Mendocino Sonoma Coast Five

This wiki page shows pictures of geophytes growing in the wild in northern California along the Sonoma Mendocino coast arranged alphabetically from Marah through S. Rainfall in this location starts in the fall with the most rain coming in December and January with less rain continuing sometimes as late as May. Summers are dry although there are periods of fog in summer which brings some moisture. Temperatures are moderate year round. Habitats are mixed evergreen and Redwood forests, bluff scrub, riparian and some limited grasslands, but much of this latter habitat (grasslands) is now gone. Most flowers bloom late spring into summer.


Mendocino Sonoma Coast Index - Allium to Calypso - Camassia to Dodecatheon - Epipactis to Maianthemum - Toxicoscordion to Zigadenus


Marah fabaceus grows along steams and embankments and in shrubby and open areas. It has yellowish green or cream-colored flowers or occasionally white (those found inland) rotate (spreading, with a short or non existent tube) flowers. The fruit is globe shaped with a spiny surface. It is found in California in the Sierra Nevada and the coast ranges. I believe these pictures taken on the bluff at Salt Point State Park are this species although Marah oreganus also grows in the park. Photos by Mary Sue Ittner.

Marah fabaceus, Salt Point State Park, Mary Sue IttnerMarah fabaceus, Salt Point State Park, Mary Sue Ittner

Marah oreganus grows on slopes, in canyons and hilly areas and the edge of forests from San Francisco Bay area, California, north to British Columbia. Flowers are white, small, and bell like. The fruit is tapered to a beak, often striped dark green with prickles sparse to dense. Photos taken by Bob Rutemoeller and Mary Sue Ittner at Manchester State Beach and another sandy areas near the ocean.

Marah oreganus, Manchester State Beach, Bob RutemoellerMarah oreganus, Manchester State Beach, Bob RutemoellerMarah oreganus, Manchester State Beach, Bob RutemoellerMarah oreganus, Mendocino County, Mary Sue Ittner

Narcissus spp. Various Narcissus species or cultivars can be found along the coast as garden escapees since they are not native. Photos below were taken by Bob Rutemoeller at Salt Point State Park in January 2009. Plants look like Narcissus tazetta, but they could be a cultivar.

Narcissus sp., Salt Point State Park, Bob RutemoellerNarcissus sp., Salt Point State Park, Bob Rutemoeller

Nuphar polysepala is native to western North America where it grows in ponds, lakes, and sluggish streams. It flowers late spring to summer. It has shiny large leaves lying flat on the water and big waxy yellow flowers. The photos below were taken by Bob Rutemoeller in Sonoma County where a pond was completely covered with this plant. The leaves were much more upright than usual so from a distance we did not recognize it, but a closer look at the striking flower made the identification secure.

Nuphar polysepala, Bob RutemoellerNuphar polysepala, Bob RutemoellerNuphar polysepala, Bob Rutemoeller

Oxalis oregana is a plant with green trifoliate leaves and purple flowers growing on horizontal rootstocks. It is a ground cover found in coastal forests from California to Washington. In shady Redwood forests it is one of the few plants that competes well and you can often see great carpets of it there. The first one was photographed in Kruse Rhododendron State Park in California by Bob Rutemoeller and the second picture from Mary Sue Ittner shows the carpet of leaves you often see.

Oxalis oregana, Bob RutemoellerOxalis oregana leaves, Mary Sue Ittner

Oxalis pes-caprae is a terrible escaped exotic that is native to South Africa. It is found in many areas along the coast. These pictures were taken in Mendocino County close to Highway One. Photos by Mary Sue Ittner.

Oxalis pes-caprae, Mary Sue IttnerOxalis pes-caprae, Mary Sue Ittner

Piperia elegans ssp. elegans is generally found in dry, open sites, scrub, conifer forest below 500 m from California north to British Columbia flowering May through September. Photos taken by Bob Rutemoeller different years in July and September.

