Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Mount Diablo State Park

with 28 comments

Two years ago today we drove up, up, up to the top of California’s Mount Diablo. On the way we passed these picturesque boulders, which you’re free to imagine a Neolithic people had put in place:

We also passed a hillside covered with plants that reminded me of the sand sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia) I’d seen so much of in New Mexico and Arizona. I wonder if this was Artemisia californica:

In contrast to all that dryness, compare what I thought was a happily fruiting madrone tree, Arbutus menziesii, but which Tony Tomeo says is actually “a toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia. It used to be known more commonly as California Holly, and is what Hollywoodland, which is now Hollywood, is named for. It is very susceptible to fireblight.”

And here was one of the scenic views looking out from Mount Diablo:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 2, 2018 at 4:33 AM

28 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. These sunbaked landscapes are looking particularly good to me, during a stretch here of cold rainy weather.

    Robert Parker

    November 2, 2018 at 9:23 AM

  2. Ooo .. I really like that last one; looks like a long drive in the distance to solitude, or madness depending upon your state of mind.


    November 2, 2018 at 1:07 PM

  3. Wow, awesome view from the top!


    November 2, 2018 at 7:42 PM

  4. Mt. Diablo was part of my landscape for three years, and yet I never set foot on it. My interest in such things hadn’t yet been enlivened, so your photos of the rocks and plants there are especially interesting.

    I suppose every place on earth has its common ‘seasonal questions,’ and in the Bay Area, “Is there snow on Mt. Diablo?” was one of the most often heard. It didn’t happen often, but now and then there would be a dusting. Because the mountain’s so widely visible around the bay and central California, in 1851 its peak was named the base line for land divisions. Across the majority of California and all of Nevada, every township and section is numbered in relation to the north-south Mt. Diablo Meridian and the east-west Mt. Diablo Base Line.


    November 3, 2018 at 8:55 AM

    • Not many people know this. Mount Diablo, although not the highest peak in California, is visible over a larger area than any other, just because it is not surrounded by other large mountains.


      November 3, 2018 at 9:15 AM

      • Once again a local informant comes through with information a casual visitor like me would never know. What you say dovetails nicely with the comment by Shoreacres. In fact I’d never even heard of Mount Diablo till we were in the area. While I photographed only a few individual species up there, the other day I found a site that shows several hundred of them:


        Steve Schwartzman

        November 3, 2018 at 10:07 AM

        • Mount Diablo is not as scenic as Mount Shasta is from the outside. Nor is it as high as Mount Whitney is. Although those who live around it are very familiar with it. others might not find it to be so interesting. It might be the highest mountain that I have been to the summit of.


          November 3, 2018 at 6:19 PM

          • We were staying in San Ramon, so Mount Diablo was a convenient place to visit. Maybe on some future trip we’ll make it to Mount Shasta or Mount Wilson.

            Steve Schwartzman

            November 3, 2018 at 8:21 PM

        • I used to play hooky there when I was working in Contra Costa or Alameda Counties.


          November 3, 2018 at 6:20 PM

    • You’re good at picking out details in photographs. Did you notice the birdie by the cleft at the top of the tallest rock in the first photograph?

      If you had visited Mount Diablo in the years when you lived in the area, you wouldn’t have appreciated it in the same way. Now that you have an enlivened interest in nature, along with much better photographic skills, it would be fun for you to go back and visit or revisit some of the great natural places there.

      If someone could build a book around the question “Who is John Galt?”, perhaps you or someone else could write a book around the question “Is there snow on Mt. Diablo?”

      It’s interesting that Mount Diablo played such a big role in surveying that part of the country.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2018 at 10:01 AM

      • I did notice a little ‘something’ that seemed not to fit with the profile of the rock, but I distracted myself with thinking about Mt. Diablo, and never went back for a second look. The bird certainly found a good perch.

        I found this interesting article about plants that grow in the serpentine soil of Mt. Diablo and elsewhere. The article mentions a bill designed to remove serpentine as the state rock that was introduced in the California legislature; the good news is that the bill died in committee.


        November 4, 2018 at 12:42 PM

        • It is an interesting article. The first line caught my attention becaise of its wording: “Serpentine, California’s state rock, is feeling some pressure—and not just because it’s a metamorphic rock!

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 4, 2018 at 5:45 PM

  5. The madrone is actually a toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia. It used to be known more commonly as California Holly, and is what Hollywoodland, which is now Hollywood, is named for. It is very susceptible to fireblight.


    November 3, 2018 at 9:13 AM

    • Thanks for the correction. It’s great to have a knowledgeable informant to help out a stranger in a strange land.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2018 at 9:42 AM

      • You are welcome.
        People in Oklahoma thought I was crazy for being so interested in the Eastern red cedar and Arkansas yucca that they rooted out and burned.


        November 3, 2018 at 6:16 PM

        • Eastern red cedar makes it to Austin, though Ashe juniper predominates here.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 3, 2018 at 8:17 PM

          • Well, a few made it here too. They will go in town, where they can not escape into the wild.


            November 3, 2018 at 9:30 PM

    • By the way, do you happen to recognize the plants in the second picture, which I thought might be Artemisia californica?

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2018 at 9:48 AM

  6. Love that last shot Steve .. fireblight is meant to be a nasty!


    November 8, 2018 at 9:00 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: