Blooming Winter Wonderland

Winter observations by our college intern!

Belen surrounded by bright, red Toyon berries while holding a binocular.
Belen holds a pair of binoculars in her hands as she's surrounded by bright, red Toyon berries. Photo: Samantha Ramirez

Every season has its perks and aspects most unique about them; summer brings with it a promise of fun and hot sunny days, autumn arrives with crisp weather and fiery-colored leaves, spring bounces forth with a bounty of blossoming plants, and winter ushers a cool chill to our normally warm California state. One would think that like most winters, our plants would sequester themselves deep in the earth to wait out this frosty time of the season, but like many residents of California, our local fauna and flora are made of much tougher stuff!

Native plants have uniquely adapted to not only survive the dry summers but have also adapted to defy the stereotype (in my opinion) and actually bloom in winter!

Unlike most of the country which is buried in powdery snow and freezing temperatures, Southern California still maintains some of its sunny disposition and that brings with it conflicting temperatures that create the perfect storm. That’s right, while the rest of the world usually has wet, humid summers and dry, frigid winters, Southern California has a unique biome in that our summers are dry and our winters are wet. That's right, California's winter is actually its rainy season! This makes winter the perfect time for our native plants to take in this rare rain and blossom to their fullest!

Examples of these amazing winter plants are the California Coyote Bush whose flowers appear as a fluffy blooming cloud ready to burst from its stalks, California Buckwheat whose small white-pink flower clusters together like nature’s cotton candy before rusting into a dark brown after its bloom, and the Toyon bush that produces bright red berries that are enjoyed by all kinds of wildlife this time of year. The Toyon bush not only matches the festive season, but those very berries are what gave Hollywood its name!

Once again, Southern California proves itself to be a unique ecosystem and biome, its flora and fauna defying expectations. When you’re in Los Angeles for the winter, keep an eye out for the blooming winter wonderland around you!

Bright, red Toyon berries.
Bright, red Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) berries. Photo: Samantha Ramirez

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