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F L O R A OF THE VALLEY

Cliff-aster

November 28, 1986|MAYERENE BARKER

The sparsely branched cliff-aster is a tall, perennial plant found along roadsides and cliffs and in other dry, open spaces in Southern California's mountains.

A common chaparral plant, the cliff-aster ( Malacothrix saxatilis) is especially abundant near the coast. Saxatilis in Latin means "rock-dwelling," and the plant often is found among rocks.

Pictured are cliff-asters on Mulholland Highway west of Las Virgenes Road in Malibu Creek State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains above Agoura.

The cliff-aster reaches heights of up to six feet and has narrow, tapering leaves from one to four inches long. Lower leaves usually are coarse-toothed and clustered near the plant's woody base. Upper leaves have smooth margins.

A few solitary ray flowers are in bloom on each cliff-aster from March through the fall. The flowers are white, tinted with rose stripes on their backs. Flower heads are about one-half inch high and 1 inches in diameter.

The cliff-aster is among 15 species of the genus Malacothrix . All are native to the arid Southwest. A pink-flowered variety that grows up to 7 feet tall is found only on San Clemente Island. Another species, the desert dandelion, blooms in the spring and bears either white or pale yellow flowers.

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