A Visit To UC Santa Cruz Arboretum

Weird and wonderful Banksias

We first visited the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum in October 2016.  We visited again this week.  

The Arboretum focuses on the flora of Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, as well as some Conifers, California native plants, and succulents. 
California native Dendromecon harfordii

 I wish I could grow Aloe polyphylla successfully.  They prefer the cool summers of the Central Coast to the hotter summers further south. 
 A silky shaggy Adenanthos
A Bracteantha, perhaps? 

 Philotheca salsolifolia, which is in the same family as Citrus.  The flowers do resemble those of citrus.
 Xanthorrhoea species
 Backhousia citriodora
 A Heliotrope in a big pot, with succulents in the background.  A very common plant provides its own sort of contrast amidst so many more exotic species.
Aloe shawii, displaying the effects of the consistently mild climate of the central coast--no brown leaves, no sunburnt spots, no leaves gnawed by a rodent desperate for moisture, no areas of growth shrunken by extreme weather.  
 This rocky slope behind the plant shop was mostly shrubby South African plants on our last visit.  Too dry for them?  This visit, mostly Cactus and Agaves...
...looking very recently planted
  Crassula corymbulosa, in flower
There were several art projects on display.  This was my favorite, due to its careful craftsmanship.  In the background right are two Leucadendron argenteums, in the foreground left two Leucadendron hybrids. 
 Near the Arboretum office building is a giant prostrate Acacia pravissima that grows in a draping, sinuous manner.  A UC employee who happened by said it does not produce viable seed, instead intending to take over the world by spreading ever-outward. 

 Formerly a Dryandra, now Banksia formosa.  We wants it!

 There are some large Eucalyptus trees in the Arboretum with dramatic bark.
The sort of bark that California plein-air artists have loved to feature in their paintings for at least 150 years.

 A large bank was covered with prostrate Grevilleas
And a few not-so-prostrate types as well, such as 'Boogala Spinebill'
Grevillea 'Royal Mantle' made a dense bank cover.
Variations in leaf color due to chlorosis?  That is the case with some of my Grevilleas, though once soil sulfur has done its magic the sensitive types (e.g., 'Superb') have stayed green.
'Boogala Spinebill'--what a great name!
 Grevillea 'Masons Hybrid' aka 'Ned Kelly'
 Grevillea species
 Grevillea 'Long John', a hybrid with a name created by the two parent species,  G. johnsonii and G. longistyla.
 Grevillea wilsonii.  The prickly foliage bubbling off pink stems is striking.
 Some pretty big Leucodendron (maybe). 
 Leucospermum species.  There were relatively few plants in bloom, but there were still flowers to admire.
 Leucadendron doing that stained-glass thing
 Protea, possibly P. neriifolia or a hybrid thereof. 
 Protea repens 'Summer Pink'
 Protea 'Pink Ice'
Protea 'Pink Ice' can get quite large.  A gaden bench for scale, to show how large. 
 A gloriously happy Leucadendron 'Jester', with a Restio in the near background and Eucs in the far distance
 A massive and very happy Salvia.  Hummingbirds were waging a vicious battle over it. 
 Amaryllis species
 Restios and Leucodendrons
 Salvia chamelaeagnea, Rough Sage
 The succulent slope has been redone since our last visit.  Much improved.
 Yes it is!
Erica speciosa
Puya, maybe Puya berteroniana, which is neither South African, nor Australian, all alone by itself in a wide space of dry grass.  It's native to Chile.  This might be the Puya on our front slope.  No wonder it has not bloomed yet--a huge flower such as these would require considerable stored energy to produce.
 Another art installation, a circle of mulch with a rock in the center
 This art installation was three wooden guys and some rocks
 A Scabiosa columbiana columbaria (thanks, DS), alive and flowering in the dead grass
 The New Zealand area has iconic NZ plants--Cordyline, Pittosporum, Phormium...
   ...and Hebes.
 Back in Australian mode,  Banksia spinulosa.  This is the one Banksia I've seen for sale in my area.  I read it doesn't particularly thrive in my area--how do you handle that conundrum?
 To finish, a wish list plant, Banksia victoriae
See why its on the wish list? 

I wish I had remembered to ask the person in the plant shop for the best time to visit. Probably early spring, when the spring bloomers are beginning and the winter bloomers are not yet finished. 

Well of course I got a few plants, unfortunately not including Banksia victoriaea,  to support the garden.  Next post.


  1. Wowsa. This is someplace I've long wanted to visit, your post makes me want to get in my car right now and head south. That Acacia! Oh my...

    1. Very much worth seeing. So many out of the ordinary plants!

  2. Yes, 'Pink Ice' was too much for my small garden -- no regrets pulling it. Obviously more visits to the Central Coast will be necessary now!

    1. 'Pink Ice' is having a very good year here--I think it's the 3rd ("leap") year. Lots of flowers, finally. But yeah, it needs serious space.

      It was not hot the whole time we were there. So enjoyed that. Wore a sweater, even! And long pants, not shorts!

  3. I think I need to find Echeveria 'Pink Goddess'. That Acacia is more than a little scary but I'm becoming more fond of Banksias every time I see them. Visiting the UCSC Arboretum is on my bucket list. As I read your post, I wondered if you picked up anything so I was pleased to learn you didn't leave empty-handed.

    1. I looked for 'Pink Goddess' at the plant store but didn't see it. Extremely attractive, picture doesn't do it justice.

  4. Your Californian native Dendromecon has perfect yellow flowers, the right tone and the right shape like a Mermaid rose.

    Columbaria maybe? http://pza.sanbi.org/scabiosa-columbaria
    Very tall might be a flourishing silver tree.

    1. The Dendromecon has a glaucous leathery foliage so like a Eucalyptus. Very attractive plant.

      I misspelled "columbaria", thanks for the fix!

      I wondered if the silver tree was 'Pisa', a Leucadendron floridum hybrid, because the foliage was not quite the same as argentum, of which the UCSC Arboretum has several very beautiful specimens. Wasn't all that tall, it was leaning over so I took a photo at an odd angle.

  5. Love love love this post, especially since I was just there myself.

    Thanks for the photo of Dendromecon harfordii. I just bought one as a gift for our neighbor who's creating a California native garden.

    I would love to have a piece of that prostrate Acacia pravissima. It would be easy to keep it in check!

    As for that Banksia victoriae, I did a double-take when I saw it! A real stunner.

    1. I'm glad I didn't try to brave the sale as you did. Too intense.

      The Dendromecon there was so beautiful, no doubt due to that mild climate. I wonder if it will look as pristine where it is much hotter.

      The man said that Acacia was proving difficult to propagate. Rather a surprise, for an Acacia.

      Yeah, that Banksia. One can dream.


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