This was a legitimately tough problem. It’s not hard to KNOW that blueblossoms grow in Montaña De Oro, but it’s very difficult to know how to locate a specific one somewhere in the park.
To start this problem, it’s often really useful to convert the informal name of the plant (“blueblossom”) to its formal name (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus). Yes, I know that many varieties of ceanothus are also called “blueblossoms,” but all of the credible resources say that “blueblossom” refers only to the thyrsilorus variety. From this we learn it’s also called “California lilac,” “ceanothus” and/or “blue blossom ceanothus.” (And, luckily for us, there aren’t 10 common names… just a couple.)
In this case, after searching for a while for maps of Montaña De Oro with plant locations indicated (I was hoping for a trail map with a trailer marker than said “blueblossom here” or something something thyrsiflorus. But after 20 minutes of looking, I wasn’t finding much. A few pictures here and there in Panoramio, but nothing with a good location marker.
So I changed my strategy.
Here’s a big, important lesson about this kind of problem:
When you can’t solve the problem directly with search, search for a tool that can do it for you!
What would such a tool be like? I stepped back for a second to think about this. What kind of person or organization would be interested in tracking the location of flowers, their habitat and where the grow?
This led me to make my next search:
[ California wildflower finder tool ]
As you can see, the first and third results seem linked to the Santa Monica Mountains in southern California. I know that Montaña De Oro State Park is really in central California along the coast, and nowhere near Santa Monica (which is in LA).
I checked out the CalFlora site (number 2 in the above list).
And with this, I think I’ve struck paydirt at the www.calflora.org website When you visit the site, you’ll see the following search interface:
It’s not hard to figure out that Montaña De Oro is in San Luis Obispo county. So if you then just drop the Latin name into the search box, then select San Luis Obispo in the county field (on the right side) and click search, you find:
I clicked on the entry in the first row, and found this page.
Now… Note the “Distribution Grid” link in the center of the page.
That looks promising as a way to locate a specific bush of our desired flowers. Click on that to find:
This is fantastic! Now, I just zoom in to our State Park location on the Central California coast, and click on "Show individual observations."
Which, when you drill down, leads you to this… which has the lat/long in the center of the page: 35.26393, -120.84469
That places this individual shrub of our desired flower on the banks of the Islay Creek, just inside the eastern boundary of Montaña De Oro State Park.
So you can see what we’ve done… Mission accomplished. Found the plant and the location.
(1) When searching for a particular plant (or flower, or anything, really), be sure you know all the ways it can be named. “Blueblossom” is really a fairly generic term. It’s also a common name for a common plant. But the Latin binomial name (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus) really is unique. Be aware that searches can show the result in many different names.
(2) When you’re not having much luck using regular web search (and in particular when the results just aren’t showing much of anything), think about searching for a tool that can do the same thing. In this example, we found the CalFlora geographic distribution search tool, which fit our need precisely.
After poking around in the CalFlora site, I found an even more wonderful tool: The CalFlora map-search tool “What Grows Here?” It’s at http://www.calflora.org/app/wgh?page=entry and looks like this:
If you fill out the location, you can then jump to an interface that lets you draw a polygon. (In this case, I drew one to outline the State Park.) Then selected the Scientific Name and hit search.
A marvelous resource! And I'm still exploring it. Highly recommended.