In 1990, CalCOFI cruises began routine collection of samples for the enumeration of phytoplankton species. From each quarterly cruise, nearsurface samples from 34 stations are pooled into four regional samples prior to counting. This paper summarizes the first 6.5 years of the program in order to identify major large-scale patterns of species composition and fluctuations. A total of 312 species were recognized during this study. Recurrent group analysis defines two major floral clusters. The first is composed of diatoms characteristic of enriched regions. This cluster is most abundant in the northeastern region and often attains maximum abundances in the spring. Seventy-two percent of the variability of chlorophyll is accounted for by the variability of these species. The second cluster is composed of species common in the offshore central North Pacific. These species have relatively low spatial and temporal variability in the study region. There is no detectable seasonality. In neither cluster can interannual variability be detected above seasonal variability, spatial variability and error. These patterns differ from the geographic patterns of zooplankton species in the region, which are often dominated by fauna from the subarctic North Pacific and transition zone. The apparent absence of a similar subarctic flora is briefly discussed.