Hillsides around Lake Hodges are awash in blue spring flowers of 'California wild lilac' aka Ceanothus. Laying a blue blanket across California hillsides each spring, Ceanothus is a large genus of North American native shrubs in the buckthorn family Rhamnaceae. The genus includes more than 60 species of highly fragrant plants, ranging from low-growing shrubs to small trees. Many varieties are endemic to California.
California wild lilac is a bit finicky and only grows in areas that have temperatures that are low enough in summer and mild enough in winter to support this plant, and indeed almost all of the species originate in California.
- "Ceonothus" comes from a Greek word meaning "spiny plant"
- Californian species of Ceanothus are commonly known collectively as California lilacs, with individual species having more descriptive common names.
- Ceanothus is a good source of nutrition for deer, specifically mule deer along the West Coast of the United States. However, the leaves are not as nutritious from late spring to early fall as they are in early spring. Porcupines and quail have also been seen eating stems and seeds of these shrubs. The leaves are a good source of protein and the stems and leaves have been found to contain a high amount of calcium.
- Native Americans used the dried leaves of this plant as an herbal tea, and early pioneers used the plant as a substitute for black tea. Miwok Indians of California made baskets from Ceanothus branches. Ceanothus integerrimus has been used by North American tribes to ease childbirth.
- Attracts birds, bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects
- Grows quickly and can fill in large spaces in a short period of time
- Variety of garden use: works well as screens, hedges, groundcovers, specimens, wall plantings, shrub borders, and as container plantings
- Thrives despite near-neglect level of care (low/no watering is a must)
- Deer resistance: the less water and fertilization in the soil, the more deer resistant the plants become
- Medicinal: according to the UC Sonoma County Master Gardeners, a historic use for fresh or dried flowers of some varieties was lathering into soap, providing relief from poison oak, eczema and rash.