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6/12 Out and About: Nature Walk at Pogonip

Students on a field trip in Pogonip

Saturday, June 12 | 10 a.m. to noon
Location: Pogonip Open Space
Free (donations appreciated) | FULL

Out and About is a monthly series of family-friendly, small group get-togethers exploring Santa Cruz’s diverse natural spaces through guided activities.

It’s time to get out and about! Join us for a nature walk through the habitats of Pogonip Open Space. Museum educators Chris Soriano and Rocio Sànchez-Nolasco will guide you through the redwood forest, open meadows, and woodlands on a search for native plants and animals. We’ll also explore the cultural history of the area, from the Awaswas-speaking Uypi tribe to the era of lime kilns and lumber.

This program is family-friendly and all ages are welcome. Location details will be shared upon registration. Please review the following details prior to registering:

COVID PROTOCOL

  • Wear a mask at all times
  • If you feel sick, stay home
  • Maintain at least six feet of distance from others when possible
  • We are limiting this to 15 individuals

6/6 Community Event: Red Road to DC Totem Pole Journey

Sunday, June 6 | 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Tyrrell Park (behind the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History)
1305 E. Cliff Dr., Santa Cruz, CA

The City of Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History are honored to welcome the Lummi Nation House of Tears Carvers on their journey to D.C.

During this event, the House of Tears Carvers will hold a blessing for the 24-foot totem pole carved at the Lummi Nation from a 400-year-old red cedar. This is just one stop of many on their 5,000 mile cross-country journey, evoking an urgent call to protect sacred lands and waters of Indigenous people. The journey, called the Red Road to DC Totem Pole Journey to Protect Sacred Sites, will culminate in Washington, D.C.

As the pole travels it draws lines of connection — honoring, uniting and empowering communities working to protect sacred places. It carries the spirit of the lands it visits and the power and prayers of communities along the way. 

In this moment of self-reflection across the United States and the acknowledgment of past and present injustices inflicted on Native Peoples and lands without consent, the Lummi Nation House of Tears Carvers invite all peoples to stand united with them to protect sacred places, and fulfill ancestral and historic obligations to the First Peoples of these lands and waters.


This community event will take place in the City of Santa Cruz’s Tyrrell Park behind the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History. Please wear a mask and keep your distance when possible. All are welcome.

This event will take place in the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.

6/5 Member Meet-Up: Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve


Saturday, June 5 | 10 a.m. to noon

Location: Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve
Member Exclusive | SOLD OUT

Member Meet-Ups are small group get-togethers for Museum Members where we learn from each other while exploring Santa Cruz’s diverse natural spaces. Not yet a Member? Join today!

The Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve is an example of the unique Santa Cruz sandhills habitat and home to many of our local rare plants. It has also experienced multiple fire events since 2008, including last year’s CZU Lightning Complex.

Join us for this month’s Member Meet-Up where we’ll hunt for rare plants, explore the impacts of fire on the landscape, and gather safely with our community in nature! We’ll also collect data as part of the CZU Lightning Complex and Community Science Project.

COVID protocol

  • Wear a mask at all times
  • If you feel sick, stay home
  • Maintain at least six feet of distance from others
  • We are limiting the number of Members who can join us to 15 individuals

What to expect

  • Further instructions will be shared upon registration.
  • Member Meet-Ups are about shared exploration with fellow nature lovers. We promise friendly (masked) faces, an abundance of enthusiasm, resources to aid in identifications, and a fun morning exploring nature.

Resources for further exploration

Become a Member

5/24 Community Science and Fire Field Training

Monday, May 24 | 2:30-4 p.m.
Location: Marshall Fields
Free (donations appreciated) | Register

Want to learn more about making meaningful observations in nature? Interested in contributing to our understanding about local fire ecology? Want to spend an afternoon looking at coastal prairie plants?

Join us for a field trip to the UC Santa Cruz Campus Natural Reserve’s Marshall Fields site led by PhD researcher Justin Luong and his student interns with the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History. We’ll explore the plants of this coastal prairie habitat, learn how to make detailed notes about plant characteristics, and review iNaturalist functions while recording data in the field. The Interns will also share their own findings from the community science data they have been gathering and analyzing from within the CZU Lightning Complex Burn Area, from pre- and post-burn. Note: Marshall Fields was not impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex, but the interns are conducting pre-fire surveys at this location.

This is a great opportunity for community scientists who want to further develop their plant observation skills, as well as the curious plant lover interested in a crash course in community science practices. More details about location and what to expect will be shared upon registration.

COVID Protocol

  • Wear a mask at all times
  • If you feel sick, stay home
  • Maintain at least six feet of distance from others when possible
  • We are limiting this to 15 individuals

This program is part of our CZU Lightning Complex and Community Science Project, in partnership with the Kenneth S. Norris for Natural History and the California Native Plant Society.

