Monday, May 26, 2014

California Sunflower

California Sunflower by Cliff Hutson
Coast Sunflower by Cliff Hutson
Encelia californica: California Sunflower, also known as Coastal Sunflower and California Encelia.  I have seen it referred to as Brittlebush, but that would be Encelia farinosa to me.

California Sunflower grows in the Coastal Sage Scrub habitat of Southern California.

Coastal sage scrub species have adapted to an ecosystem that rarely freezes in the winter and only occasionally experience temperatures over 90-degrees F during the dry California summer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Coast Cholla

Coast Cholla (Cylindropuntia prolifera) is another one of those species which has undergone a name change since I first encountered it. Frankly, it never made sense to me that chollas were included with the beavertail and prickly-pear cactus in the genus Opuntia, as they did not seem to resemble each other in any discernible to the average onlooker. But, science has caught up with the layperson, as it were, and chollas now have their own genus. The name Cylindropuntia comes from the Greek kylindros, "a cylinder" plus the name of the old genus Opuntia. The species name prolifera is a nod to the plant's proliferation by means of off-shoots.

Cylindropuntia prolifera is native to Southern California where it grows in coastal sage scrub, chaparral, beach, and bluff habitat. It crops up from Santa Barbara County south. Close to home, this cactus may be found along the coast of the Santa Monica Mountains, but it is kind of rare. It seems to be more abundant on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It then comes into its own in San Diego County and Baja California.

Like most members of the family Cactaceae (Cactus) it has spines. Spines are highly modified leaves. This cholla has two types. The larger spines are quite noticeable and merit some caution. But, around the base of the clusters of those spines are little tiny spines which are called glochids. Glochids have a barbed tip and may be even more treacherous than the actual spines. They can easily burrow into flesh and are very difficult to remove. 

Coast Cholla

Aside from the potential for great bodily harm, the plant is very attractive. The grey to green cylindrical joints make for stems that are four to six feet in height and may be thought of as treelike. Reddish purple flowers, with rounded blossoms about an inch in diameter, will normally bloom from April through June.