To say that a particular thing is “in bloom” now is a little silly. Nearly everything is blooming now, especially our crazy abundance of wildflowers (find the best places to view them at the Theodore Payne Wildflower Hotline, March through May). But I like to use this space to highlight a plant that seems to suddenly erupt into bloom in a big and noticeable way and that causes people to say to themselves, “What the hell is that???”
Right now, that plant is Echium candicans, known as Pride of Madeira (which sounds to me like the title of a triumphal poem from some other era written to celebrate a victorious battle). This striking plant really does originate from Madeira, a Portuguese archipelago north of the Canary Islands.
Whether or not you knew the name of this plant, you could not have missed seeing it if you have been outside of your house anywhere around Los Angeles lately. They grow to be very large and look like they want to swallow up anything that might get in their way. At this time of year they send up dramatic spires of blue and purples flowers. These flowers are shortly aswarm with dozens, if not hundreds, of bees. These do particularly well near the coast and are also good inland with only a moderate amount of water.
If you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a less common, but equally striking plant, Echium wildpretii or Tower of Jewels. This one is from the Canary Islands, Tenerife specifically.