Plant Gallery Captions

The captions to the plant gallery are arranged by alphabetical order of the common names. Hank Nicol contributed the original descriptions.

Black Sage (Salvia mellifera), a 3 to 6 foot plant, is a member of the Mint family and blooms from March to June. Its light blue trumpet-like flowers are arranged in 3 to 9 whorls (clusters of flowers that radiate from a center point) along a tall stem. These whorls turn into black clumps, hence the name Black Sage. Its dark green leaves have a strong minty scent that can be easily noticed along the upper Razor Point Trail. Local Indians are said to have used the seeds of the Black Sage flower for meal.

Bladderpod (Isomeris arborea) is related to the herb caper, but the leaves are overly aromatic.  In fact, they stink. The name comes from the seed pods which look like small, underinflated punching bags. The Bladderpod shrub is woody, between 2 – 10 feet tall, and can be found from the shore to the desert in Southern California. It is a favorite habitat for the Harlequin Beetle.

Blue Dick (Dichelostemma pulchellum) has a small cluster of light-purple flowers positioned atop a 1 to 2 foot high, leafless stem. Also known as Wild Hyacinth, the Blue Dick is a member of the Amaryllis family. This plant blooms from February to May and frequently can be seen along the shady paths of the Guy Fleming Trail.

Coast Locoweed (Astragalus trichopodus) is a member of the Pea Family or Fabaceae, which also includes deerweed and the lupines. The light yellow flower matures into a pod similar to the pea pods you buy at the market. Astragalus means “anklebone” from the shape of its pod, and trichopodus means “hairy pod.”

Common Phacelia (Phacelia distans) is a member of the Waterleaf Family (Hydrophyllaceae). This flower ranges between 1 and 2 feet in height and its leaves bear fine hairs.

Deerweed (Lotus scoparius) is very common along trails, roads, and in waste places.  It has a rare relative, the beach lotus, or Lotus nuttalianus, near the edge of Penasquitos marsh.  “Lotus” means water lily to most people, but the scientific name covers several members of the pea family including the pasture plant, birdsfoot trefoil. Deerweed is a leggy shrub up to three feet high.  The flowers are yellow, and sometimes orange on the same plant.  They are shaped like a typical pea flower, and bloom nearly year round whenever there is enough rainfall.

Golden Yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum) is member of the Sunflower family. Blooming as early as January, it can be seen throughout the Reserve. Like other Sunflowers, the Golden Yarrow is not a single flower at all; it is actually a cluster of ray florets and disk florets. The stems are long, gray, and woolly.

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja affinis) is a showy perennial that grows to about 12″ to 20″ high. The tiny flowers are surrounded by bright red bracts, from which it gets its name. The plant is hemi-parasitic – having suckers on the roots which enable it to live off other plants, particularly California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) or Sagebrush (Artemesia californica).

Lemonadeberry (Rhus integrifolia), a member of the Sumac family, is a shrub with berry-like seeds. Its leaves, like many drought resistant plants, are tough and waxy. In blooming season, it has tiny 1/8 inch, white or rose colored flowers with 5 petals. These flowers, which tend to grow in clusters, turn into red cornnut-sized berries which have a lemony scent. The lemonadeberry blooms from February through May.

Milkmaids (Cardamine californica) is a wildflower belonging to the mustard family.  It grows about 6″ – 12″ tall, and has pink or white flowers with four petals.  The basal leaves are roundish, while the leaves on the stems are compound and deeply lobed.  This pretty little flower is among the first to bloom at Torrey Pines in the Spring.  It is seen along the park road, in the Torrey Pine woodlands, and in the chaparral.

Mission manzanita (Xylococcus bicolor) and its cousins, the true manzanitas (Arctostaphylos) are in the Heath family. Mission manzanita is a woody shrub with pink to white bell shaped flowers which turn into berries.  It is said that the Indians made a drink from these berries.  Note the hard (sclerous) leaves which curl down.  This is a strategy for conserving water, typical in many drought-tolerant plants.

Mojave Yucca (Yucca schidigera), also called Spanish Dagger, grows up to 15 feet tall and can be easily identified by its three foot long bayonet-like leaves and white bulbus flowers. The fibers of the leaves were used by Native Americans for rope, sandals, and cloth. The flowers and fruit could be eaten, and the black seeds were ground into a flour. The roots were used to make soap. Currently extracts from this plant are in animal feed and various herbal medications.

