Romneya coulteri ‘Matilija Poppy’

During one of my visits to the Vernal Pool Restoration Project  on Proctor Valley Road,  as I was driving I noticed in the distance  a garland of flowers protruding over one of the many Laurel Sumacs near the dry wash.  There stood a large perennial that served up a generous portion of large, crepe paper-like white flowers with showy yellow stamens, which looks like a fried egg-plant.

Romneya coulteri protruding over a Laurel Sumac

The flower is lightly scented with 8-9 inch wide blooms festooning the upper reaches of stout with glabrous stems cloaked in irregularly lobed gray-green leaves, this shrub is tough-as-nails and spreads by vigorous rhizomes, Romneya coulteri likes sun and good drainage; in heavy soils it can be difficult to establish. Matilija Poppy can be found in dry washes and canyons away from the immediate coast and in communities located in chaparral, coastal sage scrub between 1000 and 4,000 feet.

Camp Pendleton: photo by Elizabeth Moskowitz

In 1890 this California wildflower was often called the “fried-egg poppy,” and was a nominee for the honor of the California state flower, but came in second to the California poppy, Eschscholzia californica.

Matilija poppy is said to be named after Chief Matilija of the Chumash Indian Tribe.
In the stalk of the flower, there is a clear to yellowish liquid substance that the Cahuilla Indians used to drink.

The Native Chumash Indians valued the plant for its medicinal value as well. The plant was used medicinally for skin and gum problems and stomach upset. The folklore of the the Chumash people believed the petals of the flower were made from the soul of a maiden, who died of a broken heart. Their Chumash gods transformed her into the pure white petal.


Encelia californica ‘ California Bush Sunflower’

This shrub is native to Southern California and Baja California where it is a member of the sage plant community, it can be found on inland foothills in the Transverse and Peninsular Ranges. This evergreen perennial sunflower can reach 3’-4’ in height with a 2” inch diameter flower; great in mass planting on hillsides and slopes.

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California Sunflower is a host plant for the larvae of the Checkerspot butterfly, a threatened species.
The Kumeyaay name for the Bush Sunflower is Nahekwi, which means, “It watches the sun.”

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Bush Sunflower was an important medicinal plant for the local Gabrielino/Tongva people.  All parts of the plant were mashed and boiled to form a thick paste that was spread on aching joints; the paste was also dissolved in warm water as a soothing bath to decrease the pain of rheumatism.

Rosa californica ‘California Rose’

This Rose is native to chaparral and woodlands; it can survive drought conditions; grows most abundantly in moist soils near water sources.  California Rose can grow up to 8’ feet in height.

The buds of the Rose were picked prior to booming and eaten by the Cahuilla Indians; the blossoms were also soaked in water to make a beverage.

Fritillaria biflora ‘Chocolate Lily’

On February 8, 2008 I stumbled upon a purple-brown, chocolate, lily-like flower during my walk through Rice Canyon Open Space Preserve; it turned out to be a rare flower that only blooms when we have a wet, rainy season in Chula Vista.  The Fritillaria biflora ‘Chocolate Lily’ grows on the grassland foothills and is endemic to Rice Canyon.   For the past 8 years  during my walks in Rice Canyon, in the months of January – February, I’m always hopeful that I’d spot this beauty once again, but with the lack of rain I’ve had no such luck. Until this year, on February 23rd.  During my many walks through Rice Canyon, I was trying to spot the Where’s Waldo of blooms on the grassy, rolling hillside of the canyon, with the recent and much needed rains, I found the elusive ‘Chocolate Lily.’

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Fritillaria biflora ‘Chocolate Lily’ is a species in the Liliaceae family that is endemic to California and northern Baja.  Fritillaria biflora is called ‘Chocolate Lily’ because its bell-shaped flowers resemble the color of chocolate.

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Aloe marlothii “Mountain Aloe’

Named after Rudolf Marloth, a South African botanist,  this unbranched large aloe  often grows up to 10 feet tall and normally has a trunk densely covered by the withered old leaves.  Mountain Aloe leaves can be up to 4′ feet in length, gray-green color, with reddish-brown spines along the margins and randomly on other parts of the leaf.

Spines along the margins and on other parts of the leaf.

In late fall to late winter appears the wide-spread branching inflorescence bearing yellow to red-orange flowers.   Plant in full sun in a well-drained soil.   Requires little to no supplemental irrigation in coastal California gardens.  this species of aloe has an especially large robust head of stiff, grey-green leaves.

Flowering takes place through the winter months.


The distinctively horizontal branches of its inflorescence is an easy way to distinguish this species from other aloes. For this reason it is sometimes known as the Flat-Flowered Aloe.

Flat-Flowered Aloe


Chula Vista Open Space