Category Archives: topanga state park

Hollyleaf Redberry Along the Sage Ranch Loop Trail

Hollyleaf Redberry Along the Sage Ranch Loop Trail
Hollyleaf Redberry

As is usual, it’s been hot and dry in the Los Angeles area this summer. Most of the low elevation wildflowers have come and gone, and the last measurable rain at Downtown Los Angeles (USC) was more than 90 days ago.

Holly-leaved cherry along the Backbone Trail
Holly-leaved cherry along the Backbone Trail.

Even so, there are still some colorful reminders of our wet 2018-19 rain season sprinkled along the trails of the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills.

In the wake of all that rain, and the blooms that followed, several chaparral shrubs have had large crops of berries and fruit, among them hollyleaf redberry (Rhamnus ilicifolia), holly-leaved cherry (Prunus ilicifolia), and toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia).

Are they edible? While all three plants were used as food sources by indigenous populations, knowledge of appropriate use and preparation is essential for safe consumption.

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Plummer’s Mariposa Lily Along the Garapito Trail

Plummer's mariposa lilies (Calochortus plummerae) along the Garapito Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains. June 29, 2019.

When I run to Trippet Ranch from the Top of Reseda, I like to take the fire roads out and single-track trails back. The trails I use to return to the Top of Reseda from Trippet are the Musch, Garapito, and Bent Arrow Trails.

Scarlet larkspur along the Garapito Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Scarlet larkspur along the Garapito Trail.

I don’t think I’ve seen as many Plummer’s mariposa lilies (Calochortus plummerae) along the Garapito Trail as I did this last Saturday. Like many other plants this showy lily seems to have benefited from the wet 2018-19 rain season and generally cool Spring temperatures.

The Plummer’s mariposa lily has a CNPS Rare Plant Rank of 4.2, which means it has a limited distribution and is moderately threatened in California. It’s not necessarily rare within its range, but its range is limited to a small area of Southern California.

Among the other wildflowers along the trail were numerous large patches of Scarlet larkspur (Delphinium cardinale) and Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia bottae).

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Rainbow Along the Garapito Trail

Rainbow Along the Garapito Trail

There sure have been a lot of raindrops and rainbows lately. It seems like every run I do my shoes get muddy — and there are even creeks to cross!

Last year on this date, Downtown Los Angeles (USC) had recorded only 2.55 inches of rain since July 1. This year we’ve received 16.69 inches, and as I’m sure you’ve heard, there’s more on the way.

It may seem like a long time since Los Angeles has been this wet, but actually it’s only been a couple of years. Year before last we’d received 18.5 inches of rain by this date. We need about 1.81 inches of rain from this week’s system to catch up.

Recognize this section of the Garapito Trail? See the large embankment along the right side of the trail? In 2005, during the second wettest Rain Year in LA on record, the hillside slumped around 12′. The trail is on top of the section that dropped.

During the 2004-2005 Rain Year Downtown Los Angeles recorded 37.25 inches of rain!

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Ceanothus at Sunrise

Bigpod Ceanothus in Topanga State Park

Bigpod Ceanothus is normally the first of the Ceanothus species in the Santa Monica Mountains to bloom each year. It is a foundation species in the range and can be found along most trails. These were along Fire Road 30 (Temescal Ridge Fire Road) near the beginning of a run to Trippet Ranch.

In some years it seems every shrub in the chaparral is a big pod Ceanothus and the hillsides are carpeted in white. Along a trail thick with the blossoms you may notice a subtle earthy fragrance with a spicy edge. On that same trail in the Summer, you may be startled by a loud “Pop!” when a heated pod explodes, releasing its seeds.

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