5/22 Out and About: Nature Journaling at the Museum

Saturday, May 22 | 10-11:30 a.m.
Location: Museum Garden Learning Center at Tyrrell Park
Free (donations appreciated) | PROGRAM FULL

Out and About is a monthly series of family-friendly, small group get-togethers exploring Santa Cruz’s diverse natural spaces through guided activities.

Let’s get out and about! This month we’ll be nature journaling in the Museum’s Garden Learning Center. Your guides will be Museum staff Ellen Stone, Education Assistant, and Rocio Sànchez-Nolasco, Public Programs Coordinator — seasoned youth environmental educators and artists. They will guide you through nature journaling exercises and making observations of native plants and wildlife in our Garden Learning Center. Materials will be provided.

This program is family-friendly and all ages are welcome. Please review the following details prior to registering:

COVID PROTOCOL

  • Wear a mask at all times
  • If you feel sick, stay home
  • Maintain at least six feet of distance from others when possible
  • We are limiting this to 15 individuals

RESOURCES

FREE AT HOME ACTIVITIES

Register
Become a Member

5/15 Exploring Nature through Field Sketching and Observation with Kylie Kathleen Smith

Saturday, May 15 | 10 a.m. to noon
Location: Pogonip Open Space, Santa Cruz
Registration Required

Field sketching is an excellent way to learn about nature and dive deeper into a subject. During this mellow art adventure through Pogonip Open Space park, we’ll work on our observation skills in nature by asking questions and field sketching to record what we notice. Slow down with nature and come with your curiosity! Further instructions and details will be shared upon registration.

This program will be led by Kylie Kathleen Smith, featured artist in our science illustration exhibit, The Art of Nature (more about Kylie below).

COVID protocol

  • Wear a mask at all times
  • If you feel sick, stay home
  • Maintain at least six feet of distance from others
  • We are limiting this to 15 individuals

About the Artist

My curiosity for the natural world was stoked by an immersive field course in college during which I observed, sketched, and studied the diverse ecosystems throughout California. I discovered that I learn best when dirt, sand, and rock are beneath my feet. This course fueled my desire to become a lifelong student of natural history, and to use my art as a tool for sharing information about the natural world with others.

In my quest for knowledge, I’ve worked as a field tech helping to protect California Condors, led hundreds of students and adults in experiential learning on land and water, and taught others about how to use field sketching as a tool for learning and connecting with nature. Through these various positions as a science communicator and educator, I’ve seen how valuable a personal connection to nature is for people in an ever-disconnected world. I aim to create art that can help nature be more accessible and help to foster a connection between people and the world around us.

Website: www.kyliekathleenart.com
Instagram: @kylie.kathleen.illustrations

5/8 Member Meet-Up: Wildflowers at Mima Meadow

Saturday, May 8 | 10 a.m. to noon
Location: Mima Meadow
Member Exclusive |Register

Member Meet-Ups are small group get-togethers for Museum Members where we learn from each other while exploring Santa Cruz’s diverse natural spaces. Not yet a Member? Join today!

Spring is in full swing in Santa Cruz! Some may say that wildflower season begins to wind down in May, but that’s also when we start to see some exciting species like the yellow mariposa lily (Calochortus luteus).

For this month’s Member Meet-Up, we will be on the hunt for many of our area’s most sought after wildflowers, from the harlequin lotus (Hosackia gracilis) to the Monterey mariposa lily (Calochortus uniflorus). Please review the following details prior to registering:

COVID protocol

  • Wear a mask at all times
  • If you feel sick, stay home
  • Maintain at least six feet of distance from others
  • We are limiting the number of Members who can join us to 15 individuals

What to expect

  • Further instructions will be shared upon registration.
  • Member Meet-Ups are more focused on shared exploration and less on downloading a bunch of information. We promise friendly (masked) faces, an abundance of enthusiasm, resources to aid in identifications, and a fun morning exploring nature.

Resources for further exploration

Become a Member

5/1 Makers Market: The Art of Nature

Saturday, May 1 | 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, located in Tyrrell Park

During this outdoor Makers Market, meet featured artists from our annual science illustration exhibit, The Art of Nature, watch them at work through live demonstrations at their booths, and support their work by going home with prints, stickers, cards, cups, and more! We will also have an illustration station so that you can create your own works of art inspired by the native plants in our Garden Learning Center.

This is also the first day of Santa Cruz Museum Month and admission to the Museum will be free all month! So pop-in to explore The Art of Nature exhibit while you’re here. Wear your mask, keep your distance, and have fun in and out of the Museum!

Featured Artists

Molly Brown
Sami Chang
Quentin Freeman
Megan Gnekow
Bethany Kilzer
Logan Parsons
Elizabeth Romanini
Kylie Kathleen Smith

A Cyclist’s Guide to the Wildflowers of Santa Cruz

A Cyclist’s Guide to the Wildflowers of Santa Cruz

Pedaling to petals, it’s almost too good to be true.

