It is ranked among California’s rarest plants and only found on three of the Channel Islands and on Guadalupe Island off the coast of Baja California. The foliage and fruits are quite poisonous. Unfortunately, this has not stopped feral herbivores such as sheep and pigs from eating and trampling it in the wild, severely impacting the native populations.
Showy island snapdragon
Although common and popular in the California native horticultural trade, in the wild it is only found on Santa Catalina, San Clemente, and Guadalupe (Mexico) Islands. Its red tubular flowers make it popular with pollinators, especially hummingbirds.
California sun cup
Native to southern California, this flower comes up on its own throughout the garden. Low-growing, with large, sweet yellow flowers, its definitely worth looking for!
Santa Rosa island sage
This plant is native to Santa Rosa Island, off the coast of southern California. On Santa Rosa Island, grazing by non-native herbivores has severely limited its distribution, but thanks to restoration efforts, its numbers are now recovering!
Catalina Island mountain mahogany
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!
This plant is rare in California, only known from some parts of the coast in San Diego County. With small, white , nondescript flowers, it may not be as eye-catching as some other flowers at the garden, but it is just as lovable!
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! Lucky for you, it's in bloom right now too!
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.
Did you think that all buckwheats had white and pink flowers, that turn a rusty brown once they dry? Not this one! Conejo buckwheat has beautiful, sulfur yellow flowers!
These vines produce large, magnificent flowers. Typically white, their petals can also be pale purple or blue.
In the sunflower family, this plant produces cute yellow flowers in the springtime. It is native to the Sierra Nevada, coastal ranges in California, and Baja California - but it also would be great in your yard!
Mojave kingcup cactus
Cacti flowers are truly stunning, and this species is no exception! Low to the ground, in the spring it bursts forth with radiant red flowers that attract all sorts of pollinators.
These small, sweet flowers are found only in California! They get their common name from the distinct spots, one on each petal.
Utah mortonia has a California Rare Plant Ranking of 4.3, meaning that it has a limited distribution in our state. It grows mostly on limestone outcrops. Luckily, though, you can see it here at our garden!
These small flowers can be found throughout the garden. As they dry out, they become prickly and can cause skin irritation for some. Look, but don't touch!
Would you have guessed that this flower is in the sunflower family? Unexpectedly, it also has a delightful smell! Touch it's leaves and see what we're talking about!
Often referred to as the Doctor Seuss plant due to its oddly thick trunk and bright green leaves at the top of the trunk. It is native to the Channel Islands, Baja California, and coastal California.
In greek mythology, Iris was the goddess of the rainbow serving as messenger to the Olympian Gods. The scientific name for the Iris genus is super easy to remember because it’s the same as the common name, Iris!
Sycamores lose their leaves during the winter. In the spring, the regrowth of these leaves is accompanied by flowers borne in balls, hanging on stalks from the main stems. Take a close look: while not as showy as some flowers in the garden, they are intriguing!
There are several species of beardtongues throughout the Garden. The flowers are vividly colored: red, blue or purple, and are on tall, charismatic stems.
Fragrant pitcher sage
Its name is well deserved - smell the leaves and see why!
These giant flowering stalks with small white flowers can be seen swarming with bees in our California Habitats (Plant Communities)!
The wand-like flowering stalks are easy to spot between the towering trees as they seem to reach for the sky, waving in the breeze on long stems. The pink flowers are lovely to admire up close.
You may not associate oaks with flowers, but flowers they indeed have! Produced on catkins, the male flowers produce massive amounts of pollen that can cause seasonal allergies for many. The female flowers are among the most subtle flowers in the plant kingdom. Search for them in the notch between stems and leaves or at the very ends of fine branches.
Did you know there are native California roses? There are several species throughout California, and here at the garden!
California blue-eyed grass
These sweet, small flowers are not really grasses at all! They are in the Iris family. In the wild, these flowers are usually blue - but sometimes can be white! Other species in the same genus have lovely yellow flowers.
Our state flower can, of course, be found throughout the Garden! Watch out for flashes of bright orange petals and happy pollinators!
These gorgeous yellow flowers can be spotted throughout the garden. During the summer it produces blue berries that look like grapes - giving it the namesake Oregon Grape!
For any gardener looking to attract hummingbirds, this is the perfect plant! Its red, tubular flowers are known to be hummingbird pollinated. Aromatic, leathery leaves will ward off deer. This sage needs a bit more shade and water than the others but it is well worth the additional attention!