Monkey Flower (Diplacus puniceus, formerly named Mimulus aurantiacus) is a member of the Figwort family which consists of annual and perennial herbs. Blooming from May to August, this distinctive red flower has 2 upper petals and 3 lower petals which, with a bit of imagination, form a grinning face. The leaves and stems were used by indigenous people in their food because of the slightly salty taste. They would also be used on burns and skin irritations in the form of a poultice.

Nuttall’s Snapdragon (Antirrhinum nuttallianum) prefers shadier areas and though very small, it is quite beautiful when viewed up close. Being a member of the Snapdragon or Figwort Family, it shares with Indian Paintbrush and the Monkey Flower the characteristic of two lipped petals – the upper lips having two lobes and lower having three. It was first identified by the noted botanist and ornithologist Thomas Nuttall (1786 – 1859), a contemporary of John Torrey.

Polypody (Polypodium californicum) is a member of of the Fern family. Despite the arid Mediterranean climate, this fern can be seen thriving on a number of the northern facing slopes where there is plenty of shade. The fronds have round clusters of spores called sori (singular: sorus) that line the undersides in two long rows. The underground stems, rhizomes, have many bumpy knobs: this is the reason for the name poly (many) and pody (foot).

Sagebrush (Artemesia californica) is common in both Sage Scrub and Chaparral. It is a member of the sunflower family. Sagebrush tea, in large quantity, was used as a flea repellent.  Standing in the smoke of a sagebrush fire was supposed to undo the effects of a run-in with a skunk. The fresh leaves were mashed and put on sores. Pinole was sometimes flavored with a few leaves. Sagebrush is a grayish-green, much-branched, woody shrub that grows 2 – 5 feet tall.  It has small, greenish-white flowers and blooms in late summer through February.

Spice Bush, or Bushrue (Cneoridium dumosum) is a woody shrub with a sweet-smelling flower that blooms from November through March. The oval-shaped leaves have a spicy smell, but many people will break out in a rash after handling this plant. The fruit looks like a tiny orange, but extremely bitter to the taste.

Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) is a member of the Nightshade Family or Solanaceae which it shares with Jimson Weed and Purple Nightshade. This plant is not a native of Southern California; it came from South America. Except for a few south of the restroom in the Upper Reserve, most of this plant has been removed. It has a distinct 2-inch-long yellow, tubular flower and can reach up to 10 feet in height. Despite its name, the parts of this plant should not be smoked or ingested as they are extremely toxic.

Warty-stemmed Ceanothus (Ceanothus verrucosus) is one of the half genus with little lumps on each side of each leaf. These warts stay on the stem for years and years after the leaves have fallen. The softer leaved other half of the genus is represented by the blue flowered San Diego ceanothus, Ceanothus tomentosus, which is uncommon here at Torrey Pines State Reserve except in the Extension, but it is quite common inland. Ceanothus seedlings often spring up after fires. They are valuable because they fix nitrogen in the soil in the same manner as legumes.

Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpus), is also known as manroot because of it huge, fleshy root, sometimes reaching 6′ in length. This is a branching, climbing vine with palmate leaves up to 4″ across. It has both male and female flowers on the same plant. The fruit is a spiny, prickly green “cucumber” shaped pod containing shiny black seeds. The plant is not edible. Seeds were used as beads by the Indians, and ground to make a kind of mascara. Leaves were boiled to treat hemorrhoids.

Wishbone Bush (Mirabilis californica) is a member of the Four O’Clock family, which includes the Beach Sand Verbena and the Bougainvillea. Wishbone Bush has 5 violet “petals,” which are actually sepals. This perennial blooms from March to May and can be seen along the sandy cliffs of Torrey Pines. The blossoms of the Wishbone open in the afternoon since they are primarily pollinated at night. The name comes from the shape of the stems.

Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon crassifolium) means “holy herb.” Indians and early settlers had many uses for this plant. Tea from the leaves was used to cure headaches, stomach aches, colds, flu and pneumonia. Mashed up, the leaves were used as a poultice, dried as a substitute for tobacco. Ours, also referred to as the woolly Yerba Santa, has a fuzzy leaf which can be used as a Band-aid. The species in the San Gabriel Mountains (E. californicum) tastes better than ours. It chews into “gum,” which helps relieve thirst.