Last updated: October 2, 2017
One of the amazing things about the Coastal Sage Scrub plant community at Cabrillo National Monument is the ever-changing species that are in bloom. Each of these species has a specific phenology, or seasonal changes that occur that occur in plants from year to year˗˗such as flowering˗˗especially their timing and relationship with weather and climate. Such is the case for the Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis) and Broom Baccharis (Baccharis sarothoides) as they go through their seasonal bloom. However, the Hybrid Desertbroom (Baccharis sarothroides x pilularis) is a mix of both species and represents one of the Fall blooming plants within the Coastal Sage Scrub here at Cabrillo National Monument.
NPS Photo/Andrew Rosales - The Hybrid Desertbroom, a mix between a Coyote Brush and Broom Baccharis
This plant is dioecious, meaning the pistillate (female) flowers and the staminate (male) flowers are on separate plants. The male plants have sterile female parts in their flower. This Baccharis is a semi-bushy shrub that generally grows smaller than 3 meters (9.8 ft). The stems can be prostrate or erect, with branches spreading or ascending. The small wax-covered, drought resistant, and fire retardant leaves are 8–55 millimetres (0.31–2.17 in) long with three veins principle veins. The branches look like a broom or brush, with the fuller leafy end of the stems at the top of the leggy lower branch.
NPS Photo/Andrew Rosales - The white fluffy flowers of the female portion of the Desertbroom
The blooms of the female flowers are long whitish green and after pollination create a fluffy tuft, or pappus, containing the seed nutlet. This adaptation helps spread the seeds when the wind picks up and some days it resembles snow falling down the canyons. The male flowers contain the yellow pollen and some state they have the scent of shaving soap. The blooming season is approximately September – January.
NPS Photo/Andrew Rosales - The yellow pollen ends of the male portion of the Desertbroom.
As you stroll through the park in the coming weeks and months, lookout for this special plant that calls Cabrillo National Monument home. Soon the seeds will be spilling out as they are nudged from their resting places by the afternoon winds coming off the Pacific.