Marin Manzanitas (Arctostaphylos spp.)

by Doreen Smith

At long last, we had significant autumn rainfall in late 2016. This often leads to extra-early flowering of some native shrubs like the manzanitas (Arctostaphylos spp.) and later great annual wildflowers in abundance in spring. In early December, Vernon and I visited the Bahia area of east Novato, which is a particularly good site for finding Arctostaphylos manzanita ssp. manzanita (common manzanita) The shrubs were already in bloom; with last year’s much drier fall, they bloomed much later or not at all. This common species is usually the earliest to flower if there is adequate rainfall, except perhaps for Arctostaphylos sensitiva (glossy-leaf manzanita) of the Mt. Tamalpais area, which may be found with some flowers all year.

The other Marin manzanitas bloom later, during March and April. This year, however, someone reported already seeing some flowering Arctostaphylos virgata (Marin manzanita) on Bolinas Ridge. To me, the most beautiful local species of all is Arctostaphylos canescens ssp. canescens (hoary manzanita), which has rosy pink flower set off by silvery leaves in Marin and Santa Cruz counties. More northerly populations usually have white flowers.

Vernon Smith

Arctostaphylos manzanita ssp. manzanita common manzanita

Arctostaphylos sensitiva (glossy-leaf manzanita)

Arctostaphylos virgata (Marin manzanita)

Photo by Doreen Smith

Arctostaphylos canescens ssp. canescens


Text by Doreen Smith, Photos by Doreen and Vernon Smith