Field Trip #9: Steep Ravine


HEY GUYS! Sad to say this will be my last blog post for this semester 🥹. On May 4th, 2023 we set out on our final field trip for the semester. The destination: The breathtaking Steep Ravine Trail, that is located on the coast of Mt. Tamalpais. As we embarked on this 43-minute drive from the University of San Francisco, little did we know that we were about to immerse ourselves in a truly unforgettable experience. Undoubtedly, the trail lived up to its name, presenting us with a steep and challenging ascent. However, as always we persevered through the demanding hike, our efforts were rewarded by glimpses of vibrant California flora.

Throughout the course, being part of the USF botany class had been an immensely gratifying experience, and this field trip had undoubtedly been a highlight. Under the guidance of Professor Paul, we had not only expanded our understanding of plants and ecosystems but also formed lasting memories that would remain etched in our hearts.

With this in mind, below are some of beautiful plants we encountered on this field trip:


  • Taxon: Acer macrophyllum
  • Taxon Common Name:  Big Leaf Maple
  • Parent Taxon: Sapindaceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: . Leaf & Stem: Leaves are deeply five-lobed, wavy teeth, shiny, dark green on top and paler underneath Flower: Small greenish-yellow, about 3 mm, hanging in clusters at the end of twigs. Fruit: the fruit consists of two winged seeds joined at the base. Seeds are hairy, 3-6 cm long.



  • Taxon: Aquilegia canadensis
  • Taxon Common Name:  Red Columbine
  • Parent Taxon: Ranunculaceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: Perennial, up to 3 ft. tall. Leaf & Stem: compound leaves, divided into rounded-lobes threes. Flower: A nodding, red, and yellow flower, wit upward spurred petals alternating with spreading, colored sepals, and numerous yellow stamens hanging below the petals.


  • Taxon: Urtica Dioicia
  • Taxon Common Name:  Common Nettle Sting
  • Parent Taxon: Urticaceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: Perennial. Leaf & Stem: toothed leaves are borne oppositely along the stem, and both the stems and leaves are covered with numerous stinging and non-stinging trichomes (plant hairs). Flower: The tiny green or white flowers are born in dense whorled clusters in the leaf axils and stem tips and are wind-pollinated Fruit: the fruits are small achenes



Field Trip #8: Ring Mountain

On April 27th, we embarked on our 8th field trip to Ring Mountain, which is just located 30 minutes away from the University of San Francisco. This scenic location near San Quentin state prison in San Francisco offers a unique hiking experience, with stunning views of enormous houses, probably owned by the millionaires of San Francisco 👀. On this day the temperature reached up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the hottest day of the week. Despite the heat and sweating, we were treated with some In N Out on our way back to campus, which was an amazing way to end the day. During the hike, we were able to spot a range of plant species, again from old to new. I hope you enjoy the pictures I took from the trip!

  • Taxon: Layia platyglossa
  • Taxon Common Name:  Tidy Tips
  • Parent Taxon: Asteraceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: Annual wildflower. Leaf & Stem: rough, hair leaves; the upper part of the stem are short and have a pilous texture; the leaves at the basal part of the stem can be dentate to pinnate shaped to rotund short lobes; the lower leaves are generally lobed and the upper leaves are entire; leaves are usually alternate or opposite; blades are usually simple. Flower: individual heads are borne on a peduncle; the flower heads are composed of 5 to 18 yellow ray flowers with white tips and many central yellow disk flowers. Fruit: the seeds are one per fruit, embryos straight.

  • Taxon: Calystegia macrostegia
  • Taxon Common Name:  Morning Glory
  • Parent Taxon: Convolvulaceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: Woody perennial herb or small shrub which may be a low herbaceous vine or a stout, woody, climbing plant. Leaf & Stem: slender, weakly, climbing to woody; leaves are generally widely triangular, lobed. Flower: inflorescence is peduncle; flowers are white or fading pink

  • Taxon: Lepidium nitidum
  • Taxon Common Name: Shining Pepper Grass or Shining Pepperweed
  • Parent Taxon: Brassicaceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: Annual herb. Leaf & Stem: slender stem; small leaves along the stem and larger ones at the base and divided into many narrow lobes. Flower: the flowers give way to flattened, rounded to oval-shaped disc-like fruits up to about half a centimeter long; at the top of the stem appear tiny flowers with spoon-shaped white petals. Fruit: each green to pink shiny fruit is divided down the center into 2 chambers containing seeds







Field Trip #7: Big Rock

Hey guys!! Welcome to the 7th field trip blog post. This time we went to Big Rock Mountain, which is just located an hour away from the University of San Francisco. This mountain range is north of Mount Tamalpais and near Skywalker Ranch, making it a picturesque location to explore the diverse plant species of California. On this trip, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the trail was a bit easier than I anticipated 😅. We were able to see a range of plant species, from the old to the new. I am excited to share my experience with you and I have attached some photos from the trip for you to enjoy. So sit back and relax, let’s dive into the world of botany at Big Rock Mountain!!

