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Christmas Ornaments

Virginia Creeper, La Canada-Flintridge (12/25/19) Julie Kirby

Ornamented with blue berries, this Virginia Creeper provides Christmas cheer to the Southern California community of La Cañada-Flintridge.

  • La Cañada-Flintridge (1,188′) – Past Peak, You Missed it!
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Night and Day

Moonlight Forest, LA County Arboretum (12/12/19) Frank McDonough

During this festive season, the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens is beautiful both night and day.

Nightly until Jan. 12, during its Moonlight Forest event, the LA County Arboretum is illuminated with colorful lanterns while sunlit days still hang heavy with the last of LA County’s autumn color.

Here’s some of the beauty to be enjoyed. Click to enlarge images.

LA County Arboretum (12/12/19) Frank McDonough
Moonlight Forest, LA County Arboretum (12/12/19) Frank McDonough
Sunlit Forest, LA County Arboretum (12/12/19) Frank McDonough
  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Behold San Gabriel

Early December is when the San Gabriel Valley is said to peak each year. Appropriate, considering that – scripture records – St. Gabriel foretold the reason for the Christmas season.

As predicted, it’s peaking now with ornamental trees heralding heavy loads of yellow, chartreuse and orange-pink foliage in La Canada.

John Jackson sends these images taken along Viro Rd., which is lined with towering liquidambar, sycamore and Chinese pistache.

  • La Canada (970′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Liquidambar Brighten, Finally

So far this autumn, Liquidambar (Sweetgum) have been disappointingly flat. Photographs received, and those I’ve seen, have lacked the vibrant, firey colors normal for this colorful ornamental tree.

Color spotter Mohammed Hossain scores a First Report from Walnut-Rowland Heights and comes to the rescue, providing these mobile phone snaps he took on a walk in his neighborhood, West of Pomona.

Mohammed says recent storms with lots of rain and crisp, cool, clear following days have refreshed the trees, causing the colors to brighten. Perhaps that’s what’s been missing in an autumn that’s been unusually dry.

He continues that the San Gabriel Mountains are now dusted with snow, providing that Chamber of Commerce image that Rose Parade viewers have come to associate with Southern California in winter. Though, this is still autumn; winter does not begin until December 21.

It’s easy to imagine how Mohammed’s walk/jog, as he described, filled his “heart and soul” with the beauty of a late autumn day that was dressed with rainbows arcing above the dazzling colors.

  • Walnut-Rowland (571′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Tujunga Canyon Gets Big

Big Tujunga Canyon, Sunland-Tujunga (12/7/19) Ken Lock

Big Tujunga Canyon is getting big above Sunland-Tujunga, reports Ken Lock.

Big Tujunga Canyon, Sunland-Tujunga (12/7/19) Ken Lock

The canyon is coursed by Big Tujunga Creek, a major Los Angeles County stream which drops from the upper San Gabriel Mountains to Big Tujunga Dam/Reservoir. Below the dam, the creek winds through the scenic canyon pictured here, then spills out of the mountains at Sunland-Tujunga and disappears into a San Fernando Valley aquifer.

Along the stream, a diverse riparian forest of winter deciduous trees flourishes, with Fremont and black cottonwood, western sycamore, bigleaf maple, blue elderberry, box elder, white alder, Southern California and Northern California black walnut, and velvet ash providing the color.

That diversity has painted the creek’s edges with green, lime, yellow and occasional spots of vermillion.

Big Tujunga Canyon, Sunland-Tujunga (12/7/19) Ken Lock
  • Big Tujunga Canyon – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
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Out of this World

Vasquez Rocks (12/5/19) Allison Hastings

Nicknamed “Kirk’s Rock” for the many times it appeared in early episodes of the television series Star Trek, Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park in Agua Dulce (between Santa Clarita and Palmdale) is virtually out of this world when it comes to dramatic beauty and late fall color.

Allison Hastings scores a First Report for sending back photos of the hike she took with her dog there, today.

Most of the color comes from native Fremont cottonwood and western sycamore. Also in the area are bigleaf maple, black and blue elderberry, white alder, Southern California black walnut, chokecherry, California ash and various willows.

  • Vasquez Rocks, Agua Dulce – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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LA County Arboretum Near Peak

Gingko biloba, Herb Garden, LA County Arboretum (12/4/19) Frank McDonough

Native and exotic trees are near peak at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, dressing its grounds with red, orange, yellow and chartreuse.

