Thursday Doors: Mission Blue

On alternating Wednesdays, I drive up the Peninsula to teach a class at a middle school in Brisbane CA. Brisbane is a small town, pronounced Briz-bane (not “BRIZ-bin” like its namesake) just south of SFO airport. In spite of my having gone to graduate school at Stanford in the 1990s, I had never heard of it until I started teaching there this time around.

Probably due to its location, Brisbane is an interesting mix of heavy industry and natural beauty. It is located to the east of San Bruno Mountain overlooking San Francisco Bay, but its view comprises container ships, train tracks, and power lines in addition to water and wildflowers. The middle school is small but diverse. There is an outdoor classroom behind the school, and the playground where they play basketball at recess is a small asphalt platform carved out of the wilderness. My drive takes me 45 minutes on I-280 on a good day. It feels like a world apart.

This week on my way home I needed to find a geocache for the day. I have already found most of the caches in Brisbane proper, and so I had to head a little ways out of town, to this cache, called “Butterfly Plants.” I’m used to following my GPS into the unknown, but this time the GPS told me to go across the main road and under an overpass, down near some train tracks. When I hit a dirt road I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place.

Over to my right was some parking, and over to my left was this gate:

The front gate

There were rocks in front of the gate, as I expected from the geocache description, and a guy digging around in the plants exactly where the cache was supposed to be, under one of the rocks. I took a few pictures, but when it didn’t look like he was going to leave anytime soon, I went up to him and asked him, “Hello, do you know what geocaching is?”

“Yep,” he nodded. “It’s right there, under that rock.”

Sure enough, the little camouflaged jar with its logbook was right where it was supposed to be.

“I was thinking of removing it,” said the man to me, as I signed the log, “but I thought it was nice to leave it there to bring people here.”

The nursery is part of San Bruno Mountain Watch, an organization for conserving the unique ecosystems of San Bruno Mountain, one of the largest public open spaces in urban America.


This is a demonstration nursery filled entirely with plants native to the San Bruno Mountain area. They have a native plant sale every quarter, and demonstrations for how to plan and grow your own native garden. Just last week they were at the middle school doing a program.

Many of the plants attract native pollinators, such as the Mission Blue butterfly (pictured on the sign), or native bees (which do not make honey). I tried to take a picture of one of the bees buzzing around the flowers at the cache site, but it was camera shy.


Coffeeberry doesn’t really have anything to do with coffee . . .

And these flowers, Columbine, I have seen before but I don’t know where. Their leaves remind me of “bleeding heart,” which grew easily and wildly in my garden back in Belmont MA. The thistle in the foreground looks nice enough there, but I don’t think I want it in my yard.

Columbine, with Brownie Thistle

I got more than I bargained for at this cache. I hope to visit this nursery again and maybe take one of their workshops or walks!


10 thoughts on “Thursday Doors: Mission Blue”

    1. I think they are still. The nursery sells plants that are supposed to attract the Mission Blue butterfly. I asked the volunteer if I planted some of these in my own yard in Mountain View whether the butterfly would come there and he said no, it isn’t a great flyer like the monarch. It doesn’t migrate long distances, just stays around the mountain in its natural habitat. But other pollinators would come.


    1. He’s neither. Someone else, a geocacher, put it there. He just found it while he was working. Geocaches are not supposed to be put on private property without the permission of the owner, though, so this could be a gray area. I don’t know if, technically, the area outside the gate is still property of the nursery or not. Or maybe the cache owner did get permission and the volunteer doesn’t know. Either way, now he seems to know about it and is okay with it.

      Liked by 1 person

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