  • Taxon:  Achillea millefolium
  • Taxon Common Name:  Yarrow
  • Parent Taxon: Asteraceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: Perennial herb. Leaf & Stem: Lanceolate shaped leaves; Leaves are narrow and finely divided, feathery and fern-like; the leaves and/or stem are often covered in fine hairs, but not always; . Flower: Head Inflorescence; White to pink ray flowers. Fruit: Fruit is a cypselae or achene

  • Taxon: Castilleja densiflora
  • Taxon Common Name: Owl’s Clover
  • Parent Taxon: Orobancaceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: Herbaceous flowering plant. Leaf & Stem: linear or lance-shaped leaves with or without lobes. Flower: small inflorescence and has bracts tipped in white to dull or bright pink or purple; between the bracts appear the flowers, which are somewhat rounded and punched, and white to yellow to pink to purple in color  


  • Taxon: Nemophilia Menziesii
  • Taxon Common Name:  Baby Blue Eyes
  • Parent Taxon: Boraginaceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: Annual herb. Leaf & Stem: lower leaves are stalked, lobed and oppositely arranged; upper leaves are more or less sessile and less lobed than lower. Flower: white or blue; five-petaled, bowl-shaped flowers w/ white centers. Fruit: capsule

Field Trip #6: Edgewood Park & Natural Reserve – Redwood City


Hey guys! On our 6th field trip we went to the Edgewood and Natural Reserve, located on the westside of Redwood City. This was a 45-minute drive away from the University of San Francisco. Our journey led us through a trail that was abundant in poison oak, but we were able navigate through it safely. Along the way, we came across a dead mole rat and spotted some deer! On this trip we reviewed our previous knowledge of plants (got candy if we were able to identify a plant’s family). In this post I will be sharing some of the interesting plants that we encountered.

  • Taxon: Geranium molle
  • Taxon Common Name:  Dove’s foot Crane’s-bill or Dovesfoot Geranium
  • Parent Taxon: Geraniaceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: Annual or Perennial herb. Leaf & Stem: Plant covered with soft hairs; leaves nearly round, palmately divided into 5-7 lobes; lobes evenly round-toothed. Flower: pairs of flowers with 5 petals divided into 2 lobes (looks like 10 petals). Fruit: seedpods hairless of reflexed stems.


  • Taxon: Delphinium parryi
  • Taxon Common Name:  Larkspur
  • Parent Taxon: Ranunculaceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: Perennial herb, evergreen, growth habit is an upright spike. Leaf & Stem: base generally curly-puberulent; Leaf is generally curly puberulent. Flower: purplish-blue; the flowers are on long pedicels; sepals reflexed or spreading.


  • Taxon: Trifolium willdenovii
  • Taxon Common Name: Tomcat clover
  • Parent Taxon: Fabaceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: Annual wildflower. Leaf & Stem: leaves are linear-to-lance oblong or elliptic, green, alternate, and palmately compound. Flower: looks like a typical clover but with extra long leaves, lavender to purple (sometimes purple to pink); 9 united stamens and one free Fruit: 2-seeded pod. Inflorescence: stalked, axillary cluster, pea-like flowers arranged in a wheel-like shape


Field Trip #5: Marin Headlands – Mock Field Quiz :)


Welcome Botanists!! On our 5th Field Trip (April 6th, 2023) we went to the Marin Headlands in San Francisco, which was only a short 20-minute drive away from the University of San Francisco. The breathtaking views and perfect weather made for an incredible learning experience. With clear skies and mild temperatures, we were able to fully immerse ourselves in the beauty of nature. One of the highlights o the trip was the Mock Field Quiz where we put our plant family knowledge to the test! We also had the opportunity to discover new plants and expand our botanical horizons. In this post, I will be sharing some of the new plants we encountered on this trip. So lets explore the wonderful of the Marin Headlands!

  • Taxon: Claytonia perfoliata
  • Taxon Common Name: Miner’s Lettuce
  • Parent Taxon: Montiaceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: Annual. Leaf & Stem: Leaves are mostly basal, simple; has numerous erect to spreading stems that branch from the base. Flower: small pink or white flowers have 5 petals, the flowers grow above a pair of leaves that are connected together around the stem; the flowers are tiny, three-valved capsules containing 1-3 seeds. 


