freeway wildflowers

Two Sundays ago, on Earth Day, in fact, I bounded out of bed early to head for a strip of wildflowers I’d been watching gain momentum for weeks and which looked to be approaching peak bloom. Instead of driving miles out of town to see the wildflowers in bloom, like I resolve to do every year and then never do, this year the wildflowers had come to me, blooming in a narrow strip alongside the 7th Street onramp to the 710 Freeway as it leaves Long Beach.

For some visual context, the wildflowers are blooming in a narrow band parallel to the freeway onramp in the midst of all this industrial mishegoss. If you’ve seen movies like To Live And Die In LA and Gone In 60 Seconds, you may already be familiar with this view.

Port of Long Beach with the concrete-bottomed Los Angeles River flowing at the bottom of the photo:


I would have hopped on my bike since it wasn’t far, but this can be a lonely part of town before 7 a.m. on a Sunday.
A sign at the garden proclaimed the patrons of this garden to be a local bank, some civic associations, as well as a corporate sponsor (Walmart).

Up close the garden held some surprises. For starters, it wasn’t strictly an exercise in native plant restoration. On closer examination, the planting was a mix of natives and drought-tolerant exotics.

I’m guessing a form of Pennisetum alopecuroides (edited to add confirmation by Dustin Gimbel as Pennisetum messiacum)

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Kalanchoe beharensis

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As well as cistus, there were other tough, classic mediterranean climate plants such as rosemary, lavender, species pelargoniums, helianthemum…


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But the California natives were there too. Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa

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Mimulus aurantiacus

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Scorpionweed, Phacelia crennulata, native to the American Southwest and Mexico.

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Along with the usual suspects that come in wildflower seed mixes.
Bachelor buttons, Centaurea cyanus, mostly in blue, with a few outliers in purple and pink.

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California poppies, Escholtzia californica, were well represented, perversely enough my least favorite poppy.

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Purple background haze is from Verbena lilacina

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Last exit out of Long Beach is holding quite the springtime show.

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5 Responses to freeway wildflowers

  1. Les says:

    I am always fascinated by the juxtaposition of nature (even it is is not natural) and the industrial or urban. Any crack in the pavement seems to be an opportunity for something. Even though this narrow spot had some help, I am sure it is welcome and lovely.

  2. Denise says:

    Les, this little park is nearly inaccessible and probably designed just for viewing as you head onto the freeway. You have to park in a neighborhood a ways back and walk up to it, watching out for the speeding cars whooshing by onto the freeway, which is probably why the plants are doing so well. That’s not a pathway but a drainage culvert.

  3. Grace says:

    Amazing. What a beautiful little oasis in the thick of all that industry. Kudos to the designers, the workers and Walmart for funding this project. Seeing places like this makes my heart sing!

  4. Pennisetum messiacum

  5. Denise says:

    Grace, and that industry does get more thick than you know — cough, cough!
    Dustin, man of few but well-chosen words, thank you! And this grass just started blooming in my own garden too!

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