A functioning ecosystem - Backbone Trail to Circle X Ranch

I had the great pleasure to lead a group of Scouts on a backpacking trip in the Malibu mountains last weekend.  We hiked a segment of the Back Bone Trail, a trail that is nearly a complete 65 mile run from Will Rogers State Historic Park to Point Mugu.  I was a bit outwardly focused, especially when starting the trip, and forgot my good camera.  I still had my trusty cell phone camera, however.  What I saw was a beautiful and functioning ecosystem.  I saw flowering lupines, blue eyed grass, mimulus, and salvia species and much more.  Lots of pictures below:

One of the more interesting plants is a small tree / large shrub with the common name of Redshanks (Adenostoma sparsifolium). Contrary to most web search results, ever iconoclastic Las Pilitas spells it "Red Shanks" and notes, "If pruned a little and opened up it makes a very dramatic small tree. Weird that it is not as wide ranging as its cousin Chamise, but it is as easy to grow and very tolerant of most garden conditions. "
Hillside covered with Adenostoma sparsifolium (Redshanks)
Hillside covered with Adenostoma sparsifolium (Redshanks)
Redshanks (Adenostoma sparsifolium) bark
Redshanks (Adenostoma sparsifolium) bark
Redshanks (Adenostoma sparsifolium)
Redshanks (Adenostoma sparsifolium)
Redshanks (Adenostoma sparsifolium) foliage close up
Redshanks (Adenostoma sparsifolium) foliage
More interesting plants
probably Lupinus albifrons aka Silver lupine, silver bush lupine

probably Ribes malvaceum aka chaparral currant
I tasted a ripe berry off this Ribes and it was GOOD!

Probably Mimulus aurantiacus Orange Bush Monkeyflower (also Diplacus aurantiacus)
There were huge mounds and hillsides of beautifu Mimulus.

I didn't know this plant.  Interesting grey foliage color.  Low growing at this point.  That's a dead salvia flower spike lying across the top of it.

A fair amount of yucca.  Last year's bloom is this year's stunning wilderness monolith.

Salvia spathacea  E. Greene   hummingbird sage

I liked the understory plants: young Mimulus (foreground), bracken fern (background).  The taller shrubs are ???.  I remember taking the photo and telling myself, "Self, that's XXX."  But now I can remember and the ID is a bit difficult due to the photo's low fidelity and camera angle.  Could be young bay trees.

Calystegia (Chaparral Morning Glory).  I've been warned about Morning Glory (Calystegia macrostegia) as possibly too aggressive for my yard, yet out in the wild I saw numerous examples that were small enough to not be overwhelming in the yard.  Perhaps garden cultivation leads to excess growth or perhaps I saw them only at beginning of life and later in the year they get out of control for a yard plant.

No clue on the following:

Great Scenery too:


  1. The top two purple flowers that you said you had no clue about I think are Solanum xanti, which is poisonous.

    - Jared

  2. Actually the second from top purple one might be Pholistoma auritum, or some other Pholistoma, since I don't see any yellow part in the middle. Solanum xanti has a yellow middle.

  3. Thanks for the tips, Jared. I'll go look those up and see if we have a match. The first two are indeed different as you noted, though I know it's hard to tell from the poor photos.

  4. First "no clue" photo: I think Jared's right about it being a purple nightshade. Try San Luis Obispo nightshade (Solanum xanti obispoense). Second "no clue" photo: No clue, also. Your flower petals don't overlap and seem the wrong shape for Pholistoma.
    - David