Wednesday, February 21, 2018

UC Santa Cruz Arboretum in late winter: South African Garden

The University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum is arguably the best place in Northern California to see plants from the southern hemisphere (especially South Africa and Australia) in all their glory. The mild coastal climate is virtually frost-free in the winter and rarely gets above 80°F in the summer. These are ideal growing conditions. Heck, I'm not a plant, and I want to live there!

My recent trip to Santa Cruz was successful in every respect. I drove down in an empty car and came back with a trunk full of plants. But more on that in part 2. My partner in crime on this trip was my friend Brian who volunteers at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. He's as plant-obsessed as I am and shares my fondness for Proteacea. Brian doesn't take as many photos as I do, but he was very patient with me. (I do move at a snail's pace when I'm in plant viewing mode.)


Late winter is a particularly good time to visit the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum because many members of the Proteacea family are in bloom. The photos in this post are from the South African Garden; you'll see highlights from the Australian Garden in part 2.

The entrance plantings have started to fill in. That tree aloe will be a stunner in a few more years.


The planting beds in the parking lot looked relatively new. It's good to see work being done to make the Arboretum more attractive. Maybe the powers-that-be at UC Santa Cruz have finally begun to recognize the Arboretum's intrinsic value and are investing some much needed $$$.




Unlabeled pincushion (Leucospermum)

I was particularly excited to see a whole bunch of Leucadendron 'Little Bit'. I brought one home from Southern California in December, and while it doesn't look like these specimens yet, it does have at least a dozen buds.

Leucadendron 'Little Bit', a hybrid between L. salignum and (likely) L. discolor 'Pom Pom'.



The South African Garden was full of color, as I had hoped for. Labeling (i.e. lack thereof) is still an issue. I can usually recognize the genus, but many species of, say, leucadendrons look so similar that trying to guess is a crapshoot. And then there are hybrids and cultivars to make things even more challenging. I'll provide an ID when there was a plant tag or when I'm reasonably sure. Otherwise I'll pass.

Keyhole heath (Erica mauritanica) and restio

Keyhole heath (Erica mauritanica

Leucadendron sp.




Leucadendron salignum 'Ceres 2'

Sun conebush (Leucadendron sessile)



Pretty to the very end

Leucospermum







So much nectar, it's dripping down the bracts





Protea neriifolia

Protea neriifolia

Protea nitida

Protea nitida

Protea nitida



Last year's protea flowers


Leucadendron muirii

Leucadendron argenteum

Leucospermum grandiflorum

Leucospermum grandiflorum

Leucadendron 'Jester' (aka 'Safari Sunrise')

Leucadendron 'Jester'




Mimetes cucullatus

Mimetes cucullatus

The Erica Garden has its own kind of beauty. Cape heaths are less showy than proteas, but they're pretty in their own right. The labeling here is particularly spotty and I know very little about this genus, so there's not much I can contribute in the way of information.




The pink heather is Erica bauera (pink form)

Erica cruenta


I found this blurb on the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum website:
The Garden's South African Garden is also home to one of the largest collections of members of the genus Erica (or Cape heaths) outside South Africa, where a staggering 605 species occur in an area not much larger than Santa Cruz County. 
That is mind-boggling. I find it hard to tell five Erica species apart. How can you possibly distinguish between 605 species, all growing in an area not even 450 square miles in size?

The more I learn about plants, the less I feel I know!


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11 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Definitely! The Arboretum is in a quiet corner of campus. Usually there are very few people there.

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  2. Great photos, it was a perfect weather day, and virtually every plant was flowering. Amazing place!

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  3. So beautiful. Love the Proteacea and hope that the recent lows close to freezing in Santa Cruz didn't do much damage!

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    1. I think most of these proteas can take a degree or three of frost.

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  4. As I was drooling over your photo of Leucadendron 'Little Bit' I happened to look up and right in front of me (out the window) was my yellow-flowered Edgeworthia, each bloom capped with an inch or so of snow. Similar colors to the Leucadendron, but your version is much more welcome to my eyes. Also Protea nitida...wow!

    Some February I'm going to jump on a plane and fly to Sacramento...will you pick me up and we can road trip on down to the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum?

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    1. OF COURSE!!! Stay a few days and we'll turn it into a little road trip.

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  5. Funnily enough, I was also drooling over 'Little Bit'! We've more or less decided to journey to California next winter and you've given me an idea for a gift for myself. Great information and inspiration.

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    1. I love nothing more than to get others excited about places and plants I love :-).

      The Norries Gift Shop at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum has a small but very nice plant selection as well.

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  6. Wonderful place--we had it almost to ourselves when we visited, and even Alan, non-plant person, was amazed and enthralled.

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