Bicycle Botany

                            Prominent Plants (55 plants)

How to find your plant
On April 15, 2017, the Marin chapter of the California Native Plant Society and the Marin Bicycle Coalition jointly sponsored a sold-out ride for about 40 mountain bike riders to circle Mount Tamalpais. We found a big display of spring wildflowers, chaparral plants, serpentine ridge plants, and more.

We made a point of not impacting walkers and other riders, greeting everyone we passed, making space for others when we stopped to look at plants. We looked out for everyone and everything around us.

Our bicycles allowed us to traverse 20 hilly miles, ranging from chaparral to woods to a rocky serpentine ridge to grassland to the seep at Lake Lagunitas.

I'm thinking that every rider learned the majority of the plants below - I've listed them in the order we saw them. What fun!

(click on any plant to see a slideshow of full-size photos)

Coast Redwood
Sequoia sempervirens
  • Groves of redwoods make deep shade.
  • Short needles make a more-or-less flat surface.
  • Tree trunks can get huge. Bark gets splintery with age.
  • Does well in valleys, and other wet, shady places.
  • CA native.

Redwoods create deep shade and their needles make the soil acidic, affecting other plants around them.

Needles taper to nothing between yearly growths. Darker green are from last year.

Dead terminal growth.
Sticky Monkey Flower
Mimulus aurantiacus
  • Mar - Aug
  • Orange trumpet flowers with green around the base.
  • Long narrow leaves, about 3 inches long with strong vein markings.
  • Stems can be woody.
  • CA native

Orange trumpet flowers protected by green leafy bracts..

Leaves are long and narrow, with a strong central vein.

Shrub to 4 or 5 feet, covered in flowers, often makes a patch of orange on the hillside.
Vine Morning Glory
Calystegia purpurata ssp. purpurata
  • Blooms Apr - Sept
  • Funnel-shaped white to pink flowers.
  • Leaves thin heart shape.
  • A vine, growing below 1,000 feet.
  • CA not native

Funnel-shaped blossom, white to pink, with darker lines near the folds.

Leaves thin heart shaped.

Running vines. This species is not hairy.
Douglas Iris
Iris douglasiana
  • Common. Open hills and wooded areas.
  • Flower petals in 3s.
  • Cream to purple color.
  • Leaves narrow and long, with parallel veins.
  • Leaf underside paler than top.
  • California native.

Petals in 3s with colorful veins. Petal color varies quite a bit.

Veins not very noticable, compared to Ground Iris.

Leaves are narrow and long, with parallel veins. They're glossy on the top, and paler underneath.
Star Lily
Toxicoscordion fremontii
  • Blooms Mar - May
  • Flowers grow in clusters.
  • Not a lily at all, Star Lily has 3 petals and 3 similar looking sepals.
  • Basal leaves
  • Found on rocky outcrops and woody slopes.
  • CA native

Six white petals with yellow dots near the center.

Flowers bunch at the top of a single stem. Lower flowers bloom first.

Flowers grow to perhaps 3 feet tall. Note long basal leaves with parallel veins.
Arbutus menziesii
  • Madrone is the first of three Heath-Family natives we saw on entering the chaparral.
  • Red, smooth under bark (lady's leg).
  • Smooth-edged dark-green leaves.
  • Does well in moist, protected areas.
  • CA native

Brown trunk, wide spreading limbs, and dark green leaves.

Urn-shaped white flowers on stalks.

Red Manzanita berries and dark-green smooth-edged leaves.
Eastwood Manzanita
Arctostaphylos glandulosa ssp. glandulosa
  • This is also a Heath-Family plant. They all have small urn-like flowers.
  • Burl at base of stem.
  • Small leaves behind the flowers (some other manzanitas have scales, etc.)
  • ssp. glandulosa leaves are rigid. and often rough
  • Fruit is a dusky red dented sphere.

Flowers are white to pink small urns, hanging down in bunches.

Small leaves are bracts that form behind the pink flowers.

Burl at the base. Smooth red bark.
Indigo Brush
Ceanothus foliosus var. foliosus
  • Indigo Brush was the dominant ceanothus we saw. The strong purple clusters of color decorated the landscape.
  • Blooms Apr - June
  • Flowers in small bunches of indigo, with white and yellow accents.
  • Lots (thousands) of tiny leaves.
  • Glands make leaf edges look bumpy.
  • CA native

Indigo Brush is often full looking, with thousands of tiny leaves.

Flowers in small clumps, with white and yellow accents.

Tiny leaves with glandular bumps.
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus
  • A second ceanothus we saw was Blue Blossom - notice how the lavendar flowers form a larger but paler grouping than the darker blue Indigo Bush blossoms.
  • Blooms Mar - May
  • Look for grooves running the length of the stem.
  • Flowers in larger clumps than most other ceanothus.
  • Generally a large shrub.
  • CA native

Hundreds of tiny flowers form clumps of color.

Leaves have 3 parallel veins. This underside is dull, but the top is a shiny dark green. Leaf larger than other Ceanothus.

Blueblossom is full of flowers when it blooms, March to May.
Woolly Indian Paintbrush
Castilleja foliolosa
  • Blooms Mar - Aug
  • Orange-red cluster of flowers on top of a 2 to 6 inch tem.
  • Fuzzy, long, thin, cupped, pale green leaves.
  • CA native

Fuzzy, long, thin, cupped, pale green leaves.

Flowers on the end of stems less than 1 foot tall.

Flowers orange and red.