White Ceanothus

The Chumash people called both Bigpod (Ceanothus megacarpus) and Buckbrush (Ceanothus cuneatus) “White Ceanothus”. Many ceanothus shrubs are flowering in huge sprays of white blossoms on lower Figueroa Mountain. Although I always thought the Ceanothus in this location was Buckbrush Ceanothus, I have titled this post ‘White Ceanothus” because I am not sure.

(Ceanothus – February 27, 2008)

I have learned that Buckbrush has opposite, wedge-shaped leaves. I forgot to check whether the leaves that sometimes seem wedge-shaped and sometimes not on the same bush, were opposite or not. I have also learned that Buckbrush grows in serpentine soils, and since serpentine rocks can be found nearby, all signs point toward Buckbrush. I need to check the leaves the next time I am there.

(Ceanothus – February 27, 2008)

Nevertheless, this is a heads up to a glorious display of Ceanothus on lower Figueroa Mountain. On edit – I have been told that it is Buckbrush; there is no Bigpod that far from the coast. Buckbrush has opposite leaves; Bigpod has alternate leaves, with different fruits. Thanks!

Hunting for early blooms

Since I started photographing local plants in 2002, I have repeatedly missed some of the early bloomers – such as peony, currants and gooseberries. This year I have reversed that with a couple thus far — Hillside Gooseberry and Chaparral Currant. On Saturday, after a reasonably late decision, I started out to Figueroa Mountain to hunt for some of the first in this year’s sequence of inflorescence. On the way up Chumash Highway 154, blooming ceanothus were visible in the Santa Ynez Mountains – probably Bigpod Ceanothus, since they tend to flower early.

(Lake Cachuma – February 9, 2008)

After cresting the top, I was surprised to see snow on some of the mountains in the range behind Cachuma Lake. I decided to stop at a Vista point somewhere near the entrance to Cachuma Lake, to take photos of the unusual and beautiful scenery — higher blue waters of the lake, lush green vegetation in the foreground, and a background of mountains frosted with snow. I had missed taking photos of snow on the Santa Ynez Mountains viewable from home, and took advantage of this last chance.

(Figueroa Mtn – Snow Remnants – February 9, 2008)

I drove along Happy Canyon Road where the only flowering plant was Chaparral Currant, and which were seen only in a small area. After reaching the summit at Ranger’s Peak, remnants of snow were seen in a few places – usually low sunlight areas.

Shooting Star
(Figueroa Mtn – Shooting Star, probably the first – February 9, 2008)

One of the snowbanks covered the area where I had seen a number of Shooting Star leaves on November 25th. I have seen about five different places on Figueroa mountain where many Shooting Stars leaves are growing close to the ground. In about a month, there should be fields of nodding Stars in those areas. In just one of those areas, a single blooming Shooting Star, probably the first on the mountain, was photographed. This is the area where large numbers of Chocolate Lilies were seen last year.

(Figueroa Mtn – Bigberry Manzanita in Snow – February 9, 2008)

(Figueroa Mtn – Bigberry Manzanita Blossoms – February 9, 2008)

In a snowy area, a young Manzanita was seen. Bigberry Manzanita grows copiously in the higher elevations of Figueroa Mountain, but blooms were seen on just one tree in a sunny location at the entrance of the campground.

(Figueroa Mtn – winter vegetation – February 9, 2008)

While driving down the mountain, still sleepily grayish-green under the low-angled sun, not much was seen. Some areas looked dry, despite the rain – more rain would be very beneficial.

(Figueroa Mtn – California Poppy – February 9, 2008)

(Figueroa Mtn – Milkmaids – February 9, 2008)

(Figueroa Mtn – Buckwheat – February 9, 2008)

Stops were made to photograph a single California Poppy near the picnic area; a lonely Milkmaid in the shadow of a serpentine road-cut; a scattering of California Buckwheat blossoms amongst a number of plants still sporting dark-red dried-out fruit. Buckbrush ceanothus plants had many buds; there should be flowers in a couple weeks. Lower down the mountain, under the canopy of Blue and Coast Live oaks, numerous Milkmaids dotted the greening vegetation with bright spots of white, many near new leaves of Hummingbird Sage. Close to the bridge at the base of the mountain, Hillside Gooseberry was blooming on a sunny bank. Over the road, under the shade of the oaks, another very green-leafed Gooseberry had no blossoms or buds.

(Figueroa Mtn – Hillside Gooseberry – February 9, 2008)

Another season of colorful petals, inviting nectar, and reaping insects is slowly awakening

Callie Bowdish photographed snow seen from Santa Barbara at these two links: