Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wednesday search challenge (3/27/13): Where can I find a blueblossom in Montaña De Oro?

Blueblossom image from Wikipedia.

One of the joys of living in Silicon Valley is the closeness of nature.  Yes, I live and work in an urban setting, surrounded by tilt-up buildings, swarmed by software engineers, venture capitalists, and startups.  But nearby—very nearby—one can disappear into the hills and trails of the Santa Cruz mountains.  You also don’t need to travel very far to see some truly spectacular scenery. 

One of the glories of springtime are the springtime flowers that erupt everywhere.  (Yes, another flower question!  But this time there’s an interesting twist.) 

I’m especially fond of a flowering bush that’s called “blueblossom.”  It’s also called the “California lilac” because it looks a little like a regular lilac (which is in the family Syringa) and smells a LOT like a lilac.  The scent is positively heady when you walk through large stands of the blueblossom. 

Not far from Mountain View is a state park known as Montaña De Oro.  It’s near the college town of San Luis Obispo on the central California coast.  It’s absolutely one of my favorite places to visit (both the town and the state park). 

But I wonder:
Where can I find blueblossoms blossoming in Montaña De Oro State Park?  
(I want to see this specific species of blueblossom in bloom.  I don’t need the lat/long, although that would be good.  Just a general location in the park.)  
I warn you—this can be a tricky problem.  Probably more difficult than last week’s.  So don’t spend more than 20 minutes or so on it.  Once you figure out the method, you’ll be able to answer this question quickly. (And you’ll know instantly that this is the way to solve all such challenges.) 

As always, please write your proposed answer in the comments field below, noting HOW you found the answer AND how long it took you to figure it out. 

Search on! 


  1. The very southeast corner of the park, where it dips into Diablo Canyon should provide a great view of blue blossoms.

    A search for "blue blossom" "montana de oro" turned up This document is a wildfire management plan for the region around the Diablo Canyon power plant. A search within the document shows that the slopes on the north side of Diablo Canyon are made up of blue blossom chapparal.

    A look at the map with the terrain turned on shows that the SE corner of the SP intersects with Diablo Canyon. Switching from map to satellite confirms the vegetation type as chapparal.

  2. Dan, Your pix shows ceanothus. Soon as I saw the image I thought that was what is and when you said its called California Lilac that was the clincher.

    My system from here was to punch into SEARCH [montana de oro ceanothus] which brought up; An article describing a controlled burn which got away. Several commenters on the article point out ceanothus growing near the redwoods in the park.

    1 minute to here, 19 to go...

    The official park website says nothing about it. Jepson Manual mentions the plant but not where is grows specifically in that park. iNaturalist was no help either. Jepson Herbarium has way too many listing for different varieties.

    Time's up. Off to breakfast


    1. It appears that not all Ceanothus species are "blueblossoms". See eg this "buckbrush" species (located near Sand Spit Rd at Montana de Oro State Park, per the photographer) which I found by searching [ceanothus montana de oro] in the search box.

  3. Want to see the blublossom? Walk to the location: 35.288 -120.816

    The research:searched inside the calflora site, in the "what grows here" section and one result for the Ceanothus thyrsiflorus (which I learned was the scientific name for the bluebossom) gives the coordinates, here:

  4. This seems like a good time to just drive out there and see. I live in beautiful San Luis Obispo. I'll check back later. No computer search involved. May take a couple of hours.

    1. Be sure to let us know what you find!

    2. It will take a day or two for me to get out there. It's time I visited again. I'l post pictures and a description of what I find. Thanks for the motivation to get me out there.

  5. ["montaña de oro state park" "blueblossom" OR "blue blossom" OR ceanothus -buckbrush]
    led me to and this picture:

    The picture caption reads "... these Ceanothus are covered in happy buzzing bees. Don't know the exact species ...."

    It's unclear whether these are blueblossoms, but, if they are, I used google earth to triangulate based on the big boulder and three smokestacks in the background, which would put this location somewhere along the north-west coastal portion of the park (and possibly north of the official park boundary):

    1. that would be the Dynegy power plant and Morro Rock in the distance, both north of Montaña De Oro SP. - nice detective work. The stacks/plant may be replaced with much shorter ones in the future. Current three are 450 feet tall.
      Morro Bay environs
      Morro sights
      "Morro Rock stands 576 feet tall and marks the entrance to the Morro Bay Harbor. The first European to see Morro Rock was Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542, and he named it the Morro, or pebble. The rock was originally a natural island, but the northern side was filled in to create the protected Morro Bay Harbor.

      Morro Rock is the northern most of the nine major peaks that make up the "Nine Sisters." The other peaks are Black Hill, Cabrillo Peak, Hollister Peak, Cerro Romauldo , Chumash Peak, Bishop Peak, San Luis Mountain, and Islay Hill. These nine major peaks along with numerous smaller peaks and hills were created some 20 million years ago in a unique line of volcanic plugs between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo"

  6. Checked out google maps to see the location of the park

    Then off to the park website to check out a map
    Nothing much out there.

    Usually the people who are interested enough to upload pictures of flowers also do some research and use the scientific name.So a search for "Ceanothus thyrsiflorus montana de oro" shows up some links

    Since the question mentions that there is a method, I was looking for some online resource that would possible be useful.
    iNatualist looks like it could be useful.

    While it looks like a pretty useful resource:
    In this case, there were no observations near montana de oro

    Maybe we are being too specific..
    Searching for "Ceanothus montana de oro" leads to:

    We see that there could be some, 1/4 mile away from coon creek trailhead

    From here, it looks like it could be close to the cove.

    So I guess it would be somewhere here:

    Took me almost 30 minutes.

  7. just a side observation - Dr. DMR, I know time gets twisted on the interwob, but did you mean to indicate that today's challenge actually happened last week? — so the answer is already out there somewhere... and that's how we can instantly solve such queries.
    "Wednesday, March 27, 2013
    Wednesday search challenge (3/20/13): Where can I find a blueblossom in Montaña De Oro?"

    1. Good catch. While the website has a time-machine capability, this website doesn't. (I wasn't able to get the dilithium temporal distoric modulators to work correctly.) Thanks for the find. I fixed the error.

  8. Hi Dr. Russell. I tried to find an answer that covers your words: "Once you figure out the method, you’ll be able to answer this question quickly. (And you’ll know instantly that this is the way to solve all such challenges."

    For that, I tried searching things like habitat, weather and things like that with not luck. Just found a map in wikipedia with natural range of one of the "Ceanothus". I'll keep searching and read your answer tomorrow.

  9. Coordinates given above is as close as I came as well. In addition a photo at

    suggests to me that you should head out to Valencia Peak in Montana de Oro State Park. Landscape in photo looks favorable.

    I had hoped to find some current photos or reports in the last couple weeks to suggest they are in bloom. Indications are they are normally in bloom by the last week in March. But alas not to be found. No webcams found on Google Maps either, darn. You have me really curious if there is another route to the solution.

  10. My final answer is...
    I originally did an Image Search to confirm image source from Wikipedia because other images of the Ceanothus (blueblossom) I found didn't have the rich cobalt/indigo blue blossoms which made me think I had wrong variety.
    I went back because I do think it's the Concho variety but doesn't show "concho". It seems that Concho may be used by nurseries for domesticated shrubs of this species.
    Result-Ceanothus Concho
    Confirmed at - images match.
    The closest in color is the "griseus". Ceanothus griseus also known as Carmel falls under the parent Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. griseus, not Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var thyrsiflorus.
    Location in Montaña de Oro S.P. is at Mouth of Coon Creek @ 35.259 -120.887