Add a little color to your bike ride with this mobile wildflower guide from the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History. This flower field guide and bike route map will help you on your treasure hunt. Wildflowers can be fleeting so keep these routes on rotation to avoid missing the show!

Wildflower season varies from year-to-year, usually starting in March, picking up in April, and winding down in May. Some of these flowers pop-up early in the season, while others are late bloomers.


COASTAL CRUISING | Easy

This easy route takes you through some of the best wildflower viewing in the heart of town. You might think wildflowers belong in the wild, but with habitat loss such a huge threat to plant diversity, creating space for native plants in our urban areas is more important than ever.

Getting There

All Trails Route | Distance 7.05 mi | Elevation Gain 203 ft
This route cuts through town and along the coast, starting at Arana Gulch, then heading to the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, and ending at the UC Santa Cruz Coastal Science Campus. Then double back and see if you missed anything!

Santa Cruz Tarplant (Holocarpha macradenia)
Location: Arana Gulch

This rare and endangered plant endemic to Northern California is the reason we have Arana Gulch Open Space. The City manages the park in a way that promotes the success of this species. Adapted for disturbance historically common in coastal prairies, cows graze the landscape much like megafauna used to thousands of years ago.

Photo from Friends of Arana Gulch.

California Poppy Maritime Variety (Eschscholzia californica var. maritima)
Location: Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

The Garden Learning Center at the Museum features several habitats. The front garden is a coastal prairie featuring our local variety of California poppy in abundance! Our maritime variety has a darker center with light edges, whereas the standard poppy is more orange throughout.

California Buttercup (Ranunculus californicus)
Location: Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

These bright, shiny yellow flowers often bloom earlier than many other species, and will go to seed and return to a dormant state by early summer. Buttercups can be a nice source of nutrition and can be toasted or ground up and added to baked goods.

Common Self Heal (Prunella vulgarus)
Location: Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

In addition to attracting pollinators, this edible plant has long been used as a remedy for a variety of ailments, including sore throats and muscle aches. Some of its other common names include heal-all, woundwort, heart-of-the-earth, carpenter’s herb, and brownwort.

Gumplant (Grindelia stricta)
Location: UC Santa Cruz Coastal Science Campus

In the early stages of blooming, the head of this yellow aster produces copious white exudate (i.e. goo). Indigenous cultures have traditionally used this exudate as an adhesive.

Western Blue Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum)
Location: UC Santa Cruz Coastal Science Campus

Actually a member of the iris plant family, blue-eyed grass produces deep purple flowers in late winter and early spring. The genus name means “pig snout”, referencing the sweet roots that were dug up by pigs in their native grasslands.

Explore our Guide to the Garden Learning Center


MEADOW MILES | Moderate

Sometimes you have to work a little for flowers, especially the really good ones. This route has you summiting one of our biggest in-town hills by biking up Bay St. towards campus. Part of the UC Santa Cruz Campus Natural Reserves, Mima Meadow is a coastal prairie featuring geologically interesting mima mounds and some of our most sought after flowers. Walk your bike through the paths to help protect the endangered Ohlone Tiger Beetle (Cicindela ohlone).

Getting There

All Trails Route | Distance 5.71 mi | Elevation Gain 427′
This route has you starting at the coast side of Bay St., taking it all the way to the top, then turning left on High St. and continuing on Empire Grade until you reach the closed gate to Mima Meadow on your left (just past the Arboretum). To get into the Meadow, you will need to use the steps in the fence at the fire road. Either lock your bike up at the Arboretum across the street, along the fence, or walk with it along the trails.

From here you can look down on your starting location along the Monterey Bay as you walk the trails. Stop by the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and Neary Lagoon on your way back!

Monterey Mariposa Lily (Calochortus uniflorus)

The genus Calochortus contains some of our region’s most sought-after flowers. This rare species has grass-like leaves and upright flowers shaped like a bowl, which bees often rest in. Featured here is a longhorn bee (Melissodes sp.)

Yellow Mariposa Lily (Calochortus luteus)

Another member of the Calochortus genus, this California endemic flower is more widespread than C. uniflorus, but can still require a bit of a hunt. Conveniently, this species pops-up right near the gate to Mima Meadow. Turn right on the first trail you see and make sure you don’t discount every bright, big flower as a poppy!

White Brodiaea (Triteleia hyacinthina)

Also known as fool’s onion, this plant has an edible bulb, though it lacks the familiar onion smell.

Harlequin Lotus (Hosackia gracilis)

This rare plant belongs to the pea family and is unlike any plant you’re likely to find with its mix of sherbet colors. It’s thought to be a larval food plant of the Federally Endangered lotis blue butterfly (Lycaeides argyrognomon lotis).

