought tolerant. Ceanothus plants have been used by Native Americans for many medicinal reasons: to help with poison oak, for gynecological problems, foot injuries, and more!

De la Mina Verbena (Lilac Verbena)

Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina'
De la Mina verbena, also known as purple Cedros Island verbena, is a beautiful shrub with green wrinkled leaves and fragrant, rich purple blossoms that grow in clusters on long stems. It only grows naturally on Cedros Island, off the coast of Baja California. However, it can grow in well-drained soils in South-western and Southern U.S. This lovely plant blooms almost year round, grows fast, and is drought tolerant.


Justicia californica
Also known as beloperone, the vibrant chuperosa is a shrub with green, succulent-like leaves and lots of long, tubular flowers that come in different shades of red or sometimes yellow. Hardy and beautiful, chuparosa grows in hot, dry, and sandy or rocky places in Southern California, Arizona, and North-western Mexico. This plant also attracts a lot of hummingbirds and other birds. In fact, its name “chuparosa” meant “hummingbird” in Spanish!

Santa Cruz Island Buckwheat

Eriogonum arborescens
This extremely drought tolerant and elegant shrub has dark red bark, fuzzy, narrow leaves, and lovely clusters of frilly light pink or white flowers that brown as they age. Santa Cruz Island buckwheat only naturally grows on California’s Channel Islands, but has been planted on mainland California in sunny and well-drained areas. Like all buckwheat, Santa Cruz Island buckwheat is fire resistant. It also blooms almost year round and attracts lots of birds and butterflies.

Island Buckwheat

Eriogonum grande var. grande
Similar to the widespread naked buckwheat (Eriogonum nudum), island buckwheat had long "naked" stems with most of its leaves at the base of the plant. Island buckwheat is native to the Channel Islands but is widely cultivated.

Island Snapdragon

Gambelia speciosa, Galvezia speciosa
Vibrant and beautiful, the island snapdragon is a shrub with bright red, tubular flowers that grow in clusters and smooth, lime-green leaves. It prefers coastal areas, but is a drought-tolerant plant that can grow in well-drained and rocky areas. Hummingbirds love its lovely flowers, and island snapdragon is fire resistant. It is also an endangered species and only grows naturally on the islands off the coast of Southern California and Baja California.

Western Columbine

Aquilegia formosa
Elegant with its bright red and yellow flowers, the Western Columbine is a beautiful addition to gardens. It is called by its scientific name Aquilegia formosa, which means “beautiful eagle,” since the flower’s shape resembles eagle talons, and this flower grows in moist, cool areas all across Western North America. Western Columbine is attractive to hummingbirds and has been eaten as a candy, used on bee stings, worn as a perfume, and more by Native American tribes.

Channel Island Tree Poppy

Dendromecon harfordii
The Channel Island tree poppy is a rare, tall shrub with beautiful, bright, and fragrant yellow flowers and smooth, silvery leaves. They grow fast in dry areas and they only grow naturally on the Channel Islands. Did you know that this drought-tolerant plants’ seeds germinate better after a fire?

St. Catherine's Lace Buckwheat

Eriogonum giganteum
This elegant plant has “carpets” of tiny pink-white flowers that grow above its white-green leaves. It only naturally grows on California’s Channel Islands, in the fast-draining, moist, and rocky coastal scrub. St. Catherine’s Lace buckwheat is a very important food source for butterflies such as the Gray Hairstreak and for birds. In late summer and early fall its pinkish-white flowers get a new dark-orange color. This buckwheat has also traditionally been used by Native Americans to alleviate head and stomach aches.

California Brittlebush

Encelia californica
The California brittlebush is hardy and tall with bright yellow flowers that form in clusters on thin stems. They can grow in a variety of places, including rocky or marshy areas, throughout California and Baja California. This perky plant grows fast, loves the sun, and is perfect for bees and butterflies like the Painted Lady.

California Fuchsia

Epilobium canum, Zauschneria californica
California fuschia is well known for its vivid scarlet, four-petaled flowers and can be found growing abundantly on rocky hillsides or other well-drained areas. It only naturally grows in California. It is also known as Hummingbird Trumpet since it is very attractive for hummingbirds, and also for bees and butterflies/moths, like the White-Lined Sphinx moth that you can see in our Butterfly Pavilion. California fuschia is not only easy to grow, but it is also water wise, fire resistant, and was used by Native Americans to cure fever and infection and to promote overall wellness.

Desert Marigold

Baileya multiradiata
Desert marigold and their tall, radiant yellow flowers are perfect pops of color in gardens. They thrive in dry, sunny, and rocky areas in the southwestern parts of the U.S. and in northern Mexico. Desert marigolds are not true marigolds (Tagetes spp.) but both are members of the aster family (Asteraceae).

Desert Willow

Chilopsis linearis
Known for its durability and beautiful fragrant flowers, the Desert Willow is a tall shrub with long,green narrow leaves and pink or purple trumpet-like flowers. It grows in sandy areas and dry grasslands throughout the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. Desert willow is used in landscape design because of its beautiful flowers and nice form.