Red oak, Quercus rubra, Historic Section, LA County Arboretum (12/4/19) Frank McDonough

Los Angeles County has a long peak, from mid November to mid December, though it is specific to a few national forest drainages and to urban forests with concentrated areas of deciduous non-native foliage.

American elm, Historic Section, LA County Arboretum (12/4/19) Frank McDonough

Arboretums and gardens are the best locations in LA County to see peak fall color right now, including the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia, Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge, the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino and the South Coast Botanic Gardens in Palos Verdos Peninsula.

Two of these gardens add illuminated displays during the holidays. The LA County Arboretum in Arcadia hosts Moonlight Forest, a nighttime display of colorful lanterns (seen in some of these images). And, Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge hosts the Enchanted Forest of Lights in which trees are flooded with dramatic, colorful lighting.

Click to enlarge photos.

  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia – Near Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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SoCal: As The Crow Flies

Nanday conures, Peter Strauss Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA (11/25/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

“As the crow flies,” Kathy Jonokuchi reports, “Peter Strauss Ranch is a few miles west … from Paramount Ranch” in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Peter Strauss Ranch was another of the areas burned during last year’s Woolsey Fire and is still closed to the public. 

Named after actor Peter Strauss who lived on the ranch, then sold it to the National Park Service. The property been a site for relaxation and recreation for nearly a century.

Triunfo Creek, a seasonal stream on the ranch is home to Western sycamore and coastal live oak, both of which have recovered from the fire, Kathy reports.

Fall color there is now past peak, though Nanday conures were feeding on sycamore seed pods and a large flock of California Quail foraged the ground for scattered seeds, beneath the black-hooded parakeets.

Fremont cottonwood, Big Tujunga River, Angeles National Forest (11/30/19) Ken Lock

Elsewhere in Los Angeles County, Ken Lock found Fremont cottonwood to be peaking along the Big Tujunga River. He noted that while autumn has ended elsewhere in California, several locales in Southern California are still prime.

  • Angeles National Forest – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Cottonwood.
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Paramount Ranch, Not “The End”

Valley oak, Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA (11/18/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

Last year, the Woolsey Fire roared through the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, incinerating the historic Paramount Ranch film location. At the time, many thought the park’s closing credits would declare “The End” for Paramount Ranch.

However, on a visit this week, Kathy Jonokuchi found that the National Park Service, with help from motion picture studios and the public, plans to rebuilt its Western Town, to be used again in television, commercial and feature films.

Paramount Ranch had served as a film location, since 1927. All that remains of Paramount’s sets are the Western Town’s train station and church (seen in the HBO series, Westworld). Click to enlarge photos.

Gone are sets once used to film the TV series Cisco Kid (1950s), Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman (1990s) and countless feature films, TV commercials, videos and photo shoots.

Valley oak, Western Town, Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA (11/18/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

The magnificent Valley oak that grew in the middle of the set had been rumored to have budded this past spring, though it is a charcoal remnant of the great tree it once was (seen above).

Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA (11/18/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

Kathy found that many of the trees had succumbed to the combination of drought and the fire. Though there’s still life in the now stark landscape surrounding Paramount Ranch.

The park still had “plenty of songbirds and raptors … Nanday conures and an acorn woodpecker” seen storing acorns for his winter cache.

Paramount Ranch can’t claim a happy ending, though it’s not entirely a downer, either. Nature is recovering, and with a helping hand, the national recreation area’s legacy as a film location will recover, as well.

  • Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA – Patchy (10-50%) – there is not a lot of fall color. Though, what’s there inspires hope.
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Angelic San Gabriel

Bigleaf maple, San Gabriel River Trail (11/17/19) Steve Shinn

Liturgy describes St. Gabriel (San Gabriel in Spanish) as the archangel of judgment. If so, then color spotter Steve Shinn judges the West Fork of the San Gabriel River as absolutely angelic.

Steve volunteers for the U.S. Forest Service, capturing the beauty of San Gabriel National Forest and people enjoying it. As such, he visits the area regularly and writes he would vote the West Fork of the San Gabriel River, which connects CA-39 above Azusa, as one of the most beautiful spots in the San Gabriel Mountains.

  • W. Fork San Gabriel River – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW or YOU MISSED IT.