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.
This agave grows in Baja California, Mexico and just across the border in San Diego County, where it's endangered. Today it's threatened by habitat loss in both countries. Our Garden published a Conservation Plan for the species, an important step towards protecting it.
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.
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 in teas, syrups, jelly, and jam. Internet sleuthing suggests they taste best after a frost, so are possibly tastier in cooler parts of the world.
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 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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
One of the earliest blooming shrubs in the garden, the drooping inflorescence of pink flowers will later produce berries for the birds to eat. Also look for the very similar white-flowering current (Ribes indecorum), which has smaller white flowers without shades of pink.
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?
The light purple colored pads of this cactus can add a beautiful contrast to the varying shades of greens of most cactus gardens. Come spring, the pops of fluorescent pink blossoms are a stand out sight. Although this prickly-pear cactus tends not to have spines, you still shouldn't touch it as it is covered in glochids. These small barbed bristles can be very irritating and difficult to remove once they have found their way into your skin!
Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa var. coloradensis
Standing upright and branching, this cactus is found along rocky slopes of the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. Its yellow-green stems are covered with straw colored, overlapping spines. Flowering in spring, it will produce flowers that are bright yellow at the center and fade into a rich bronze color at the outer edges.
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.
Midnight Magic blue curls
Trichostema 'Midnight Magic'
This compact shrub produces showy spikes of deep purple flowers extending out from dark green leaves. It is a hybrid of Woolly blue curls (Trichostema lanatum) and Trichostema purpusii. Although its leaves are fragrant, it’s aroma is much milder than that of Woolly blue curls. These plants will produce gorgeous purple flowers from spring until fall. Making a plant list for fall? Midnight Magic is very easy to grow in a garden setting where our fully native Woolly blue curls can be fussy.
There are several species of beardtongues throughout the Garden. The flowers are vividly colored: red, blue or purple, and are on tall, charismatic stems.
The enchanting sacred datura is a wildflower with broad, dark-green, wavy leaves and big, white, trumpet-shaped flowers. These flowers have 5 lines that radiate from the center of the flower, can have a slight purple tint, are sweetly fragrant, and are the highlight of the plant. Sacred datura can be found in gravelly open areas or alongside roads throughout the South-western U.S. It is also called sacred thorn-apple since its seeds are in spiky balls. Though this plant is dazzling, it is also dangerous; every part of this plant is quite poisonous. Because of its hallucinogenic properties, this plant was used by Native Americans for sacred ceremonies.
Woolly Blue Curls
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 that you can see in our Butterfly Pavilion, love it too! Its leaves are also said to make a very delicious tea.
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 used to use this berry to make it into a drink. Many benefit from the toyon’s beauty and berries. Visit it today!
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 was eaten as a candy, used on bee stings, worn as a perfume, and more by Native American tribes.
St. Catherine's Lace Buckwheat
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 was also used by Native Americans to alleviate head and stomach aches.
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).
This drought-tolerant and lovely shrub has small, fuzzy leaves and white, small flowers that grow in dense clusters on the bush. It can be found growing all over sandy areas, such as canyons and dried riverbeds, throughout Central and Southern California. California buckwheat’s beautiful flowers change color from white to pink to burnt orange as the plant dries and the season progresses, and was used by the Native American tribes as a medicine to alleviate head and stomach aches, promote heart health, and aid in digestion.