Rambling Around L.A. with Flora

Who’s Flora? Flora is Fauna’s pal. You know, the one who makes everything livable.

Flora’s strong presence in L.A. is a key ingredient of the city’s identity. The city is chock full of glamorous botanical introductions from faraway places, native plants that thrived here for eons and everything in between. The “florabundance” of southern California captivated me, so here’s a selection of plants from in and around L. A.  –  a selection guaranteed to be completely unscientific and thoroughly skewed.  Most of these images are of trees because trees got to me on this trip, but you’ll find a few other plants in too, for the sake of variety.

 

1. The silhouette of a Coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) frames distant hills on a trail at Topanga State Park’s Trippet Ranch, which is about an hour’s drive from downtown L.A.

 

2. More Coast live oaks at Trippet Ranch. The day we were there birds, squirrels and deer were feasting on the ripening acorns.

 

3. A fallen branch, probably oak, at Trippet Ranch. The live oaks of California take on wonderfully sinuous, expressive shapes as they grow.

 

4. Staying with the oaks, here’s a lovely, plump little acorn on a Tucker’s oak tree (Quercus John-tuckeri) at Joshua Tree National Park. The park is a good two or more-hour drive from L.A. but it’s well worth the effort to get there. More on that in another post.

 

5. Just off a trail in Joshua Tree National Park, the eponymous Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) stands tall. It is actually not a tree, it’s a type of yucca. This specimen suffered an injury to its trunk but it soldiers on, in a very harsh environment. The area has only received about two inches of rain this year; about a third of that fell just after we left, causing road closures and evacuations in town.

 

6. Back in downtown Los Angeles, hilly streets mean you might get to look down on a freshly clipped topiary tree. What a treat!

 

7. In trendy Silver Lake everyone has a little corner of paradise; this one comes with a generous sprinkling of banana plants and Bird of Paradise plants (Strelitzia). Oh, and a vintage Ford Falcon parked out front does add a certain charm to the block.

 

8. The fruit of a South American Silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa) hangs heavy on the branch, on a street in the Watts neighborhood of L.A. These trees drop their leaves before flowering – what a sight the brilliant magenta pink flowers are on bare-leaved trees!

 

9. On just about any block in L.A. there will be a corner like this one, with lollipop palm trees, telephone poles and criss-crossed wires, street lamps, and random signs. You’ll often find a certain glow in the sky too, maybe from the city’s relentlessly sunny skies and its proximity to the ocean. Or perhaps it’s that stubborn inversion layer. Or maybe all that light is just bouncing around so much that it glows.

 

 

11. At my feet on a residential street, a tree was artfully creeping over the sidewalk, and scattering its pretty golden leaves about like glitter on a movie star’s gown. OK, that’s a stretch, but this little scene did delight my eyes.

 

12. Down at the beach, forests of kelp grow just off shore. Now and then they toss us an offering. Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) is actually a fast-growing algae, and I’m not kidding about the forest part – offshore kelp beds are thick, and plants can reach well over 40′ tall. 

 

13. A tangle of branches looks a bit haunted, in a ravine at Trippet Ranch, Topanga State Park.

 

14. I think this is a Peruvian peppertree (Schinus molle), one of many exotics planted around L.A. This was at Elysian Park, L.A.’s oldest park and a nice, quick escape from the frantic traffic of the city below.

 

15. At Angel’s Point in Elysian Park another Mexican fan palm stands tall amidst an unlikely assortment of objects. A whimsical sculpture seems to mock the heavy-handedness of downtown high-rises, and five glorious ravens sail freely on the updraft of a glowing, if smoggy, L.A. sunset.

 

16. I was struck by the sight of tree roots penetrating deep into rocky cliffs, in a number of places around the city. This photo was taken on the road to Mt. Wilson Observatory, a narrow, winding two-lane that had me clutching the edge of my seat more than once.

 

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17. Evergreens cling to the rocky hillsides of Angeles National Forest, along the precipitous road that climbs up to Mount Wilson Observatory, elevation 5,712 ft/1741m.  Two of the largest telescopes in the world (for their time) are here. The location benefits from regional inversion layers that trap clearer air on top of the mountain, but it suffers from light-polluted night skies.

 

18. Another view of oaks in a ravine, through filtered light at Trippet Ranch, Topanga State Forest.

 

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19.  Warm, arid southern California even manages glimpses of autumn here and there. This fiery tree appears to be a maple. I found it on a roadside, high up in the Angeles National Forest, about an hour from downtown.

***

 

This meager offering doesn’t begin to do justice to the amazing variety of flora in and around Los Angeles. Interestingly enough, both the arid wilderness around L.A. and the well-irrigated landscape in and near the city offer up an astounding variety of plant life.  I hope this post encourages you to take another look around your own neighborhood. There may be more to it than you realize.

 

 

 

 

 

 


54 comments

  1. Dear Lynn, what a magnificient post! I love your tree pictures and the variety is fantastic. This kind of oak really almost looks like holly! The Joshuatree looks fascinating too and so do the trees with these wonderful roots (on the sidewalk and between the rocks). Nr. 7 looks like I would imagine the Carribean. I like nr. 9 very much with all the wires. And and and….Nr. 1 and 13 are great pictures…I am thrilled 🙂 You are right, we all should take closer looks on our neighborhood. There is a lot to discover! L.A. seems to shelter the trees of the world, like a big and variegated botanical garden 🙂 I wouldn’t have thought so!