  • Taxon: Tellima Grandiflora
  • Taxon Common Name: Fringe Cups
  • Parent Taxon: Saxifragaceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: herbaceous perennial flowering plant. Leaf & Stem: Rounded stalked leaves mostly growing from the base emerging from a rootstock; ciliate to toothed; base cordate, lobes shallow; Pubescent stem.Flower: Terminal racemes (up to 60 cm high); petals are deeply fringed; pinnately divided; 10 stamens and 2 styles Fruit: capsule. Inflorescence: spike-like raceme; bracts scale-like



  • Taxon: Dipterostemon capitatus
  • Taxon Common Name: Blue dicks / Wild Hyacinth
  • Parent Taxon: Themidaceae (monocot)
  • Description:
    • Habit: Perennial species; they go summer-dormant. Leaf & Stem: short, solid, vertical, underground stem; 2-3 basal leaves; straplike, linear to narrowly lanceolate. Flower: perianth blue, blue-purple, pink-purple, or white, tube; lobes generally ascending; 3 stamens opposite outer perianth parts with filaments Fruit: capsule with 3 chambers. Inflorescence: head-like umbel; trumpet-shaped flowers; fused bracts at base; ovary superior

Field Trip #4: Mt. Tamalpais – Ridgecrest Blvd


On March 23rd, I recently had the opportunity to revisit Mount Tamalpais for the second time. However, instead of exploring the same areas as before, we ventured to Ridgecrest Blvd, which is just a 48-minute car ride fro the University of San Francisco. This time around, not only did we get to see new plant species, but we also had the chance to rehash some of the previous plant species we encountered on our previous field trips. On this field trip our class tried to test our knowledge and see whether or not we could distinguish the plant families. During our recent field trip to Ridgecrest Blvd we had a great time exploring the unique plant species, however the trail I have to say was a bit muddy, and unfortunately, I made the mistake of wearing white sneakers. As a result, my once-pristine shoes became caked with mud. Moving on, below are some of the plant families that I found interesting on this trip:


  • Taxon: Vicia sativa
  • Taxon Common Name: Wild Pea (Common Vetch)
  • Parent Taxon: Fabaceae
  • Description:
    • Habit: Annual, glabrous or hairy. Leaf & Stem: Leaves are pinnately compound; has a branched tendril at the tip that clasps surrounding vegetation for support; Leaflets are oblong-elliptic; has a stipules at the base of the compound leaf stalk; stem is decumbent or ascending. Flower: 1-2 short-stalked pea-shaped flowers in the upper leaf axils; pink to purple; calyx attachment basal; lobes linear; banner glabrous. Fruit:flattened pea pod up to 2 inches long. Inflorescence: flowers in sessile or +- peduncled clusters of 1–3; pedicels short

  • Taxon: Genista monspessulana
  • Taxon Common Name: French Broom
  • Parent Taxon: Fabaceae
  • Description:
    • Ecology: Common. Disturbed places. Elevation: < 900 m. Leaf: stipules, deciduous; oblanceolate to widely obovate. Flower: ovate, hairy only on midrib or glabrous. Habit: Shrub < 3m. Inflorescence: racemes short, dense, axillary.

  • Taxon: Sanicula arctopoides Calflora
  • Taxon Common Name: Yellow Mats
  • Parent Taxon: Apiaceae
  • Description:
    • Ecology: open coastal bluffs, headlands, dunes. Elevation: < 250 m. Leaf: simple, +- palmately or ternately dissected, bright +- yellow-green at flower, triangular-ovate to round, lobes coarsely toothed to lobed. Flower: are bisexual 10–12, calyx lobes fused proximal to middle, ovate, acute; corolla yellow; styles 2–3 x calyx lobes. Fruit: obovate to +- round, smooth or with stout, curved. Seed: face concave.


Field Trip #3

On March 2nd, we decided to explore San Pedro Valley Park and hike up to nearly the top of Montara Mountain. San Pedro Valley Park is located near Pacifica, and it was about a 40 minute car ride from the University of San Francisco. The drive was scenic as we got to see the beautiful beaches along the coast. During this hike, there were some California plant species that we had previously learned about from our previous excursions. Professor Paul asked us to recall the names of these species, which made the hike more engaging.

Although the hike was a bit challenging as it was mainly uphill, the views overlooking Pacifica were absolutely breath-taking and made the effort worthwhile. Below are the plant species that I thought was memorable on the hike.

