What's beautiful today

Shaw's agave

Agave shawii
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

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.


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 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.

Baja Phlox

Acanthogilia gloriosa
This spiky plant from Baja California has the distinction of being in a monotypic genus. What does that mean? Within the genus Acanthogilia, this is the only species. In most genera, there are several species that are relatively closely related. It's fairly rare for a species to have no close relatives.

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 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.

Blue Grama

Bouteloua gracilis
Blue grama is a widespread species of grass growing from California all the way to the midwestern states. The brush or eyebrow-like things you see are the clusters of flowers. These curve in age and can even curve enough to make a ring.


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.

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.

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.

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?

Red Shanks

Adenostoma sparsifolium
A rose is a rose is a …. Red shanks! Found on chaparral slopes in Southern California, this deeply rooted tree is an important slope stabilizer and is indeed a member of the rose family. Plants tend to have a multi-trunk formation with feather-like foliage and small clustering white flowers. Its red peeling bark can have quite the dramatic effect when the sunlight hits it just right. If pruned to tame its growth form, red shanks can be an attractive garden addition that is tolerant of many growing conditions.

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.

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.

Sacred Datura

Datura wrightii
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

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 that you can see in our Butterfly Pavilion, love it too! Its leaves are also said to make a very delicious tea.

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.

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 was also used by Native Americans to alleviate head and stomach aches.

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.

California Buckwheat

Eriogonum fasciculatum
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.