Encelia Californica- Coast Sunflower

(this plant is edible!)

The California coast sunflower tolerates coastal conditions as well as alkaline soil and clay. 

This is a butterfly garden friendly plant.

Doesn’t like the cold weather!

The seeds can be harvested and baked with salt. 

Achillea Millefolium Californica 

Common Yarrow

White, small blossoming flowers.

Used as food since the 17th century.

Used medicinally as a diaphoretic, astringent, tonic, stimulant and mild aromatic. Primarily served as a tea.


Vitis Californica

Wild Grape

Grows wild and fast!

Cultivated mostly as an ornamental plant

Robust and attracts animals.

Small sour grapes can be eaten as a food. 


Orange Bush Monkeyflower

Part 1: Data

             The Orange Bush Monkeyflower in CCA’s shade garden has been observed by several students and myself from the time period of November 29th until the present (December 6th). Of all the data collected, the most important observed change in the plant has been the number of open flowers. The change in the amount of flowers this plant has at a given time has seemed to indicate when the plant is most thriving and when it is either going dormant or is dying. Observers have witnessed  the increase and then decrease in number of flowers from October 1st until November 5th, when the last remaining flower finally died. The increase of flowers followed by the rapid decrease prompted me to wonder whether the plant was dying or rather going dormant in preparation for the cold and cloudy winter. Figure A. is a graph illustrating the number of open flowers of the plant between Brittney Galloway and my self’s data.

The following data illustrates the increase and decrease in flowers over an approximate one month period, as after November 5th no flowers grew back and remained at a stagnant zero.

In Figure B and C, the data for open flowers on the Orange Bush Monkeyflower from Nature’s Notebook is being observed. Looking at the data from 10/1/13 – 10/29/13 recorded by California observers, the majority of flowering occurred between September and October, and no open flowers were recorded after the beginning of October. The diamond shape present in Figure B represents “open flowers” reported amongst all California sites (represented by orange circles). There are no diamonds present in figure C.

Fig B.

Fig C.

Comparing data from Nature’s Notebook observers and our own data from campus, the Orange Bush Monkeyflower seems to have had more open flowers present later in the season than those observing in other areas of California, particularly Northern California. Figure D shows Northern Californian users reported the most open flowers in mid September, before our class started observing.

Fig. D

Part 2: Research

            After examining the data of our class and other Nature’s Notebook users, it appears that the Orange Bush Monkeyflower usually stops flowering in late September to late October. It seems that our Orange Bush Monkeyflower ended their flower later than other people in California, this could be due to either local weather conditions as well as the fact that they are more protected by trees and surrounding shrubs in the shade garden, protecting them from wind and rain. I have done further research on the flower and it’s lifecycle, finding some key information.

            Firstly, this flower is a perennial, meaning that rather than having a shorter life like annual plants, it generally lives for a longer period of time (2 years or more). Also, the shade garden seems to be a prime habitat for this plant as it tends to thrive in shaded areas with little rain and is a drought tolerant plant. Monkeyflowers go dormant in conditions such as a hot, dry summer and have a tendency to bloom in late spring, early fall, and mid to late summer. This information is concurrent with CCA’s Monkeyflower’s blooming in early September and suggests that the plant is simply going dormant for winter rather than dying. Common signs of the plant include the stems and leaves turning brown, which I observed in CCA’s Monkeyflower. Once proper weather conditions return, so will the plant’s flowers.

            In conclusion, the data I have gathered as well as research suggests that our campus’s Orange Bush Monkeyflower is simply going dormant. For future students, key factors in monitoring this plant will be keeping track of the number of open flowers as well as observing when the leaves start to turn brown. An interesting experiment would also be to see when the plant blooms again in summer or spring as well as see if the dryness and heat cause it to go dormant again before fall. Below are photos of the Orange Bush Monkeyflower in its blooming stage as well as dormant stage.

Full Bloom

Browning leaves indicating Monkeyflower is going dormant

Taking pictures of the plant as major changes happen would also be a good idea as a way of keeping key records of what the plant looks like in different parts of the season.  Next Fall, future students should use the data collected in this paper and compare it with the new data they gather, enabling them to see if the blooming and dormant phases of this plant change or not. Also, an interesting study for future observers would be to correlate the weather patterns with the Orange Bush Monkeyflower and see if it has an effect on it’s dormancy. Would higher temperatures or rainfall affect the plant’s phenophases? It will be important for students to ask themselves these questions early on in the observing process so sufficient data can be collected throughout the semester.

Information gathered from http://davesgarden.com/

Information gathered from http://www.utsandiego.com/

At the beginning of the school year we were all assigned plants to observe and document any changes we might see. The big problem with this however was that summer had just ended and the plants were no longer growing and developing as they would in the warm temperatures as the seasons shifted into fall and winter. This made the observation portion of the class a bit challenging. But were the plants dormant or could it be the soil quality? The sun garden always looked nicer than the shade, and it is very apparent that the soil is of much higher quality. So perhaps the problem is not the seasons changing but the dirt itself.

            The shade garden’s soil is very poor in quality, reminding me of only dust. It goes without saying that plants need proper nutrients from the soil to survive and flourish and I don’t believe it’s getting that with the poor soil quality and lack of sunlight. With the lack of these two very essential requirements it’s no wonder why the plants aren’t flourishing, especially my huckleberry.


            Aside from water and sunlight the plants need nutrients from the soil to grow and survive. The primary nutrients plants need are nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus and additionally sulfur, calcium and magnesium are secondary nutrients for proper plant growth. Of course the nutrients will vary depending on the species of plant but that is especially why you need proper soil. My suggestion to improve this soil is to layer it with manure and fertilizer. This won’t fix the problem immediately and should be done over the course of a few semesters to fully rehabilitate the soil. The only other suggestion I have for improving the soil is investing in worms. Worms let air and water into the soil easier and also help break down compost and turn it into new materials plants need. Seeing worms in a garden shows that the soil is of high quality. However, this may be to time consuming, expensive and unfair for the other classes so the next option is just picking plants that can thrive in very poor conditions similarly to the vines we had to rip out. There are many plants that can survive in the current soil much better than the current inhabitants such as: Blanket flowers, California Poppies, Cleomes, Cosmos, Gazanias, or Pentsemons. Maybe even cacti would be an appropriate substitute to the current plants.

            The plants currently in the shade garden are in a very poor spot and may even be easier to start everything anew. Take everything out and fix the problems first then plant the flowers after knowing everything is suitable for proper plant growth. The only problem I can’t observe now is seeing how Spring changes everything. Maybe the plants will grow just fine, but even if that’s the case the soil could use some improvement. That however is for the next class to figure out.