Wildwood in early spring

Last week I spent an afternoon with the in-laws at Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks. What a gem: 1800+ acres of fairly pristine California beauty plunked down in the middle of suburbia. On one short hike you can walk through coastal sage scrub, oak woodland, and riparian woodland.

Encelia was in full bloom all over the park and the Salvias were just getting started as well. But the dominant plants in the drier parts of the park were lemonade berry and sugar bush (Rhus integrifolia and R. ovata). These guys are really similar to each other and they hybridize freely, so I couldn’t always tell which one a particular shrub was.

But this bad boy was definitely one or the other:

The Artemisia in the foreground at left is probably 4-5 feet tall, and the ground slopes down from the path to the base of the trunk, so that “shrub” is easily 20 feet tall. I actually thought it was an oak tree at first.

Here’s a close up of the gnarled old trunk:

Close up photo of trunk of previously-pictured Rhus shrub
I’ve been hankering after a Rhus for a while now but this just seals it.

I also have a brand new plant-crush on Dudleya after a day at Wildwood. Here’s chalk Dudleya (D. pulverulenta) growing out of the side of a cliff, and just starting to put up flower stalks:

Photo of Dudleya pulverulenta with two small inflorescences, and Eriogonum crocatum in full flower
Its cliff-side neighbor, at the bottom of the shot, is the rare Conejo buckwheat (Eriogonum crocatum), showing its chartreuse blossoms. Must be a pretty fussy plant; I only saw it on the cliffs surrounding a waterfall, where it gets a continuous misting from the falls and of course has impossibly-good drainage. At any rate I imagine that cliff just glows in the moonlight.

Those were just a couple of the highlights; if you can make it to Wildwood, go. The park is only a few minutes off the 101 freeway; there’s no entrance or parking fee, dogs on leash are permitted, and the trails are easy. Just watch out for poison oak when you get close to water.

I can’t end this post without showing one more shot. This is the kind of composition that all landscape designers should aspire to (click the image for full-size view):

A natural trail border of at least six species of California native shrub, including Artemisa, Encelia, Rhus, and Opuntia species
That’s how Nature plants a border.


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