Nature Walks

April 28, 2019

Bold purple names are in “trail photos” below:
4b Baby Blue-eyes (Nemophilia menziesii) xxxxx
3e Black Sage (Salvia mellifera) xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
3e Bladderpod (Isomeris arborea) xxxxxxxxxxxx
1b California Brittlebrush (Encelia californica) x
00 California Dodder (Cuscuta californica) xxxxxxx
4b California Goldfields (Lasthenia californica) x
4b California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) xx
1a California Walnut (Juglans californica) xxxxxx
00 Castor Bean (Ricinus communis) xxxxxxxxxxxx
3c Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) xxxxxxxx
3d Coastal Prickly Pear (Opuntia littoralis) xxxx
3d Coastal Sagebrush (Artemesia californica) xx
5a Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) xxxxxxxxxx
5b Common Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) xxx 
3e Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis) xxxxxxxxxx
3d Deerweed (Lotus scoparius) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
4c Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla) xxxxxxxxx
3d Golden Yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum)xx
3f Hottentot Fig (Carpobrotus edulis) xxxxxxxxx
4b Italian Thistle (Carduus pycnocephalus) xxxx
00 Jimson Weed (Datura meteloides) xxxxxxxxxx
4b Laurel Sumac (Malosma laurina) xxxxxxxxxx
00 Lemonade Berry (Rhus integrifolia) xxxxxxxxx
1b Lupine (Lupinus species) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
4c Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri) xxxxxxxxx
3d Mexican Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) xx
1b Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) xxxxxxxxxx
4d Pepper Tree (Schinus molle) xxxxxxxxxxxxxx 
4d Pinyon Pine (Pinus edulis) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
00 Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversilobxum)
5b Russian Thistle (Salsola Tragas) xxxxxxxxxxxx
4b Scarlet Bugler (Penstemon centranthifolius) xx
00 Scrub Oak (Quercus dumosa) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
5c Smoke Tree (Dalea spinosa) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
3f Sow Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) xxxxxxxxxxxx
3d Sticky Monkey Flower (Mimulus longiflorus) x
5b Stinging Nettles (Urtica holosericea) x xxxxxx
4c Sweet Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) xxx xxxxx
3e Sycamore (Platanus racemosa) xxxxxx xxxxxx 
1b Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) xxxxxxxxxxxxx
5b Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) xxxxxxxxxxxx
3e Wand Sage (Salvia vaseyi) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
3e White Sage (Salvia apiana) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
3f Wild Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) xx 
3a Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpus) xxxxxxx
00 Wild Morning Glory (Convolvulus arvensis) xxxx
3c Wild Mustard (Brassica Oleracea) xxxxxxxxxx
4a Wild Sugar Cane (Saccharum officinarum) xx
00 Wild Watermelon (Citrillus lanatus) xxxxxxxxxx

Table of Contents:



  1. Puente Hills
1a 2016-08 Puente Oil Field
1b 2019-05 Puente Oil Field

  2. Orange Hills
2a 2018-08 El Modena Open Space

  3. West Coyote Hills
3a 2017-02 Hawks Point Trail
3b 2019-03 Coyote Oil Field East
3c 2019-04 Ralph B. Clark Park
3d 2019-04 Coyote Oil Field West
3e 2019-05 Ralph B. Clark Park
3f 2019-05 Castlewood Trail

  4. East Coyote Hills
4a 2016-09 Brea Dam Rec. Area
4b 2019-05 Hillcrest Park
4c 2019-05 Laguna Lake Park
4d 2019-05 Brea Dam Park

  5. Urban Flatland
5a 2018-05 Cal State Long Beach
5b 2019-05 Myrons Mopeds
5c 2019-05 Fullerton Airport








1. Puente Hills, Rowland Heights CA

Rising up from the urban flatland of eastern Los Angeles County and the northern edge of Orange County, are the Puente Hills, running east-west from Whittier to Diamond Bar. The eastern end is mostly undeveloped, an old oil field that became cattle pasture. The southeast part of the oil field near Brea is still active.


1a. August 28 2016 Puente Oil Field

The eastern trail head starts at the top of Roland Heights, on the ridge, at the end of Vantage Point Dr. The summit nearby was once a missile launch site during the Cold War. Now most of the open land there is a cattle ranch. 

Stopping in the shade of a native California Black Walnut (Juglans californica). The shells are thick and hard to crack open, but the small nut inside tastes like a regular walnut.

Summer near the summit.

Wild gourd. Everything else is brown, except this.














1b. May 13 2019 Puente Oil Field

April and May are prime time for most flowering plants!

