Nature Park News

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Ladybug on bush sunflower
Bush sunflower (Encelia californica) put on a wonderful display this year. It is now setting seed and starting to shut down. It will be back, however, late next winter. 

Upcoming Activities in the Park

And the rain keeps coming! However, we cannot count on that continuing into the hot, dry season. In preparation, we will irrigate new plants in the park as needed and pull weeds that have not yet gone to seed. We will also cut back and remove nonnative grasses to keep the park looking nice. 

We are planning to add new signage, as well.  One sign will describe habitat in the park, explaining the relationships between the plants, animals, fungi, soil, water, and microorganisms. Also, plants will be tagged with ID labels so that visitors can learn the names of these native beauties. 

If you are interested in helping out with these new projects, come to the next Volunteer Day on May 20th, or send an email to

Bush Sunflowers Go Dormant

As the bush sunflower (Encelia californica) is finishing up its amazing bloom, I’d like to discuss dormancy. The leaves on bush sunflower start to dry up and drop off the plant right about now. The flowers that brightened the park in February and March are withering and going to seed. From May until January the plants look dead, however, they are merely dormant, waiting out the dry heat until temps lower and moisture rises. Nonetheless, they provide materials for critters to build nests and offer shelter to those who crawl and burrow in them.

The following pictures were taken from roughly the same spot. Notice that after the bush sunflower and sagebrush turn brown and gray, the California buckwheat bursts into bloom. This plant will bloom from about June through November, depending on how hot and dry the year has been. There is something in bloom at all times of the year in the park.

Bush sunflowers bloom in nature park in March.
MARCH:  The bush sunflower is in full bloom
In July bush sunflowers have gone dormant, cream-colored flowers are CA buckwheat.
JULY: The cream-colored flowers above belong to the California buckwheat. This durable plant offers pollen to bees and other pollinators through the hot summer months. The bush sunflower and sagebrush have closed up shop until the temps moderate and there is more moisture in the air and soil.
Most everything is dormant in November, CA fuchsia is in bloom.
NOVEMBER: Nearly all of the plants are parched, awaiting cooler temperatures and life-giving rain. Notice in the foreground the red flowers of the California fuchsia (Epilobium canum). We select a diversity of plants so that something is in bloom at all times of the year. 
Bush sunflowers leaf out in January.
JANUARY:  The bush sunflower has greened up. Even in winters with little rain, this remarkable shrub puts on leaves before nearly any other of the Southern California winter dormant plants.  

Appreciate Our Local Plants

Our local native plants live in a tough world. They must be able to survive many months, sometimes more than half a year, with hot temperatures and little to no rain. They have adapted to this climate in a variety of ways. Annual wildflowers finish their life cycles before the summer months. Their seeds sit dormant in the soil until conditions are right. Then they burst into bloom, make seeds, and wait it out, once again, until the time is right.

Other plants, like cacti and succulents have thick, waxy skins that hold on to the water they take in when it rains. Some have hairy leaves to reflect sunlight and trap moisture from the air. Many, like the bush sunflower, slow down and go to sleep (dormancy) for the hot months. 

As you walk through the park try to appreciate our seasons and the remarkable way life here has adapted to it. 

May Volunteer Day

This month we will continue to weed and spread mulch. We will also water new plants in the Demonstration Garden and elsewhere in the park. 

Where: 100 block of Pasadena Avenue in So Pas, east of York Blvd. Bridge
When: 05/20/23;  9 am – noon

Nature Park volunteers should: 

  • Wear sunscreen, hat, sunglasses
  • Bring plenty of water
  • Bring gardening gloves and tools (weeders, trowels, whatever you use in your own garden), there are extra tools and gloves for those who need them
  • Wear comfortable work clothes, including work shoes (sneakers or boots) and long pants
  • Bring binoculars for birdwatching (optional)
    (It is recommended that participants wear face masks. I use one in my own garden to help with allergens and dust.)

Children must be under adult supervision at all times. There is poison oak in the park that we will point out before starting.

The South Pas Nature Park is a four-acre habitat park along the Arroyo Seco. The entrance, marked by a small plaque on an attractive river rock wall, is in the 100 block of Pasadena Avenue in South Pasadena, east of the York Street Bridge. There is plenty of on-street parking on Pasadena Avenue.

Upcoming Cleanups and Events

Volunteer Days are usually held on the third Saturday of the month from 9 am to noon. 

  • MAY 20, 2023
  • JUNE 17, 2023

(Dates are tentative, please confirm on Facebook,, or email.)


If you would like to help grow our nature park but prefer not to get into the dirt, you can donate through South Pasadena Beautiful. Be sure to include a note specifying that the donation be applied to the Nature Park.