The Porter Trail encompasses the Garden areas on the ridge east side of Mission Canyon Road. Before the 2009 Jesusita Fire, the area was dedicated to our collection of California lilacs (Ceanothus) and cypress (Cupressus) and was referred to as the Ceanothus Section. Although we lost many of our ceanothus species and nearly all of our cypress species to the fire, the Porter Trail is still a wonderful place to visit. The ceanothus are being replanted and some of the best displays of spring wildflowers in the Garden are found here.
Ceanothus are among the most beautiful of flowering shrubs, prized for their blue blossoms. Found predominantly in California, the genus contains a great number of species, with forms ranging from low ground covers to small trees and with flower colors varying from cobalt blue to white.
The fire did open up many of the spectacular ocean and island views that had been obscured over the years by the growth of trees and large shrubs. On a clear day Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and sometimes San Miguel Islands are clearly visible.
Fire Recovery on the Porter Trail
Much of the Porter Trail was reduced to ashes by the Jesusita Fire in May 2009. Today it provides some fascinating examples of our local vegetation's ability to regenerate. Many native species are killed outright if burned and do not resprout from stumps. Unfortunately this is the case with most species of ceanothus, pine, cypress and juniper, and the Garden experienced heavy losses of these collections on the Porter Trail. These plants, however, have fire-resistant seeds that germinate readily only after being burned. Such seeds can lie dormant in the soil for years and sprout in great numbers when exposed to the heat and ash brought by fire. So we were not surprised that hundreds of seedlings of the naturally-occurring green-bark and bigpod ceanothus along with many others sprouted post fire. More surprising were the large number of flannel-bush seedlings that popped up everywhere, even in spots where they had not been planted for years.
These volunteer plants, however, constitute a looming problem for the collections because they are undocumented, of questionable identity, and are growing in haphazard locations. Many will be kept, at least in the short term, but most will be removed as we proceed with re-landscaping these areas and rebuilding our collections.
For information about the location of a display within the Garden please see the map below.
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden fosters the conservation of California's native plants through our gardens, research and education, and serves as a role model of sustainable practices.