Golden Brodiaea Found in Owl Canyon

Today’s Glimpse from the Field is the latest edition of David and Doug's San Bruno Mountain Rare Plant Alert email. A walk in Owl Canyon never fails to offer up surprises. And June 2017 was no different for David and Doug in their exploration, with Owl Canyon offering up the beautiful Golden Brodiaea.

David Nelson and Doug Allshouse are on the Mountain every Saturday in their search for interesting, rare and endemic plants - this ongoing research is the basis for their upcoming book. Together they are writing "The Natural History of the San Bruno Mountains", a long-needed and detailed natural history of the Mountain. The book will be published by the California Native Plant Society.

David Nelson, aside from being a surgeon, is a devoted Mountain Watcher and amateur botanist. Doug Allshouse is an expert on San Bruno Mountain flora & fauna who has studied the Mountain for 38 years. They send out regular SBM Rare Plant Alert emails to interested persons. David can be contacted at and Doug at Contact David if you would like to be on the SBM Rare Plant Alert List.

Who would think that a walk up Owl Canyon, which we all have done many times, would reveal any new treasures? We went up Saturday, June 3, 2017 and we saw one species new to the Mountain and two relatively new species we think you may find interesting.

We were quite happy to find Triteleia ixioides, Golden Brodiaea, a native that is a first on the Mountain. According to the Consortium of California Herbaria, the first record (see reference, below) of Triteleia ixioides in San Mateo County was in 1894 by W. R. Dudley, the first professor of botany at Stanford and the namesake of Dudleya farinosa. Triteleia ixioides is not in McClintock’s 1990 Flora and has not been previously reported from San Bruno Mountain.

There were three small patches of these, with 1-3 plants each.


Another interesting find was Arbutus unedo, the non-native Strawberry Tree, a Mediterranean native known to Linnaeus and commonly used as an ornamental. It is the Ericaceae family, along with the manzanitas, huckleberries, and madrones. Just guessing, but it may be the known hybrid, Arbutus x Marina, named for the Marina district of SF where it was hybridized. Many hybrids are not fertile, and we saw just the solo tree: no young ones, so it may be the hybrid.


The leaves are an almost perfect duplicate of young toyon leaves. The fruit is about 2 cm wide and 3 cm tall. It is supposed to taste like a fig, but Doug and I thought it tasted more like an apricot. This tree is just up from the willows that mark the start of the trail out of Poplar Meadow, near the creek out of Owl Canyon at the level of the switchbacks through the lupines. Jake had shown this tree to Doug years ago, probably after the Owl Fire. It is not in the 1990 Flora.

Finally, we found about 100 or so of a sedge that is somewhat new to us, mixed in within all the other rushes and sedges in Poplar Meadow, at the very base of Owl Canyon.

Doug is parsing it out - it might be Carex tumulicola, foothill sedge. I am sharing it because we tend to overlook grasses, sedges, and rushes, yet they all have their own beauty. Now is a great time to look for these pretty and graceful plants, while the seedheads are fully formed yet still robust.

So, amazingly, a visit to Owl Canyon brings an entirely new species!

Please keep your eyes out, there are always new species to be found, even on our old friend, San Bruno Mountain. Share your findings with us, please.
See you on the Mountain!
David & Doug