Sky Lupine (Lupinus nanus)

Our region hosts many types of lupines and they can be challenging to tell apart. Even when not in bloom you can identify a lupine by its palmate leaves (five fingered like a hand).

Golden Brodiaea (Triteleia ixioides subsp. ixioides)

This cheerful yellow flower is in the same genus as the white broadiaea and also grows from a bulb.


BONNY DOOM | Strenuous

The Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve is a spectacular location for exploring nature. An example of the rare Santa Cruz sandhills habitat, the soil is comprised of ancient seabed deposits and is very nutrient poor. For that reason, highly specialized plants grow here and nowhere else. It also burned partially in the CZU Lightning Complex fires, as well as during the Martin Fire of 2008.

Getting There

All Trails Route | Distance 24.85 mi | Elevation Gain 2,612 ft
From Mima Meadow, continue on Empire Grade. Turn left onto Smith Grade. You’ll meander through parts of the CZU Lightning Complex Burn Zone before reaching Bonny Doon Rd. Turn right and continue onto Pine Flat Rd. before taking a slight right onto Martin Rd. You’ll know you’re getting close when the habitat changes drastically, the sky opening up above you. Bike locking is a challenge, but you also don’t want to bring your bike along these trails.

When you’re done, double back down Bonny Doon Road to Highway 1 and take that back to the Coastal Science Campus for a relaxing view.

Ben Lomond Spineflower (Chorizanthe pungens var. hartwegiana)

You really have to see this flower in person to understand just how tiny it is. This rare member of the buckwheat family is found only in our local Santa Cruz sandhills habitat. You don’t have to travel far along the trail to find dense mats of this flower when in bloom.

Bush Poppy (Dendromecon rigida)

This shrub offers a pop of color to the Reserve when in bloom and can reach many feet high.

Ben Lomond Buckwheat (Eriogonum nudum var. decurrens)

Belonging to the same family as the spineflower, this variety of naked buckwheat is also rare and endemic to the Santa Cruz sandhills. Its leaves form dense basal rosettes and the tiny flowers sit atop long spindly stems.


WILDERIN’ OUT | Mountain Biking

For those who prefer dirt to pavement, there’s great wildflower peeping along the trails of Wilder Ranch State Park. There’s not a bad trail for finding flowers, but this simple route takes you straight up towards the top of the park, passing through some of the best coastal prairie grasslands in the County. On the way back you’ll pass through redwood forest and woodland habitats.

Getting There

All Trails Route | Distance 11.75 mi | Elevation Gain 1,286 ft
This route takes you along the coastal bike path past invasive plants like wild radish, marigold, acacia, and french broom. When you get to the end of the trail, turn right and head up! You’ll take Engelman’s Loop to Long Meadow Trail, then double back and take the Wild Boar Trail for a change of scene and some fun twists and turns.

Common Fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii)

These early bloomers with their charmingly twisted tops will pop-up in droves. As the plant grows, the stem uncoils, and new flowers emerge, while the old flowers develop into seed pods along the lower part of the stem.

Western Heart’s Ease (Viola ocellata)

Wilder Ranch has a handful of native violets, ranging in colors from white to yellow. These are often found in the transitional zones from meadow to chaparral to redwood forest.

Fairy Lantern (Calochortus albus)

Another stunner from the genus Calochortus, this species has a different stature than C. uniflorus and C. luteus. Rather than a bowl shape, this species has flowers that drop like little lanterns. Find it on the edges of grassland and woodland habitats.

Purple Owl’s Clover (Castilleja exserta)

This species belongs to the genus Castilleja, which includes Indian paintbrushes. Like other related plants in the family, this is a hemiparasite which derives some of its nutrients directly from the roots of other plants.

Fremont’s Deathcamas (Toxicoscordion fremontii)

This perennial plant grows back year after year from bulbs underground. It’s referred to as deathcamas because all parts of the plant contain a toxic alkaloid that some consider more potent than strychnine. 


There are so many more wildflowers to see in Santa Cruz than are included here. If you find something you don’t recognize, consider taking its picture and uploading it to iNaturalist. The app will suggest potential species and your observations will be recorded as biodiversity data, helping us better understand our natural world.

Mural of an Ohlone village by artist Ann Thiermann

These routes traverse the traditional and unceded territories of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi and Cotoni tribes. Today these lands are stewarded by the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band who are working hard to fulfill their obligation to Creator to care for and steward Mother Earth and all living things through relearning efforts and the Amah Mutsun Land Trust.

This guide was created in honor of Bike Month (May 2021) in partnership with Ecology Action. Learn more.

Fire Ecology and the CZU Lightning Complex

Resources for exploring fire ecology in Santa Cruz County and learning about the impacts of the CZU Lightning Complex. Contribute to our understanding by joining the CZU Lightning Complex and Community Science Project.

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