Fremontodendron ‘Pacific Sunset’
An incredible 3 inch wide orange and rust flower is an unforgettable sight to see on a tree. During peak bloom these plants can be more orange than green! Liking dry conditions for optimal growth, they can be fast growing and become sizable quickly. This Fremontia is a cross between Fremontodendron californicum and F. mexicanum; it is a cultivar or special variety created by the late Dr. Lee Lenz.
This agave grows in Baja 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.
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. Native Americans used ceanothus plants for many medicinal reasons: to help with poison oak, for gynecological problems, foot injuries, and more!
Among the first to flower in Spring, lupines are beautiful shrubs of the genus Lupinus that have long stems, leaves that radiate out of the stems, and beautiful pea-shaped flowers that encircle the stems and come in a variety of colors. Sometimes referred to as “the wolf bean,” lupines can be found in a variety of habitats across 5 continents! There are more than 100 species of lupine that are native to California alone. Lupines are also great for bees and butterflies!
Southern Mountain Phlox
Small and lovely, the southern mountain phlox is a wildflower with narrow and long green leaves and star-shaped white, light pink, or light purple flowers. It grows in woody areas in the Southwestern U.S. and in Baja California. Unlike other plants, there is only one flower per stem on southern mountain phlox. This precious plant was also used by Native Americans for body aches, tooth aches, and babies’ colds.
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.
Bearing beautiful flowers and delicious fruit, mexican elderberry is a shrub or tall tree with green leaves with little spikes, small cream or yellow flowers in clusters, and purple edible berries that are available in the Fall. Also known as blue elderberry, Mexican elderberry grows in moist places in a large region: from Oregon to Baja California, and eastward to West Texas. Butterflies and bees love elder flowers, and many different types of birds and other small animals love its fruit. Elderberries could also be eaten and made into drinks and dyes.
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
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.
Peritoma arborea, Isomeris arborea
Bladderpod is a shrub with many branches, blue-green, circular leaves, and beautiful bright yellow flowers that grow in clusters. It tends to bloom year round and can be found from the coast to the deserts in Southern and Baja California. Named after its puffed up, edible seed pods, this hardy plant attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. It also gives off an interesting fragrance that is a source of debate: some think the smell is pleasant while others think the complete opposite. Visit the bladderpod today and discover what you think of it!
Mimulus aurantiacus, Diplacus aurantiacus
Coming in an array of colors, bush monkeyflower is a shrub with sticky leaves and stems and with yellow, orange, cream, or red trumpet-shaped flowers. It grows in sunny but moist areas across Southwestern U.S. This plant can be sensitive to touch near its pollen and is great for bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies like the Variable Checkerspot, which you can see in our Butterfly Pavilion. It was also used by Native Americans as food, for wounds and stomach aches, and to make baths to alleviate sore muscles.
Acmispon glaber, Lotus scoparius
Common but nonetheless precious, deerweed is a shrub with small, narrow leaves and tiny, yellow or golden flowers that grow up the stems. These flowers redden towards the end of summer. Deerweed can be found in dry areas across Southwestern U.S. It has gotten its name since it is one of deer’s favorite foods, but this plant is also important for honey bees and butterflies. It also is important for habitat restoration after a wildfire; deerweed fixes nitrogen, a necessary nutrient for plants, back into the soil after a fire, thus making a way for other plants to grow in the area again.
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.
Channel Island Tree Poppy
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?
Baja Fairy Duster
Named due to its vibrant red, feather-like flowers that grow around small leaves, the Baja Fairy Duster is a shrub that adds a burst of color and life to gardens. It grows in well-drained, sandy soils in Southern California and Baja California. Because of its bright color, it attracts hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. This plant is also heat and drought tolerant, tends to bloom year round, and was used by Native Americans as a dye.
The California sunflower 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, which you can see in our Butterfly Pavilion.
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. This bee-friendly plant can be used as dye and food coloring, medicine for wounds, tonics, and even deodorants! Marigolds are also known to be a repellent for mosquitoes, aphids, and other insects that you wouldn’t want in your gardens.
These cacti are paddle shaped plants that produce vibrant flowers that come in a variety of shades. They are found in deserts and dry, sunny areas in Texas to Southern California and the states in between. Opuntia cacti are also famous for producing prickly pears, which from some species can be used as food, and were all used for dyes, wounds, and even skin treatments.