San Diego, Calif., has vibrant and fragrant blossoms all over the city. Here are five of the area’s most abundant wildflowers, most of which are native to the area.
San Diego Sunflower
With a scientific name of Bahiopsis laciniata (say that three times fast!), the San Diego sunflower is native to the area, but you can find them as far north as Ventura County. Also known as goldeneye, the plant is a perennial, floriferous shrub that flowers nearly every month. San Diego sunflowers are hardy and can withstand regular water all the way to drought conditions. However, they do not respond well to standing water or that extremely rare San Diego hard frost. They're known for their yellow or orange daisy-like petals. And while they're affectionately called sunflowers, they're not true sunflowers at all, as they come from a different genus.
Pride of Madeira
Pride of Madeira isn’t native to San Diego County, but you’ll see plenty of it everywhere. The plant is a fast-growing, evergreen shrub originating on the island of Madeira, off the coast of Portugal. It tolerates wind and salt air, poor soil, and some frost. The San Diego climate is perfect for the flower, which needs to grow in full sun for best bloom and shape. If growing on a slope, pride of Madeira helps to bind the soil, protecting against erosion. This sometimes works against the ecosystem, as the plant can overwhelm the surrounding vegetation, causing it to die. Pride of Madeira grows so well in California, it has been rated “limited” by the California Invasive Plant Council, defined as invasive, but with limited ecological impact. That’s the least concerning rating, but the shrub is definitely under a watchful eye. On a positive note, the plant with the large leaves and pretty bluish-purple flowers attracts pollinators. The nectar is a favorite of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
You’ll find this native plant anywhere between Santa Barbara, to Baja California, and Mexico. That makes San Diego prime territory for the shrub that grows in desert and coastal areas. Native Americans have used white sage for hundreds of years and still use it today. The young stalk is peeled and eaten, the seeds used in meals or tea, and the leaves used to treat a cold or flu. White sage is also used for spiritual purposes and protection. Users burn it to clear away negative energy. Threats to white sage include over-harvesting for all these uses. The shrub starts to flower from late April to early June. Its main pollinators are bees, hawkmoths, wasps, and the wind. White sage is drought tolerant and mature plants can even survive several fires before dying.
Lantana is a native perennial you’ll see a lot of around San Diego. But don’t let the multicolored, aromatic flower clusters fool you. Their leaves are poisonous to many animals, and the plant is avoided by most herbivores. However, studies show humans aren’t as affected if Lantana is ingested. You may experience abdominal pain, nausea, and drowsiness but even if not fatal, it’s not recommended that you eat any part of the plant. Lantana blooms are unusual in that the flower clusters change colors as the plant ages. The blossoms turn red, a color that’s less attractive to pollinators. It's nature's way of letting bees, butterflies, and others know they won’t find as much pollen or nectar. Lantana is also fire-resistant and can be planted strategically to help prevent the spread of fire to your home.
Locals and tourists, head to the desert en masse each spring to experience the superbloom, when bright, vivid flowers cover normally barren hillsides and desert valleys. The native dune primrose thrives in sandy habitats, from desert to beach, and is one of the flowers you'll see during this phenomena. The bushlike, sweet-smelling plant grows profusely in the spring. Blossoms open in the evening and last through the night until midmorning when they go to sleep. The plant has several names, including birdcage evening primrose and the basketmaker of the desert. When the plant dies, the outer stems curl upward and inward, forming a cage-like shape.
About the author:
Rose Weber is a garden care extraordinaire and home decorator. She has been gardening since she was a child and now spend her weekends teaching her grandchildren all about growing flowers and vegetables. You can find her sharing her crops and her decorating ideas with her friends and neighbours.