Succulent sights along Morro Bay Embarcadero

As much as I like where I live, I always find it hard to go home after a vacation, even if it’s just a short one. So while I’m back in Davis physically, I’m still in Morro Bay mentally. It’s a good thing I took over 700 photos. I’ll have enough material for quite a few blog posts in the weeks and months to come.

Let’s start today with a walk along the Morro Bay Embarcadero, the street that runs along the waterfront. It’s lined with shops, restaurants and hotels. Our motel was conveniently located at the southern end of the Embarcadero so all the sights along the water were within easy walking distance, Even downtown, up the hill a few blocks, was less than a 10 minute walk away. I loved how we were able to do a lot of things without having to drive.

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LEFT: Central Coast    RIGHT: Detailed map, with places we visited highlighted

The Central Coast of California is not only breathtakingly beautiful, it also has one of the best climates on the West Coast. Winters are mild, with virtually no frost, and summers are sunny and relatively cool (at least compared to the Central Valley), with temperatures rarely climbing above the mid-80s. However, the Central Coast is also one of the more arid parts of the state. Water is always in short supply, even in the best of years, so it makes perfect sense for succulents to be used both in private and public landscaping.


Carpobrotus edulis, with Morro Rock in the background (right)

In fact, I was amazed by the sheer number and variety of succulents planted everywhere in Morro Bay and other coastal towns. I don’t know if this movement evolved on its own or if it’s being driven by the local nursery and landscape designer community. Probably a bit of both. But many businesses and private residences have succulent-centric plantings, most of which are surprisingly sophisticated. I was in heaven!

As you look at the photos in this post, bear in mind that they were taken along one street in a small town of 10,000. That makes it even more astounding.


I’ve never seen a jade plant (Crassula ovata) underplanted with Johnny Jump Ups


This colorful house was right across the street from our motel


Along the Morro Bay waterfront


The garbage can enclosures have murals on them


The largest pig’s ears (Cotyledon orbiculata) I’ve ever seen!


Crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii)


A trio of variegated foxtail agaves (Agave attenuata ‘Variegata’). I was floored to see three of these highly sought-after agaves in such a public place.

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The plantings outside this cluster of stores was particularly attractive. On the right, you see ×Mangave ‘Macho Mocha’ and a ruffled echeveria hybrid that made me think of corals.


Echeveria ‘Arlie Wright’ (thank you for the ID, Hoov!)


A wider view of this planting


Aloe vaombe (ID by Hoover Boo)


The same ×Mangave and Echeveria from above


Looking in the other direction


Fan aloes (Kumara plicatilis) in the foreground, the trio of variegated foxtail agaves (Agave attenuata ‘Variegata’) in the background


Fan aloe (Kumara plicatilis) and blue chalk fingers (Senecio mandraliscae)


Blue chalk fingers (Senecio mandraliscae) and variegated squid agave (Agave bracteosa ‘Monterrey Frost’)


Blue chalk fingers (Senecio mandraliscae) and Agave ‘Blue Glow’


Blue chalk fingers (Senecio mandraliscae) and Agave ‘Blue Glow’


A very special kind of yoga


Agave attenuata and pride of Madeira (Echium candicans)


Agave attenuata and pride of Madeira (Echium candicans), looking in the other direction


The pink blobs are ice plants in bloom, probably some sort of Lamphranthus?


Succulent planter


Flowering Aeonium ‘Sunburst’, with an unusually small inflorescence


Morro Rock in the early evening


The much hated smokestacks of the decommissioned power plant. Yes, they’re unsightly and out of place, but for me they’re simply part of the skyline of Morro Bay.


Palm trees along the Embarcadero, early evening


Palm trees along the Embarcadero and Morro Rock, early evening


Another scenic waterfront view


Fog rolling in


Night-time view from our motel room balcony


Bamboos behind our motel


The rhizome barrier makes me think this is a running bamboo. I do think the area enclosed by the barrier is far too small to be a permanent solution.


I love these culvert sections!


Agave attenuata and colorful fire hydrant


Agave attenuata outside of Thai Bounty restaurant


Agave attenuata outside of Thai Bounty restaurant


Eucalyptus trees next to our motel, near the boat launch


Colorful house across the street from our motel; you already saw a close-up earlier on


Check out the size of this jade plant (Crassula ovata) on the edge of a parking lot!


New succulent planting near the Sun-N-Buns Bakery & Espresso Bar. It may not look like much now, but it will be stunning in a year of two. Lots of interesting agaves here, including Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’, Agave weberi, Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’, Agave salmiana var. ferox ‘Butterfingers’ and Agave funkiana ‘Fatal Attraction’. Not to mention all the other succulents!


Sign near the public restrooms on the Embarcadero


Rain water storage tank outside the public restrooms. This is the size and shape I want.


Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans)

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LEFT: Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans), underplanted with California lilac (Ceanothus sp.)
RIGHT: Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans), giant chess board, and Morro Rock in the background

In my next post, I’ll take you up the hill into the downtown area. Looks more succulents to come, as well as a garden wedding chapel behind a used book store!


Spring break 2016 index


  1. This is so fun! i went to school near there, and it's great seeing all these places through your (much better) photography lens! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Did you go to Cal Poly or Cuesta College? Both are not far from the SLO Botanical Garden, which in turn is only about 8 miles from Morro Bay.

  2. I've been through Morro Bay - and of course recognize the rock on sight - but I don't think I've ever walked through the town. Thanks for the opportunity to do so virtually. I love that photo of the eucalyptus trees - it looks like a painting.

    1. I hadn't either! I'm so glad we finally did. Morro Bay is such a beautiful and peaceful place.

  3. Hello from Los Osos! I'm really getting a kick out of your tour of our lovely part of California. Your photos are wonderful. When you're ready for a return visit, please consider spending some time visiting Baywood/Los Osos. The Back Bay Inn has a gorgeous bay side succulent garden and a serene labyrinth free and open to the public. I am so blessed to live in such a paradise.

    1. We drove through Los Osos on our way to Montaña de Oro SP. Thank you for the tip on the Back Bay Inn. Next time!!

  4. The dolphin shirt garden Aloe is A. vaombe--the red candelabra of flowers is distinctive. I think the frilly Echeveria is 'Arlie Wright'.

    Succulents seem to adore that soft, soft coastal air. They never look as beautiful inland. Beautiful photos, as usual.

    1. Aloe vaombe! Of course! I knew it was one of them "v" aloes, but my head was stuck on Aloe vanbalenii, and it definitely wasn't that.

      'Arlie Wright' is a good guess as well--or one of the many similar hybrids. I don't know that anybody can tell them apart anymore :-).

  5. I almost feel that I've been there. No wonder you don't want to come home. Thank you for sharing your visit. Looking forward to more as always.

    1. Ragna, what a nice thing to say. I'm glad you enjoyed my trip reports.

  6. Thank you for visiting beautiful Morro Bay. Many of the pictures were taken from the balcony of our family owned inn 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites. We love our newly planted drought tolerant landscaping, bamboo Grove and the Eucalyptus trees that surround the property. The businesses throughout town, the residents and multiple beautification clubs and societies and the City all take pride in our efforts to showcase our coastal garden home. We look forward to seeing you on your next visit to beautiful Mo4ro Bay and 456Embarcadero Inn & Suites.

    1. Thank you for your comment. We really enjoyed our stay and will definitely be back.


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