There is a unique and goofy-looking plant on San Nicolas Island, called a “giant coreopsis.” Your teacher in biology or ecology class would probably call it a “Coreopsis gigantea” so that he or she can sound really smart. Another name for it is “leptosyne gigantea.” It is in the daisy family, and the yellow flowers look remarkably like daisies! I have some bones to pick with the Wikipedia article for Coreopsis gigantea, as many of the attributes described there are at variance with my observations of the plant on San Nicolas Island. Perhaps someone who reads this and looks at the images will consider altering the Wikipedia entry. If you are interested in learning more about this type of vegetation, with which I was totally unfamiliar before my visits to San Nicolas Island, then read on! Or, just scroll down to the yellow and flowery pictures.
The Wikipedia article states: The plant is found in California coastal sage and chaparral habitats, from 45–180 feet (14–55 m) in elevation. It is found in coastal dunes, chaparral hillsides, and exposed sea bluff habitats.
My observation: On San Nicolas Island, the plant is common from near sea level to 500 feet elevation, and perhaps even a little higher. San Nicolas Island tops out at around 900 feet, and the plant is very sporadic near the top of the island. As a succulent, it is highly tolerant to drought and especially susceptible to frost (cold tolerant to about 25F).
The Wikipedia article states: The stem of Coreopsis gigantea is a trunk up to 1 metre (3.3 ft) tall, and 4–10 centimetres (1.6–3.9 in) in diameter. The plant can reach 4 feet (1.2 m) high by 2 feet (0.61 m) wide. It is summer deciduous, leaving a sculptural bare trunk and branches during the dry season. Bright green leaves and flowers are on the top of the trunk, the rest of the trunk is bare. The numerous flowers are yellow, daisy-like, 6–20 cm in diameter. It blooms in the spring and early summer.
My observation: On San Nicolas Island, some of the plants have flowers that are above my head, putting them at close to two meters above the ground. I would say, conservatively, that the trunks of Coreopsis gigantea are up to 1.5 meters tall, or 5 feet tall. I would say the plant can reach 6 feet high and 3 feet wide. The flowers on the plants on San Nicolas Island were close to 6 cm and nowhere near 20 cm in diameter. And, the wet winter weather on the island (Dec/Jan/Feb of 2016-17)) caused a tremendous bloom during March. By late March, the flowers were wilting noticeably. The less-pronounced bloom a year earlier was also in March, and it lasted several weeks. On San Nicolas Island, I would say that the plant blooms in late winter and early spring.
Google “leptosyne gigantea” for more fun info. The Cal State University Channel Islands web site had this to say about the plant:
“An odd-looking perennial with stout stems and branches, topped with shaggy tufts of green foliage during the winter and Spring. It looks like a plant that Dr. Seuss might have drawn. Bright yellow flowers rise above this foliage. A species typical that of the Channel Islands flora and the bluffs overlooking the ocean, but less common encountered inland (such as at CI). This species grows easily from seeds and it an interesting addition to a native plant garden. A little added water can keep them green into the Summer, but eventually the plants will shut down for their Summer dormancy.”
Okay, enough education for now. Here are the best pics by me from late February to late March, 2017.
The batch above were taken on February 26, along the road from Nicktown to the beach on the north side of the island. The batch below were taken from around Nicktown and the road to the airport on March 8.
The images below were shot on March 11, primarily in the northwestern quarter of the island and along the coast road near Corral Harbor.
The batch below were taken on March 12, 2017. All of these were along the unpaved beach road below Nicktown and westward towards Corral Harbor.
And as you can see, there was some ocean fog to contend with on a couple of the days, which added a bit to the unique landscape. I hope you enjoyed this year’s bloom on San Nicolas Island!