Piperia elegans ssp. elegans, Bob RutemoellerPiperia elegans ssp. elegans, Bob RutemoellerPiperia elegans ssp. elegans, Bob Rutemoeller

Piperia transversa or the royal rein orchid is found from California north to British Columbia. It is usually found in dry sites, scrub, oak woodland, mixed-evergreen or conifer forest. The basal leaves are usually withered by the time it blooms, late May to August. Photos taken by Mary Sue Ittner early July 2016.

Piperia transversa, Mary Sue IttnerPiperia transversa, Mary Sue IttnerPiperia transversa, Mary Sue Ittner

Prosartes smithii , syn. Disporum smithii or Fairy Bells is found in moist shady forests near the coast. It has creamy white bells that hang under the leaves and therefore are not easy to see followed by the berries that eventually turns from green to large orange red. The first two photos by Bob Rutemoeller and the next two from Mary Sue Ittner.

Prosartes smithii, Bob RutemoellerProsartes smithii, Bob RutemoellerProsartes smithii berries, Mary Sue IttnerProsartes smithii berries, Mary Sue Ittner

Romulea rosea is another exotic from South Africa that in 2010 was noted by the California Weed Council as a species to be concerned about after it was discovered in large numbers on the Jenner Headlands in Sonoma County. When hiking there, we saw a huge number in bloom and in seed. Most were growing in grassland that already is composed of a majority of exotic species (including the non-native grasses). Photo by Mary Sue Ittner.

Romulea rosea, Sonoma coast, Mary Sue Ittner

Scoliopus bigelovii is a northern coastal California species that is found in very wet habitats: mossy streambanks and moist, shady forests. This plant is called slink pod or fetid adder’s tongue by locals. The first one photographed by Bob Rutemoeller was blooming in May 2003 in Sonoma County, California. The next two photos were taken by Mary Sue Ittner of new leaves and a flower in February 2016 and later in another year of the spotted leaves after flowering has finished.

Scoliopus bigelovii, Bob RutemoellerScoliopus bigelovii, Mary Sue IttnerScoliopus bigelovii leaves, Mary Sue Ittner

Sisyrinchium bellum , known as Blue-eyed Grass, is found in open grassy places in the Pacific States. The first photograph was taken by Bob Rutemoeller in Sonoma County, California in May 2003. A later picture of his is a close-up. The last photo from Mary Sue Ittner was taken in Mendocino County near Navarro Point June 2007.

Sisyrinchium bellum, Bob RutemoellerSisyrinchium bellum, Bob RutemoellerSisyrinchium bellum, Mary Sue Ittner

Sisyrinchium californicum , known as yellow-eyed or golden-eyed grass, is found near the coast in wet places from British Columbia to central California. Photos from Salt Point State Park, Sonoma County, California where it is found growing only in marshy places or areas that get extra water such as road verges. Photos by Mary Sue Ittner and Bob Rutemoeller.

Sisyrinchium californicum, Salt Point State Park, Mary Sue IttnerSisyrinchium californicum, Salt Point State Park, Mary Sue IttnerSisyrinchium californicum, Salt Point State Park, Mary Sue IttnerSisyrinchium californicum, Salt Point State Park, Bob Rutemoeller

Smilacina racemosa see Maianthemum racemosum

Smilacina stellata see Maianthemum stellatum


Spiranthes romanzoffiana known by the common name of hooded ladies tresses is found in various habitats in North America (forests, riparian wetland), but also coastal bluffs and dunes. Photos taken by Mary Sue Ittner and Bob Rutemoeller at Manchester State Beach and Salt Point State Park in summer.

Spiranthes romanzoffiana, Manchester State Beach, Mary Sue IttnerSpiranthes romanzoffiana, Salt Point State Park, Bob RutemoellerSpiranthes romanzoffiana, Salt Point State Park, Bob Rutemoeller


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Page last modified on September 03, 2016, at 08:02 AM