Southern California: First Nature Walk

I have been trying to locate a park close to where I live. I knew it was there, and have made several fruitless expeditions in search of it. Today, I stuck gold! Guajome County Park in Vista is a beautiful place to hike. Here are just a few of the things I saw during the four hours I was out.3-Flower

These flowers were along the road as I was hiking to the park. I have no idea what they are, but brownie points to the person who can enlighten me with this knowledge. I would love them in my future garden.

6-Wild Fennel

Wild fennel was everywhere. Just walking through the park, the air smelled of anise! This late in the season, most of the plants had gone to seed, but here’s a bush that’s still reasonable green.

5-Fennel Leaf

Fennel leaf is fern-like, comparable to dill. When damaged, they have a strong, sweet smell that just begs to be paired with fish, or a good steak. Actually, fennel goes with just about everything as an herb.


This is a small fennel flower. The flowers are yellow and form large flat clusters. This plant had a few aphids on it (zoom in on the picture, they’re there) and a very well-fed ladybug. Ladybugs are one of the best predators of aphids. Both the larvae and adults are carnivorous, and aphids are a favorite food of theirs. You can actually mail-order ladybugs to release into your garden. They sell them by the thousand.


This plant is called the Calabazilla, Cucurbita foetidissima. The generic name is clear. It’s a close relative of the cucumber (Genus Cucumis, family Cucurbitacea). The specific name is clear also. It is so pungently foetid when mature as to be considered inedible. The young fruits are eaten, though. This plant had no fruits, but when I find one I’ll post it.

8 -Quercus dumosa

Here’s an interesting plant. It’s a bush, but it’s actually a species of oak. Known as the coastal scrub oak, Quercus dumosa has small, spiny leaves. I am almost certain that is what it is, but if not, please let me know!

10-African Goose

An African Goose. Not native to California, and not from Africa either, someone must have introduced about half a dozen of these to the local pond…

9-Shaggy Palmetto

This is a palmetto, most likely genus Sabal. Now, I am used to these in Florida, but they don’t have this shag of dead leaves attached to them like this. My theory is that Florida’s frequent hurricanes strip the dead leaves off, but they remain attached in the mild (lacking) weather of SoCal. I think it looks cool, though.


This little guy is most likely a Western Fence Lizard, Scelopores occidentalus. They are very common along this walk. Apparently, the males have bright blue patches on their undersides which they flash to potential mates. Didn’t observe this today, though.


This was the highlight of the trip! I am notoriously bad at identifying birds, I’m afraid. I’ve never been able to do it, but here’s my guess: As far as I can tell, it’s a young Cooper’s Hawk. I’m looking at the long, barred tail, the small size, and the markings on the belly (see the picture at the top of the page). When I first saw it, it was on the ground with a prey item in its talons. It saw me and flew up to this perch. I was not able to see what it had caught, but it let me take these nice pictures! Please let me know how far off my guess was…

~The Homesteading Hippy



11 thoughts on “Southern California: First Nature Walk

    1. The Homesteading Hippy Post author

      Thank you. I looked up Gazania, and I agree that’s probably what it is. It’s cool how South African plants just love this climate, San Diego and South Africa have similar weather, it seems.
      ~The Homesteading Hippy

  1. Pingback: Catching Lizards | The Homesteading Hippy

  2. Pingback: Wild-Caught Escargot | The Homesteading Hippy

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