The Giant Coreopsis is a woody perennial plant native to California and Baja California. The stem is a trunk that can grow up to 8 feet tall and up to 5 inches in diameter. Bright green leaves and flowers are on the top of the trunk, the rest of the trunk is bare. The flowers are yellow and daisy-like, which isn't too surprising since it is in the same family as sunflowers and daisies. The flowers are usually about 3 inches in diameter and bloom from mid to late February through the beginning of May, depending on weather conditions. In full bloom the plant looks very much like a bouquet of flowers growing on the coastal hillsides.
It has a bare trunk in summer and can be found on the north and central Southern California coast, the California Channel Islands, and further south on Guadalupe Island, Mexico. It thrives in frost-free areas because its stem is succulent. Storing water in this way makes the plants tolerant to drought but especially susceptible to frost. The name, Coreopsis, comes from the Greek word, koris, which means “bug”, and refers to the tick-like shape of its fruit. Individual leaves can be up to 10 inches long, are stringy and form shaggy clusters at the end of the branches. When their blooming season is over, the plants form ugly, alien-looking stalks. Once you've seen these unique plants in bloom, you'll never look at them the same way again.
You don't have to travel along the coast to see these amazing plants, which grow only in a limited corridor of our coastline. The Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center in the Ventura Harbor has a botanical garden which features plants native to the Channel Islands, which includes the Giant Coreopsis. If you would like to find out more about these fascinating specimens, and other wildflowers native to California, you can check out these books at E. P. Foster Library.