This is coastal California Brittlebrush (Encelia californica), often seen on roadsides like here. The inland version of this, Encelia farinosa, is more gray-green, and exudes a resin that was used by used by native Americans to treat various body pains.

Surrounded by yellow blooming Wild Mustard is a patch of purple blooming Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum). The lower leaves have beautiful white lines. This fancy and scary plant is edible, when prepared properly.















A bee collects nectar from a Milk Thistle flower.

Happy to be blue is Lupine (Lupinus species).












Small white daisies.

True blue Lupine.

What is it?








Rounded Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) bushes dot the hillsides, along with oak.

Toyon closer.

What is this?






What is this?










2. Orange Hills, Orange CA 

Rising out of the flat land of the eastern Los Angeles basin, southeast of Anaheim, are the Orange Hills, known to geologists as the El Modena Volcanics. Part of those hills is a nature preserve, the El Modena Open Space.


2a. August 26 2018 El Modena Open Space

These hills are cores of ancient volcanoes, where the molten basalt rock intruded up into the sedimentary layers. As the rock reached the surface, gas bubbles formed, like they do in carbonated beverage. So much of the rock there now is dark and full of round holes 1/16 to 1/2″. In some places groundwater later filled the holes and eventually left quartz crystals lining the walls of the bubble holes. Later the sandstone eroded away exposing the lava plugs, forming a chain of cone-shaped hills.

El Modena Open Space south view. In the background is the same kind of volcanic hill, but with residential development and a restaurant on top.

El Modena Open Space northwest view. The plants in front are brown Chamise with reddish brown dried flowers, and Prickly Pear Cactus, always green.
















3. West Coyote Hills, Fullerton CA

Rising out of the urban flat land in the eastern Los Angeles basin, northwest of Anaheim, are the Coyote Hills. Part of those hills is the largest undeveloped piece of land in Orange County, owned by Chevron. It was an oil field from about 1900 to 1970, with over 100 wells. Now it’s a nature preserve, home to the endangered tiny gray California gnat catcher.   

3a. Feb 06 2017 Hawks Point Trail

Some new growth from winter rain is Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpus). It’s flowering now, and soon will produce spiny bitter cucumbers. In 3 months it will be dead and brown.

Looking east across coastal sage scrub.















3b. March 10 2019 Coyote Oil Field – Eastern

Looking northeast from the “high road”, this lonely Eucalyptus tree can be seen for miles. The line of trees in the distance is Euclid Ave. In the far distance is eastern Puente Hills and Chino Hills.

Here spiny Prickly Pear Cactus grows thick, making off trail travel impossible. Plenty of winter rain has caused Sticky Leaf Monkey Flower to cover the cactus in orange bloom.














Here’s a deluxe pizza of plants. Far left are lavender flowers of White Sage. At the road edge is Wand Sage. Most non-natives cannot live long in the dry climate. On the right, orange-brown lawn grass, dead after a month without water. Blooming yellow Wild Mustard, upper left, lasts longer.

Maggie enjoys the peace and beauty.
















3c. April 20 2019 Ralph B. Clark Regional Park

These photos were taken from inside Ralph B. Clark Park. Parts of that park are nature preserves.

In front is Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum), considered to be the dominant species of the chaparral plant community. In back is yellow Wild Mustard (Brassica Oleracea), a non-native.

In the background is the former oil field. At far left is the start of the cliffs. On the back side of the mustard-colored ridge is a prickly pear cactus field, shown in the next exploration.














Maggie enjoys the peace and beauty.














3d. April 27 2019 Coyote Oil Field – Western

The journey begins.

Oil field gravel road slopes upward.












Here you can see the distant slope angle, going upward to the left. That angle is also the angle of the sandstone rock layers (strata). Behind that on the right horizon is a Eucalyptus grove.

Right, coastal Coastal Sagebrush (Artemesia californica) resembles Rosemary and contains terpenes that give off a strongly aromatic odor. It relieves pain and repels insects. Animals won’t eat it. Native people used this plant medicinally. Artemesia californica liniment is said to be more powerful than opioids.















Left, orange Sticky Leaf Monkey Flower (Mimulus longiflorus). The orange to red flowers resemble a monkey face. Right, yellow Golden Yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum) brightens your day. Top, Coastal Sagebrush is what you smell in undeveloped natural places, along with sage.

View of Hawks Point, elevation about 500 ft. The vertical grooves are from the massive excavation in the 1950’s and 60’s. Sand and gravel from here, the Emery Borrow Pit, was used by Caltrans to build the elevated 91 freeway.















1920’s road goes off of a 100 ft cliff. What?