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    • I’m sure that if you were determined to photograph many varieties of trees in and around L.A. you would find much more, but this is some of it. 🙂
      And yes, the roots digging into the rocks are a common sight, one I love to look at. #7 was taken from our airbnb, and I think it does look a little like the Caribbean – but the sounds are different! No roosters, mostly just traffic. Los Angeles benefits from very mild winters, and people have been bringing in odd plants from other places for a long time. And when you actually go to a botanical garden there, it’s amazing what you see. Thank you for being here, Almuth!

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      • And these “some” are already so many! What a good thing, to meet so many different trees of the world in one town 🙂 I am glad you made this journey and shared these pictures with us!

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  2. Well that’s some neighborhood ramble. #13 is wonderful, and decidedly haunted-looking, I immediately flashed on that scene in Disney’s “Snow White,” when the huntsman tips the princess off about the Queen’s plot, and she runs into the forest, with the tree branches trying to grab her. You’ve always got a great eye for detail, and miniature landscapes – I like the sinuous hill & rills formed by the tree roots in #11. #16 is a terrific illustration of the word “power,” the tree roots are slowly and inexorably going to shatter that rock. And #9 I like, because I never know what to do with telephone wires, etc., in a shot, and here, they’re not disguised, but clearly incorporated into the scene, slanting and intersecting as if someone was working out a design. And I like the final shot, because maples are my favorite in the fall, hands down.

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    • Yeah, a neighborhood ramble that put something like 750 miles on the rental. 😉 I worked on #13 and couldn’t get it to look quite like I wanted, so I’m glad it works for you. Those roots in #11 went a long ways down the block, it was very cool. But the roots of natives in tough places like up near Mt. Wilson, they really work hard. It’s so impressive to see. I’m so glad you have that realization about telephone wires. Once you work with them, invite them in as it were, and start photographing them intentionally, there are thousands of great compositions waiting or you. 🙂 Thank you for paying such close attention, Robert, I really appreciate it.

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    • It would be interesting to learn more about what happens to those Joshua trees when they have injuries like that – how do they continue on? But they’re already adapted to such a harsh environment. Thank you Dina!

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  3. I think you’ve got the captions just right (length, font, colour) – informative, adding to it, but not intrusive. The pics that make me go “Oohhhhh….” are 1, 12 and 19 – and I love the soaring Ravens in 15. A 🙂

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    • Adrian, I have to confess that the font isn’t one I picked (though I’m happy with it). I love choosing fonts, but I have never gotten that technical with WP. This one comes with the theme. I need to fly over to England and visit you for a quick tutorial….in the meantime, I thank you for your comments. You know, #1 is one of those images that I would say is simialr to some that you do. #12 isn’t what I would have expected you to gravitate towards, so that’s nice to know. That little piece of seaweed washed up very gracefully, all by itself. And yes, ravens, ravens, ravens, they always make me happy. It was thrilling to see and hear them flying over a major metropolis.

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      • Number 12: exquisite composition; beautiful seaweed structures, shapes and colours; and the colours/patterns/textures of the backdrop (sand) are the cream on the cake. A 🙂

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    • Thank you Harrie – I played with #13 a lot and never got it quite where I wanted it. I think you just gave me the key – I may play with it again and push it more towards abstraction. You’re right for sure that it’s about the tangle. 🙂

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    • The acorn is so plump and fresh, I was very happy with the way that photo looks. Joshua trees are terrific subjects, just natural sculptures in the desert, I think. And I’m glad you like the tangle – I am often drawn to tangles of branches. Thanks!

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  4. There is a surprising amount of variation down there. We were about 50 miles west of LA a couple weeks ago, and made a stop at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont. That might have been interesting by itself, but we stumbled onto an Origami Sculpture exhibition they were hosting a couple days before the official opening. As an origami practitioner, I found that very cool. As for your shots, I quite like that tree roots oozing over the sidewalk shot, as well as the roots penetrating rocks shot.

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  5. Absolutely love the color in #4 as well as your selective focus. Your #9 is fun. The wires are perfectly positioned. I didn’t know that kelps were algae! (Or maybe I did, and forgot.) I like your photo of one in #12, especially its setting on the sand. The layering in #13 is very appealing, as is the pale coloring with the darker branches. The lighting in #14 is really really nice. I’m smiling at #15. I wonder if you would talk a bit about how you processed #19 (which I like a lot). Thanks for another nice trip, Lynn. . . . It’s fun to read all your viewers’ comments. There’s so much variety in people’s comments and favorites.

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    • I didn’t remember that about kelp either, it just leapt out at me when I googled that one. I’m glad you had a smile or two. 🙂 And that you take the time to really look, and to read. Variety is wonderful.

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  6. Always fascinating are tree roots penetrating into rocks, they show so much power. And you manage to show that power in your photos.
    There are many cities with a lot of green, sometimes hidden, but when you arrive with open eyes and a camera, they seem to leave their stash and appear give the best account of themselves.

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    • Yes, that power of roots is always impressive, even if you have seen it many times. What a wonderful way to express the “secret” green potential of many cities. I like the idea of L.A. giving its best. Nice. 🙂

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  7. HI Lynn, A wonderful peek into the overlooked nature that is throughout LA. You’ve captured the details of the trees and flowers, as always, with your keen eye. Your Joshua Tree images are fabulous…someday, I will follow your footsteps there. Your acorn, maple leaves and draping root (love your metaphor) and the silk floss tree..all so beautiful. I always learn from your posts–thank you. Happy you had a lovely trip to LA. 🙂

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    • Oh, please do get yourself out to Joshua Tree, Jane, it is extraordinary. Second time there, and still the high point of the trip. Thank you so much for all your tips and advice, and the links. It really helped, though it may not be evident here. You comment is very generous. 🙂

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