The buds on a Wooly Blue Curl

Woolly Blue Curls

Trichostema lanatum
  • DIVISION: Tracheophyta   
  • CLASS: Magnoliopsida (dicots)  
  • ORDER: Lamiales
  • FAMILY: Lamiaceae (mint family)
  • GENUS: Trichostema
  • SPECIES: lanatum



It may sound more like a species of sheep than a plant, but this evergreen shrub gets its name from the fuzzy "wool" that covers its blue or purple flower spike. Native to California chaparral and costal sage scrub, its range extends along western slopes from Monterey County to northern Baja California, Mexico. It is adapted for surviving drought and regenerating after fire. Both flowers and foliage have a sweet, fresh fragrance that some people describe as a combination of cedar and lavender. Hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies visit the flowers.


A many-branched shrub, woolly blue curls forms a rounded crown about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and wide. Needlelike leaves are narrow and pointed, and they typically have clusters of smaller leaves in the axils. Foot-long (30.5 centimeter) spikes at the tips of branches bear clusters of fuzzy blue or purple flowers with long, curved stamens and pistils.


Woolly blue curls are prized in California gardens, where they reach nearly their full size in one year and flower in spring and into summer. They grow in poor soils in full sun or part shade, but soil must drain well, as they don't tolerate standing water. Accustomed to California's dry climate, these plants require very little—if any—water in the summertime. Cutting back the stems at the end of summer encourages bushiness.

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You can find woolly blue curls in the Safari Park's Nativescapes Garden.


Woolly blue curls make excellent cut flowers.


Other common names for this plant include romero, California rosemary, and American wild rosemary. Woolly blue curls and rosemary are related—they're both members of the mint family, Lamiaceae—but rosemary is native to Mediterranean regions, and woolly blue curls is native to California.


The fuzzy hairs that cover the stalks and flowers are an adaptation to minimize moisture loss.


More Animals & Plants from San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park