Here it is close to the cliff edge. Whoa.

1920’s road with colorful visitor.

All’s well at this old well marker.









West view from the “promised land” cliff top.
In front is Deerweed (Lotus scoparius), blooming with tiny yellow and orange flowers. Deerweed roots have bacteria that convert nitrogen gas into nitrates, usable by plants. Each plant and animal benefits the entire natural community in some way, although the benefit may not be apparent.

Another cliff top view looking northeast. In front center is Golden Yarrow. Left is aromatic White Sage. This area was cleared of vegetation in the 1960’s. Sagebrush, Chamise and White Sage live here. Hawks patrol the sky looking for rabbits and squirrels, gliding in slow circles on updrafts.
















A field of Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia species) and sticky monkey flower with a Mexican Elderberry tree at right. Cactus fields like this were never cleared for oil extraction activities.

At the cliff edge is Mexican Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana). The name is from sambuke, a flute-like musical instrument native people made from the pithy branches.













Mystery fence, between a cliff and a cactus field. Who would want to get poked by 100 needles and then fall off a cliff, to get over that fence?

The highest cliff-edge fence “to nowhere” is the Fullerton to Buena Park city boundary. Like the road “to nowhere”, it was there before excavation created the cliffs.

















3e. May 10 2019 Ralph B. Clark Regional Park

Clark Park’s low-lying natural area is home of the sage sisters. Left is Wand Sage (Salvia vasevi), with long stalks. Center is White Sage (Salvia apiana) with lavender flowers. Right is Black Sage (Salvia melifera) with white flowers.

Lavender stalks of White Sage, the centerpiece of mother nature’s bouquet! White sage blooms are a major source of nectar used by bees to produce honey. At this time of year they always have bees on them gathering nectar.














Front, Chamomile, back, Coyote Brush.

Beautiful but invasive Chamomile daisies.

In the shade is a young sage.









Center is lonely Sycamore (Platanus racemosa).

Interesting and unusual is this Bladderpod (Isomeris arborea) aka Burro Fat. It grows on hillsides and has a foul smell. The fruit is like an inflated pea pod. Ranchers value this for animal feed.














All green from irrigation is this healthy Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis). These common coastal sage scrub plants are usually part green, part brown when they’re not near sprinklers.

This young Wild Mustard (Brassica Oleracea) has buds that look like broccoli. That’s because it is broccoli. Six common vegetables are varieties of this same wild species, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi.
















3f. May 17 2019 Castlewood Trail

Here is Wild Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum).

Coastal Prickly Pear Cactus has yellow flowers and red edible fruit.

Coastal Sagebrush, a variety with thinner needle-like leaves.














This widespread succulent is Hottentot Fig (Carpobrotus edulis), a native of South America. Commonly know as Ice Plant, it was used alongside freeways in the 1960’s and 70’s for erosion control. Its high water content would help control fires. Later it was learned that on steep slopes the extra weight would cause a land slide, after rains. So “ice plant” is not used on steep slopes anymore.

Here is a large Sow Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus). This is the “edge of wild” where weeds are allowed to grow. On the other side of the street they are not.


















4. East Coyote Hills, Fullerton CA

East of Euclid Ave is Eastern Coyote Hills, which is mostly developed residential. 



4a. Sep 18 2016 Brea Dam Recreation Area

This is a beautiful trash-free low-lying natural area, undeveloped because it’s a flood control basin. 

Maggie explores a sloping hole in a patch of Wild Sugar Cane (Saccharum officinarum). The light at the end of the tunnel is Brea Creek, normally about a foot deep and 5 feet wide.

Happy tails to you!















4b. May 11 2019 Hillcrest Park

This wonderful hillside park opened in 1922. It has many trails, stairs, and surprises.

This is Italian Thistle (Carduus pycnocephalus), getting ready to bloom. It has 3 sets of vertical spiny fins going up the stems and needle-sharp spines on the leaves. Not appetizing.

Here is a Laurel Sumac (Malosma laurina) bush starting to bloom. It is a common landscaping plant because it resists pests and disease. Find it in the wild, and around most parking lots.














Introducing the Scarlet Bugler (Penstemon centranthifolius), one of the many native plants living in Hillcrest Park. Penstemon means the flowers have five stamens and one thread.

The most well known native wildflower is the cheerful bright orange California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Too bad here, at sunset, the flowers are closed for the night.














This is California Goldfields (Lasthenia californica). In the early spring these plants form a yellow carpet where grass is sparse.

What is this?

What is it?






What is this?

What is this?









