Between Crenshaw and La Cienega Blvds. run one of the more ‘rural’ roads in the LA basin – Stocker Street. Please note that in this context, rural means a lack of mini-malls. Bisecting the Baldwin Hills east to west, Stocker runs from Baldwin Plaza past apartment complexes and an undeveloped hillside to the south. Crossing La Brea Blvd., it travels between the Baldwin Hills oil fields and the Kenneth Hahn Park.
The undeveloped hillside is our focus. Marking the northern boundary of the View Park neighborhood, the hillside is topped by homes. Starting at the La Brea/Stocker intersection, the Stocker Corridor Trail cuts across the hillside.
After the recent rains, the hillside has become a vibrant green making the trail a pleasant stroll despite the traffic down below. But the looks are misleading. The hillside habitat is heavily degraded, the vegetation mostly invasive annual grasses and broadleaf weeds. By mid-Spring, most of the hillside will turn brown as these plants die off.
There are several large patches of ice plant. A native of South Africa and used heavily in Southern California to help stabilize hillside and freeway banks, it has become a major invasive plant. While it may remain green throughout the year with lovely flowers, its dense growth crowds out native plants and prevents seedlings from starting. As with most non-native plants, it provides little food for native wildlife and is more likely to provide shelter to non-native rats.
But there are remnants of the original flora. At the parking lot at the La Brea trailhead the county planted a wonderful drought tolerant garden using mostly natives as well as adding some fruit trees. As the plants grow and begin producing seeds, let’s hope they’ll start populating the hillside. Except the fruit trees. I’ll be grabbing a quick snack off them later in the year. Several beautiful toyon bushes, up to 20′ tall, dot the hillside along with scrub oak. A hopeful sign, a couple of California sagebrush were taking root, able to survive despite competition from the thick mat of grasses. One surprise was a number of bush lupines (probably Lupinus longifolius), a perennial version of the common California wildflower. The plants are currently covered with spikes of light purple flowers.
All photos by Alan Starbuck