Salvia apiana

Our white (sacred) sage plant was being crowded by a bush sunflower. In pruning back the sunflower, I inadvertently broke two of the sage’s growing tips. I hope I can strike the cuttings—I‘ve had good success with basil; fingers crossed on the sage.

Salvia apiana is an evergreen perennial shrub that is native to these parts, though it wasn’t growing on our block until I planted it. It is widely used by Native American peoples on the Pacific coast of the United States, medicinally and ceremonially. Illegal poaching of wild white sage populations for the commercial sale of ’smudge sticks’ is a concern held by many; if you purchase such a product, you are contributing to the world-wide demand that fuels the poaching. Instead, consider growing your own sacred sage.

Mirabilis laevis

Week 6 in the PerpJo.

Mirabilis laevis var. crassifolia is a native perennial herb found in coastal sage scrub, chaparral and woodlands habitats in California and Baja California. It’s fairly common, especially on rocky slopes with sandstone outcrops. It re-sprouts during winter after the first heavy rain and dies back after the rainy season.

The leaves are ovate to heart-shaped. The red-violet sepals look like petals but there are, in fact, no petals. These vivid, cheerful flowers are just starting to open here on our hill. Sweet!

Cardamine californica

It was so nice to see the first milkmaids this morning!

Milkmaids (Cardamine californica) are some of the first wildflowers to appear in the Santa Monica Mountains each year, showing up in winter and early spring. This member of the Brassicaceae (Mustard) family likes shady, moist hillsides or stream banks in riparian areas. Each flower is about 12mm in diameter with four white to pink petals. The flower closes its petals in late afternoon as the sun goes down and nods its pedicel before a rain, protecting the pollen. It is perennial—after flowering and setting seed, it dies back to its roots where it goes dormant until next year’s rains awaken it.

I hiked this trail once before, in summer 2016, and had a bit of a heat exhaustion incident. I was alone at the time. I remember feeling very dizzy and nauseated, and crawling into the scant shade of a tree to rest and cool down. Luckily today was perfect hiking weather. No hyperthermia involved.

Encelia californica

Encelia californica is native to southern California and Baja California, where it’s a member of the coastal sage plant community. It’s a bushy, sprawling shrub reaching between one half and 1.5 meters in height. The solitary flower heads are daisy-like, and it blooms from February to June, attracting butterflies, bees, and other insects.

It’s often planted to start a native garden, and then replaced with longer-lived shrubs over time. It can help jumpstart an area to change the soil ecology to help mazanitas and ceanothus plants.

Our block is covered with bush sunflowers, and they’ve just begun to bloom. Yay! 🌻

ammannia coccinea

Don’t overlook the teensy ones!

Guided by some online resources, I went looking for this flower by the pond at Rocky Oaks. I was expecting a plant between ankle and knee high (my wildflower book says it’s up to 16″/40cm tall). I scanned about but couldn’t see any likely candidates. Then I had the urge to just sit awhile right there on the bank.

You guessed it! I soon realized I was surrounded by the plant I’d come seeking — tiny (1.25″ high) scarlet toothcup plants with miniscule magenta flowers. Such a delight!