Here is Baby Blue-eyes (Nemophilia menziesii), a well known and cultivated wildflower. Here it is with contrasting orange California Poppy nearby.














4c. May 18 2019 Laguna Lake Park

South entrance sign

What oak is this?

This a young Sweet Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). The leaves when rubbed smell and taste like black licorice. Chew on that.






Upper creek trail

What it is?









This showy flower is called Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla), aka hairy leaf calliandra. It likes dry, gravely, alkaline soil like on some dry hillsides and desert washes.

Here the pink Fairy Duster has taken over this hill, forcing out the yellow Wild Mustard and the other contenders.














Here is the “Queen of the California Wildflowers”, the Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri). The queen stands over six feet tall with huge white deliciously fragrant flowers.















4d. May 21 2019 Brea Dam Park

This is the most common wild tree in the area, Pepper Tree (Schinus molle). The trunks of big old trees are hollow and can have holes, like in cartoons.

In front of a Pepper Tree is Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), a naturalized plant from Europe. The roots and seeds contain dangerous alkaloids. A mouthful will kill an adult person.













This is a local native tree, Pinyon Pine, 2-needle  (Pinus edulis). This and the 1 and 4-needle Pinyon Pine varieties grow at low elevations along the desert slopes of Southern California.

This is nice. What is it?











5. Urban Flatland, Fullerton CA

Wild plants in urban areas are usually called weeds. They grow along railroad tracks or in undeveloped places that are not cared for. The oldest railroad tracks, from the 1800’s, have strips of untouched land on either side, that are unofficial nature preserves. This land has never been plowed or disturbed, and contains seeds and plants that were original to that area.

The sides of the BNSF/Amtrak 3-track mainline next to Myrons Mopeds are that kind of nature preserve wasteland. Every May, tall sunflowers bloom, with prickly pear cactus, tree tobacco, wild watermelon and many other smaller plants, all within 500 feet of the shop. Many of the original 1890’s telegraph poles with glass insulators remained there until the 1990’s.


5a. May 19 2018 Cal State University Long Beach

This is Puvunga, on the campus of CSULB. The tree is a Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), decorated and respected. It’s acorns were a main food source for the Tongva people. It’s leaves are more cup-shaped than scrub oak, the holly-like leaf points are smaller, and the trunk is straighter.

From Wikipedia: Puvunga (alternate spelling: Puvungna) is an ancient village and burial site thought to have once been populated by the Tongva (Gabrieliño) people, who are the indigenous inhabitants of the region around Los Angeles, California. The site is located near the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden on the campus of present-day California State University, Long Beach, along the banks of a now channelized creek, about three miles (5 km) from the Pacific Ocean. Puvunga is believed to be the birthplace of Chingishnish, the major deity or culture hero in Tongva mythology, and claimed as sacred, by some Tongva tribal council representatives.

A portion of the site (which is unmarked with a sign or other informational marker) comprises a natural area located at the edge of campus, near a parking lot. At one time this site had a natural spring, and the location is sometimes referred to as Puvunga Spring. Another similar (but larger) Tongva site is Kuruvungna Springs on the grounds of University High School in Los Angeles.

This ancient village and burial site is on the US National Register of Historic Places.



5b. May 6 2019 Myrons Mopeds

These plants are all within a few hundred feet of Myrons Mopeds.

This is a baby Russian Thistle (Salsola tragas) aka Western Tumbleweed, growing through weed-stopping mulch where weed killer was recently sprayed. It grows where other weeds have vacated.

This is Stinging Nettles (Urtica holosericea). It has barbed hairs on the stems that release formic acid when they pierce the skin, like an ant bite does. On the good side, it’s young shoots can be eaten and provide health benefits.














Here comes the Common Sunflower (Helianthus annuus), along the 1890’s Santa Fe tracks. Only homeless people and commuter train passengers get to see these six foot tall wonders.

Here’s a baby Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca). As you can see it grows everywhere. This plant was used for medicinal purposes and smoked by Native American groups. In addition to nicotine, it contains the toxic alkaloid anabasine, and ingestion of the leaves can be fatal.















Stinging Nettles flowers

Bristly Ox Tongue close up

A fine wild Sunflower











5c. May 18 2019 Fullerton Airport

At the ends of most airport runways are areas of open flat land. 

Stinging Nettles, Bristly Ox Tongue, and other weeds and grasses live here, at the east end of the runway.

Along the 1800’s BNSF tracks here is Smoke Tree (Dalea spinosa). It’s ultra fine leaves and twigs look like smoke from a distance. It grows in desert washes, and in this case, a drainage ditch.