Santa Monica Mountains: Chaparral Yucca
In late spring, when ten-foot towers of creamy blossoms rise garishly above the surrounding vegetation before the plant dies, the chaparral yucca — often called “Our Lord’s Candle”— seems rather miraculous.
Santa Monica Mountains: Ringtail Cat
Huge eyes and ears, a button nose, and a striped tail longer than its body may make the ringtail positively Pixar perfect. But the nocturnal creature, a relative of the raccoon, lives along rock ledges in isolated canyons and is one of the most reclusive animals in the Santa Monica Mountains.
San Gabriel Mountains: Humboldt Lily
If Frank Gehry designed a blossom, it might look something like the Humboldt lily, a rare plant that grows in secluded areas near streams. Hanging upside down, the flower—with sail-like orange, speckled petals and dangling stamens—appears almost deconstructed.
San Gabriel Mountains: Black Bear
The last of the grizzlies in Southern California was shot in 1916. Officials replaced them with “problem” black bears relocated from Yosemite in the 1930s. They have thrived and kept up their forefathers’ ways, raiding foothill residents’ refrigerators, dipping in their hot tubs, and posing for TV cameras.
Santa Susana and Verdugo Mountains: Anna’s Hummingbird
Brilliant red heads and iridescent green plumage notwithstanding, male Anna’s hummingbirds are, gram for gram, easily the toughest birds in our mountains, defending their territory against all comers and rocketing more than 100 feet into the air during a courtship display.
Illustrations by Ross Macdonald