Over three weeks ago, I had the supreme pleasure of taking the opportunity to get out and see what was happening on the coast of North County San Diego. Amidst all of the rain that we got this winter season, I was extremely excited to see how all of the plants on the coast looked. Did the California super bloom affect the coast?
So I grabbed my backpack and filled it with plant ID books, my iPad, water, sunscreen and ran out the door. Well maybe not running, but I was super excited!
My two daughters and I headed first to Trestles Beach Trail and afterward, doubled back and explored Bluffs Beach at San Onofre State Beach. I have to say, what I saw, took my breath away.
Ok, are you ready to check out all of the plants at San Onofre State Beach in North County San Diego!
San Onofre State Beach is one of my most favorite spots in all of San Diego County, due to how isolated the area is. I have written about this area quite a bit. If you would like to learn a little bit more about the area, please click on the links above. Here, you will also find out how to get here as there a few ways.
Let’s now take a look at what we saw!
California Super Bloom- Trestle’s Beach Trail
Before we start our adventure, what exactly is a super bloom? According to the dictionary, a super bloom “is a colloquial term used to define an explosion of wildflowers that exceeds typical spring bloom.’
Did you realize that Southern California received record levels of rain this past year? Just in January- April, we have had over 16 inches of rain above average. For the past seven years, we have been in a drought, so with all of this rain, I kept wondering how was the coast going to look this Spring? I was eager to find what the California super bloom would look like at the beach.
Walking the Beach Trail to Trestles
The Trestles Beach Trail is located at the very northwestern portion of San Onofre State Beach, right where the county line with Orange County is.
In the photo above, you can see that the San Mateo Creek has more water than average.
There was so much hemlock growing everywhere! Did you happen to know that hemlock is poisonous?
As we continue on the Trestle’s Beach Trail, I was struck by the beauty of these delicate purple flowers of the San Diego nightshade. Did you happen to know that this particular plant is related to the eggplant and potato?
The black sage flowers stick out among the California sagebrush and the yellow flower of the black mustard plant.
There was wild cucumber growing over everything along the Trestles Beach Trail.
The wild cucumber is related to garden cucumber as well as the watermelon and squash. It is a non-native plant the originates from Africa and is also referred to as manroot because it has an enormous tuberous root that has a size and shape of a sleeping man.
Walking the Beach at Trestles
As we make our way to the beach at Trestles, I first wanted to have a look at how the San Mateo Creek looked. Once the Beach Trail ends you make an immediate left and continue to walk parallel with the train tracks.
It is essential to mention that at the time of our adventure San Diego just had a significant storm move out the day before. Because of this, I was excited to see if the San Mateo Creek connected to the Ocean. Usually, the creek is cut off and stops 100 yards away from the water.
Here we are looking to the east. Do you notice, on the right, all of the dead cattails? Here is a telltale sign the San Mateo Creek did indeed break the beach barrier to connect to the Ocean. We can assume this due to the fact the cattails thrive only is fresh water.
As you can see in the photo above, the water level was shallow because the terminus of the creek DID break through to connect to the Pacific Ocean! Though I have only been here a handful of times, this is the first time that I witnessed this!
Ok, sorry for the tangent, as this probably has nothing to do with the California super bloom, or does it? Remember the record amount of rain?
California Super Bloom on the Beach
Walking on the beach, you can see that many of the plants are in full bloom. In the photo above is the deerweed plant, otherwise know as California broom, which is in the Legume family and is related to peanuts, cloves, and licorice. One thing that I found interesting is the fact that once the yellow flower has been pollinated, they will turn orange to red.
Down below in the photo is the pink beach sand verbena ( Abronia umbellata); as well as the yellow flowering beach evening primrose ( Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia) growing in the sand.
As we make our way north on Trestles Beach, here is a clear view looking toward San Clemente State Beach in Orange County. The county line (between Orange and San Diego) is found right at this location.
What I appreciate so much when examining the photo below, is that on this particular stretch of beach, there are no non-native plants. Whoever is in charge of this beautiful hillside, I say “Kudo’s to you!”
So what do you think? I was so excited that I was able to come here at the opportune time to see the beginning of the California bloom on the coast!
Let’s now head over to San Onofre Bluffs Campground which is located at the most southern section of San Onofre State Beach, just south of Marine Base Camp Pendleton.
Making Our Way to San Onofre Bluff’s Campground
The San Onofre Bluffs Campground is found on the bluffs right above the beach, Well, not precisely above as you have to walk about a half mile to reach the cliffs.
It is important to note that there is a $10 fee to park at the campground and also, you have your choice of six trails to go down and explore. Today, my girls and I chose to take Trail 6 down and walk north, eventually making our way back up via Trail 4. Here is a map if you would like to take a look at where each trail is located.
Down below is a photo of one of the first plants that we encountered, the collared lupine. I have to say that this is the very first time that I saw this plant in the wild! Do you remember deerweed? The collared lupine is also in the Legume Family. The contrast of the colors with the black mustard in stunning.
As we make our way toward the coast, here is a view of the hills of Marine Base Camp Pendleton. All of the yellow that you see is again the non-native plant, black mustard.
Going Down to Bluffs Beach Via Trail 6
Before walking down the path to the beach, we stopped here for a bit to take in the view. Isn’t it breathtaking?
As we make our way down the trail, it is hard to deny that the plants are growing like crazy! Here in Southern California, we have been used to a very ‘dead’ looking landscape, so it is a happy transformation indeed!
As we walk onto the beach, take a look at how the bluffs look like as we turn around with our backs to the ocean.
Down below is my absolute favorite photo that I took on this glorious day. The colors of the California coastal sage scrub ecosystem are gorgeous!
If you take a closer look, it seems that a flash flood occurred here not too long ago. Remember, we had a very significant storm system just a few days prior.
More Non-Native Plants at San Onofre Bluffs Beach
We also saw a few non-native species thriving as well; such as the invasive tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima) which is originally from the arid regions of Eurasia and Africa.
The tamarisk thrives in inhospitable places, such as here right next to the ocean waterline.
As we continue on our walk, we come upon the common yellow woodsorrel also known as sourgrass which is also a non-native species.
In the photo down below, here we are looking into one the crevices of the bluffs to have a look at all of the growth that has happened with the help of unprecedented amounts of rain.
Going Back Up to San Onofre Bluffs Campground
As we make our way back up to the top of the bluffs, on Trail 4, we found more wild cucumber growing over everything, just like what we saw over on the Trestles Beach Trail.
Here we are, up above Trail 4, to take our final look of San Onofre Bluffs Beach.
California Super Bloom and the Coastal Sage Scrub Ecosystem
So what do you think? In closing, I would like to say that my girls and I had a spectacular time at San Onofre State Beach! Especially seeing that many of the plants were flowering and all the other plants were at optimal health.
As I mentioned before, Southern California has been in extreme drought for the past seven years. But after the rain this winter, we are officially not in a drought anymore! Hallelujah!
Also if you have any questions, please feel free to comment down below.
Until next time!
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I have always had a deep-seated passion for the Ocean Environment which ultimately led me to receive a degree in Marine Biology. Living in the San Diego area for over 30 years, I have extensively explored the 70 miles of San Diego’s coastline, and I am here to share! Please use my website to your advantage and have a look around at all the wonders that the beaches of San Diego can offer you!