With its five webbed petals the fremontodendron californicum looks like a terrestrial starfish. Commonly known as the California flannelbush, this shrub boasts vivid yellow star shaped blooms that are in full display during the months of May and June. When in full bloom the flowers cover long singular stems that splay in all directions, in a bright burst of color. It’s olive green leaves are covered in fuzz hairs that can irritate skin and eyes from contact, but the plant itself is not toxic.
The flannelbush is one of three species of fremontodendron. While there are several hybrids, the three species are commonly known as California flannelbush, pine hill flannel bush and the Mexican flannelbush. The pine hill species has yellow-orange flowers similarly shaped; and the Mexican flannelbush has orange hued flowers.
Native to our state, this fast growing shrub can reach up to 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide in a span of a few years. It thrives in full sun and well-draining sandy or porous soil. It has been found in some parts of the state along rocky areas. Among the drought-tolerant plants, the flannelbush is particularly sensitive to summer watering once established. It needs very little water and can survive off natural rainfall. And skip the fertilizer – or it will die. As most native plant species, it is fairly low maintenance and easy to grow. Because it grows so large, it is a great option as a wall plant or perhaps a fence. Its best to avoid planting near paths or walkways. The flannelbush can be pruned any time of the year.
The flannelbush’s wood was very popular among Native American tribes. The Kawaiisu tribe used the bark peeled off in long strips to make a type of string or rope. Various tribes also used the wood in the making of baby cradles, nets or other furniture material.
To learn more about the California flannelbush, click here.