Ceanothus tomentosus (Wooly ceanothus)
Painted by Albert Valentien
© San Diego Natural History Museum
Wooly Ceanothus is an evergreen shrub, often with grayish-green bark, growing to 18 feet, with beautiful panicles of azure-blue to nearly white flowers. The name "tomentosus" refers to the fuzzy underside of the leaf. A member of the Rhamnaceae or buckthorn family, it is one of about 40 species of the genus Ceanothus that grow in our region. Because these shrubs are common in chaparral on hillsides and mountains throughout southern California and Baja Calfornia, the flowers can look like a purple mist over the hills in San Diego's backcountry.
Although some people refer to Ceanothus as California lilac, it is not even
in the same family as the lilac of eastern and midwestern United States. A
drought-resistant plant well-adapted to its environment, Ceanothus often
regrows readily after chaparral fires, either by stump-sprouting from
underground portions, or by seeds that germinate after being burned.
Tiger Swallowtail butterflies use species of Ceanothus as host plants. This plant also serves as an important browse for deer, and was used by the indigenous
peoples of southern California to make a treatment for poison oak and other
Introduction to Valentien Collection
Gallery of Plants
Monarca: A Gallery of Butterfly Plants