What's beautiful today

Last updated on: December 1, 2022

Cliff goldenbush

Ericameria cuneata var. macrocephala
Found in San Diego county between boulders and rock crevices

Spreading Rush

Juncus patens
It is native to the West Coast of the United States from Washington to California, and into Baja California, Mexico. (Wikipedia).

California hedge nettle

Stachys bullata
This member of the mint family has pretty pink flowers and fuzzy leaves. The leaves smell like melons!

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.

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.

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.

Big Sagebrush

Artemisia tridentata
Big sagebrush is one of the most iconic plants of the American West, especially the Great Basin where vast areas are dominated by this shrub. It's silvery leaves often have three teeth, which gives it the species name tridentata. The three teeth are less prominent on our local subspecies though. Sagebush shouldn't be confused with sage. Both smell great but are in totally different plant families.

Rose

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.

Oak

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.

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.

Turkey-mullein

Croton setiger
Turkey-mullein is not a turkey or a mullein but perhaps turkeys mistake this for mullein. It is also known as dove weed. These common names are attributed to both turkeys and doves eating the seeds of this species. While this summer-blooming annual doesn't have the most exciting flowers, it forms pale-green mounds of foliage that are beautifully textured. These are most common in the California Habitats section of the garden.

Sticky Monkeyflower

Diplacus spp.
The sticky monkeyflowers are the only shrubby monkeyflowers in California and named for the often sticky leaves. These species have a wide variety of flower colors that are made even wider by cultivated hybrids. The garden has a nice sampling of both native species and cultivars derived from them.

Manzanita

Arctostaphylos spp.
Beautiful any time of year due to their red bark and elegant form, manzanitas are most spectacular in the winter and early spring when in flower. There are ~35 species and even more cultivars of manzanita at California Botanic Garden. How many can you find?

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.

California Fuchsia

Epilobium canum
Who can resist a plant that goes without water for months and then rewards us with bright red hummingbird pollinated flowers in late summer? California fuschia occurs in diverse habitats across most of California. Numerous cultivars have been selected for their growth forms, stature and leaf color. There is even one called ‘Route 66!’ How many different forms can you identify during your visit to California Botanic Garden?

Parish's Rabbitbush

Ericameria parishii
Found in the dry slopes and chaparral throughout Southern California into Baja, this shrub can grow to twelve feet tall. This member of the daisy family has oblong, lime green leaves with a leathery quality. One plant can produce many bright yellow flower clusters, which attract many insect pollinators.

Rose

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

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.

California Wild Grape

Vitis californica
Immediately recognizable, the California wild grape is vine with leaves that turn red, orange, or yellow in the fall, small yellow-green clusters of fuzzy flowers, and purple grapes. In 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 could also be made from its leaves.

Chuparosa

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!

Woolly Blue Curls

Trichostema lanatum
Deliciously fragrant, woolly blue curls is a shrub with bright green and narrow leaves and rich blue and purple, curly, and woolly flowers that grow on stalks. Though they tend to grow towards the coast in western parts of California, they grow in dry, sunny areas in California and Baja California. This plant is very attractive to hummingbirds. Bees and butterflies, like the Variable Checkerspot butterfly, love it too! Its leaves are also said to make a very delicious tea.

Cushion Buckwheat

Eriogonum ovalifolium
Cushion buckwheat has lovely grey, round, and woolly leaves that stay close to the ground forming a cushion-shaped plant. The bunches of small flowers come in a variety of colors: from white to pink to purple. This hardy plant grows in a variety of places but tends to grow in gravelly soil in Western North America. It was used as eye medicine and for colds by several Native American tribes, and attracts many different bees and butterflies.

Toyon

Heteromeles arbutifolia
Toyon is also known as the California holly for its bright red berries. Toyon also has small, white flowers in clusters and spiked, dark green leaves. It grows in dry, sunny areas in Western California, and is an important resource for animals. Butterflies and bees depend on the flowers for nectar, and the berries serve as food for many species of birds, squirrels, coyotes, bears, and even humans! Native Americans have traditionally used this berry made into a drink. Many benefit from the toyon’s beauty and berries. Visit it today!

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.

Cleveland Sage

Salvia clevelandii
Cleveland sage, also known as blue sage, is a fragrant shrub with wrinkly, fuzzy green leaves and rich purple or blue, trumpet-shaped flowers that grow in raised clusters. This drought-tolerant plant grows in well drained, sunny areas in Southern California and Baja California. Cleveland sage’s lovely, strong fragrance and beautiful flowers attract a lot of hummingbirds and bees. It has also been eaten, used for ceremonies, and used to cure poison oak by Native Americans in California.

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?

Spectacular (or Showy) Penstemon

Penstemon spectabilis
Spectacular penstemon, also known as showy penstemon, is famous for its rich colored, trumpet-shaped flowers, its fast growth rate, and its drought tolerance. They grow in well-drained and sunny areas in the southwestern U.S., particularly here in Southern California, and Baja California. Because of the shape and color of their flowers, they attract many different pollinators, including hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies such as the Variable Checkerspot, a butterfly species that you can see in our Butterfly Pavilion.

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).