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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.
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Freeman’s Maple on Fire

Freeman’s maple, LA County Arboretum (11/8./19) Frank McDonough

Freeman’s maple, Acer fremanii, is on fire at the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia, reports Frank McDonough.

Known as Jeffersred (cultivar) or Autumn Blaze (trade name), this fast-growing hybrid maple was crossed between red maple, Acer rubrum (midwest), and silver maple, Acer saccharinum (Eastern).

It’s a popular choice in urban forests across California due to its dense crown, attractive shape and red-orange autumn leaves.

  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, Arcadia (482′) – Patchy (10-50%)
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At Last, LA

Tupelo tree, Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens (11/2/19) Frank McDonough

When Frank McDonough of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens reports, we’re in the home stretch.

Fall Color in Arcadia is Just Starting, but early November combines late blooms and early change, as seen in Frank’s photographs.

It’s also a reminder that arboretums and botanical gardens throughout California are looking good.

  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, Arcadia (530′) – Just Starting (10-50%)

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Remember Wendy

Newbury Park Section, Santa Monica NRA (10/17/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

On Oct. 7, fire spread across the Newbury Park section of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Southern California.

Fortunately, the Wendy Fire was limited to 91 acres with no structures lost or human injuries. Its quick containment is credited to the National Park Service which, anticipating Santa Ana Winds, had pre-staged fire crews and equipment from Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks to help the Santa Monica Mountains team.

Previously, the Newbury Park section of the Santa Monica Mountains NRA been singed by the 2013 Springs Fire and the 1993 Green Meadow Fire. Then, in November last year, the Woolsey Fire devastated 89% of the Santa Monica Mountains NRA, including areas that containing Western sycamore like these:

At the time, we expressed concern over the future of the sycamore which are native to the Santa Monica mountains.

Fortunately, fire is a natural thing and nature recovers. SoCal color spotter and birder Kathy Jonokuchi reported that wildflowers were spectacular and lasted well into August with Large-flowered Phacelia covering the canyon and Humboldt lilies showing beautifully.

Then today, she sent these images from the recent Wendy Fire, showing Western sycamore pushing out fall color and wild rose that are abundantly covered with bright rosehips. 

Western Meadowlark can sing about it now, though the Wendy Fire did not leave behind much meadow to land in. What is there remains blackened. So, they spent their time in the trees.

Western meadowlark, Santa Monica NRA (10/17/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

Happier days are ahead and we will keep watch over this great urban national park, as it continues its recovery.

  • Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (3,110′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
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Big Tujunga is the Big Kahuna

Cottonwood, Big Tujunga Creek, Sunland-Tujunga (12/15/18) Ken Lock

The Big Kahuna for fall color in Southern California’s mountains this past weekend was Big Tujunga Creek near Sunland-Tujunga where Ken Lock captured cottonwood still carrying gold.

Yes Gidget, it’s past peak. Though, spots of peak color can still be found here and there in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Mountains. 

Cottonwood, Big Tujunga Creek, Sunland-Tujunga (12/15/18) Ken Lock
  • Big Tujunga Creek, Sunland-Tujunga, Los Angeles – Past Peak, You Missed It.
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Spoiler Alert

A colorful ending, LA County Arboretum (12/18/18) Frank McDonough

LA is the last place to give away an ending. As residents of the world capital of movie making, Angelenos will tell you to go see it, but will never say how it turns out.

That’s why we were a little surprised when Frank McDonough of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia sent these scenes from the closing moments of autumn at The Arboretum.

As colorful endings go, the finale at the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens is as memorable as any we’ve seen, but please don’t say we gave away the ending. 

  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia – Peak to Past Peak, You Almost Missed It.
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Four Shopping Days Left

California Wild Grape, Vitis californica, LA County Arboretum (12/14/18) Frank McDonough

If you plan to shop for fall color, there are just four shopping days left, until the winter solstice.

One of the few places to find that last-minute gift of fall color is Los Angeles County, where a few trees are still carrying autumn leaves.

LA County Arboretum color spotter Frank McDonough sends these gifts of the season, complete with a bad pun. 

In fairness, Frank asked the question and we put a bow onto it by providing an answer. Happy holidays. 

Gingko biloba and bamboo, LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (12/14/18) Frank McDonough
  •   LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, Arcadia – Peak to Past Peak, You Almost Missed it.