  • Taxon: Trillium Sessile
  • Taxon Common Name: Toadshade
  • Parent Taxon: Liliaceae
  • Description:
    • Ecology: Common. Edges of redwood or mixed-evergreen forest, coastal shrub, chaparral, moist canyon slopes, ravine banks. Elevation: < 2000 m. Leaf: usually have 3, green, often mottled sessile, oval, rounded. Flower: are erect, sessile; petals three; base occasionally purple

  • Taxon: Trillium Albidum
  • Taxon Common Name: Giant White Wakerobin
  • Parent Taxon: Liliaceae
  • Description:
    • Ecology: Common. Edges of redwood or mixed-evergreen forest, coastal shrub, chaparral, moist canyon slopes, ravine banks. Elevation: < 2000 m. Leaf: very big (7–20 cm), sessile, rounded to obtuse at the tip, mottled(brown or green spotted). Flower: sessile; petals erect to ascending, oblanceolate to obovate, white to pink, base occasionally purple

  • Taxon: Solanum Umbelliferum Calflora
  • Taxon Common Name:Bluewitch nightshade
  • Parent Taxon: Solanaceae
  • Description:
    • Ecology: Shrub-land, mixed-evergreen forest, woodland. Elevation: < 1600 m. Habit: Perennial herb to subshrub. Leaf: generally entire, elliptic to obovate. Flower: lavender to blue-purple, simple leaves, attached petals, 5 petals. Inflorescence: +- umbel-like, forked or not



Field Trip #2

Hey guys! For the 2nd field trip (02/23/2023), we went on an adventure to the Battery-to-Buffs trail at the Presidio, San Francisco. We took a look at more unique California Plant species (esp. Poison Oak), that thrive in the area. The commute was only a 12 minute car drive from the University of San Francisco. However, on this day the weather was quite unpredictable as it started hailing for the first 10 minutes! As we hiked further up the trail, the weather began to clear up, and the stunning views made it worth the effort. Below are some pictures of the hike as well as some plant species that caught my attention!








Taxon Name: Toxicodendron diversilobum

Taxon Common Name: Poison Oak

Parent Taxon: Anacardiaceae


Habit: Vine or shrub. Ecology: Canyons, slopes, chaparral, coastal shrub, oak woodland.Stem: gray- to red-brown. Leaf: reddish leaves; compound leaf w/ 3 leaves; leathery. Fruit: spheric; glabrous, pink. Flower: sepals green; petals > sepals, generally ovate, yellow- to white-green








Taxon Name: Oemleria Cerasiformis

Taxon Common Name: Osoberry

Parent Taxon: Rosaceae


Habit: Shrub, small tree. Ecology: Canyons, lowland wet to dry open woodland, chaparral, coast to shaded conifer forest.Leaf: simple, deciduous, elliptic to narrow-obovate, leathery, margins generally entire. Inflorescence: pendent (petals facing down), tightly bunched/very dense

Taxon Name: Eschscholzia californica Cham.

Taxon Common Name: California Poppy

Parent Taxon: Papaveraceae


Habit: Annual (or perennial herb from heavy taproot), erect or spreading. Ecology: Grassy,Open Areas. Leaf: segments obtuse or acute, simple leaf that is highly dissected. Flower: bud erect, acute to long pointed, glabrous;  petals (4) orange or yellow, bases are generally orange




Field Trip #1

Hello readers! On February 16th, 2023 our Botany Class took a field trip to Laurel Dell in Mt. Tamalpais State Park, and I am excited to share my experience with you. We hiked along the Cataract Creek Trail and observed a variety of plant species in their natural habitat. I will show some species that stood out to me on this hike.

Taxon Name: Scoliopus

Taxon Common Name: Fetid adderstongue

Parent Taxon: Liliaceae


Ecology: Moist, shady redwood forest. Stem: short. Leaf: 2-3 basal, mottled, oblong-shaped, parallel venation. Inflorescence: umbel. Flower: monocot, heavily lined purple or dark brown, ill-scented (defense against predators)

Taxon Name: Polystichum minitum

Taxon Common Name: Sword Fern

Parent Taxon: Dryopteridaceae


Ecology: found near/under redwood trees. Leaf: generally 50-120, pinnate, elliptic, alternative segments w/ alternative serrations on each segment. Sporangia: located on the bottom of each segment, linear (lines of 2 sori on each segment), brown

Taxon Name: Woodwardia fimbriata

Taxon Common Name: Chain Fern

Parent Taxon: Blechnaceae


Ecology: located near streams & streams. Leaf: evergreen, wide at base, each segment is lobed. Sporangia: have elongated sori located underneath each lobed segment.





Welcome to Botany at USF

Welcome to my blog about my Botany class with Professor Paul at the University of San Francisco! My name is Heather Miller and I am thrilled to be taking a Botany class that will take me on a journey through the diverse plant species of California. I am excited to see the variety of plant life in each of visited locations and learn about their unique characteristics.

I have found plants to be endlessly fascinating and I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge of the different species that call California home. I hope that this blog will serve as a record of my experiences throughout this semester and will allow me to share my newfound knowledge with others who are interested in the natural world.

So, come along with me as I explore the Botany of San Francisco!