Plant Trail Reports, San Diego County, 2004
5 February 2004: Torrey Pines (see Beach Trail / Broken Hill Trail Loop and Guy Fleming Trail Plant Guides)
This Torrey Pines Report coauthored by Jane Strong.
This was Jane's first visit to Torrey Pines. She was looking for the Torrey pine and the Nuttall's scrub oak which are found together only in this location. She was also looking for certain shrubs unique to San Diego County. This is an excellent place to see these treasures!
This is a good time of year to see the Quercus dumosa because one of its habits is to partially shed its leaves during drought stress, allowing you to see its internal structure. There is lot of leaf litter beneath it that doesn't occur with other scrub oaks. Inside the thickets were sturdy trunks with the upper branches drooping down on the outside only so the inside was clean but protected on the outside by a barrier prickly leaves and short stubby branchlets.
It was fortunate that Jane was looking for shrubs and trees, since almost all annuals are missing this year at Torrey Pines, just as they were missing from Agua Tibia Mountain in southwest Riverside County, and Monserate Mountain in Fallbrook. Essentially no annuals have germinated at any of these places. If we don't get some significant rain this month, it now looks like almost all the annuals in coastal San Diego County will skip this year, just like in the horrible drought year of 2001-2002.
We began with the Guy Fleming Trail, and checked the moist drainage just above the trail, which has had many beautiful milkmaids blooming in past years. Although a number of plants have each put out a few leaves, only a single plant or two was in bloom or showing a flower stalk.
The trail was eerily reminiscent of the nightmare of early 2002. The only native annuals we found along the trail were some Crassula in one moist spot near the trailhead, a scattering of Cryptantha intermedia here and there, and a few plants of other species. Unfortunately, the non-native Ehrharta longiflora has germinated robustly, and covers some of the slopes along the trail. Also, the non-native crystalline ice plant, Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, has a significant number of seedlings.
However, just as in the extreme drought year, some of the perennials are doing pretty well. The trail had many bushrue, Cnoridium dumosum, in full bloom. Bush rue has a wonderful sweet fragrance if you push you nose very close to it, and a pretty little white flower that looked like small stars floating beneath the pines. It was blooming all along the trails we covered; we were fortunate to catch it at peak bloom.
Both wartystem Ceanothus, Ceanothus verrucosus, and lemonade berry, Rhus integrifolia, have just begun their bloom. Judging by the huge number of buds on the plants, both will soon have a good bloom. A number of Dudleya lanceolata plants were beginning to send up a flower stalk. Blooms of the Torrey pines, like yellow candles, were lighting up the shady places.
The lemonade berry grows here in profusion and now in early February is a very attractive shrub with tight pink buds held above dark green leaves. The plants are so big and so compact you could pick out patches of them in coastal canyons farther away just by their texture.
Tom's main objective today was to work on the plant trail guide. We verified every entry, except of course the missing annuals, and added a few species to the guide.
It was surprising to see how many of the San Diego wreathplant, Stephanomeria diegensis, are perennials. Something on the order of half of all the plants show robust new growth all along the stems from last year.
We then did the Beach / Broken Hill Trail, with mostly-similar findings. However, the bloom for mission manzanita, Xylococcus bicolor, is pathetic this year. It should be in full bloom now, yet most plants have no blooms at all. Those that do have blooms, have only a few flowers total per plant, in contrast to the hundreds and hundreds of flowers per plant in a good year.
It amazed Jane to see so many different kinds of cactus and succulents and yucca, plants she associates with the desert, growing right next to the beach, albeit they were on the mesa above. Ferns were growing amongst the succulents and cactus. This is normal for the desert, but those ferns are Cheilanthes, not the Polypody we saw here which needs a wetter environment.
The keepers of the reserve had placed cactus pads in the use trails to keep people out. This changes the distribution of species a bit. But seeing the pancake cactus silhouetted against the pink sunset over the ocean was a memorable mind picture.
We stopped at one hillside and spent some time poking around in the soil searching for tiny leaves. We found tiny silverback fern, dichondra similar to the garden variety but a native in the morning glory family of all things [!], the single leaf of Jepsonia, purple sanicle already recognizable by color and fine cut of the leaves, delphinium also known by the cut of the leaf, old woolly flowers of Stylocline, grey mats of Selaginella cinerascens, lacy liverworts, and large flat lichens like cement patches.
As we were walking back to the cars, the full moon rose in orange skies on the east side of this trail as the sun set in pink skies on the west. Where else can you be walking along a ridge trail where this phenomenon occurs all the while seeking out new and unusual plants like Del Mar manzanita and broom baccharis?
Plants in bloom on the Guy Fleming Trail
Family Latin Name Common Name % of Full Bloom Anacardiaceae Rhus integrifolia lemonade berry 0.01 Asteraceae Hazardia squarrosa var. grindelioides saw-toothed goldenbush 0.001e Asteraceae Isocoma menziesii coastal goldenbush 0.001e Asteraceae Lessingia filaginifolia var. filaginifolia California-aster 0.001e Asteraceae Stephanomeria diegensis San Diego wreathplant 0.01e Brassicaceae Cardamine californica var. californica milk maids 0.01 Capparaceae Isomeris arborea bladderpod 0.01 Cucurbitaceae Marah macrocarpus var. macrocarpus wild-cucumber 0.01 Ericaceae Xylococcus bicolor mission manzanita 0.01 Fabaceae Lotus scoparius var. scoparius deerweed 0.01 Nyctaginaceae Abronia umbellata ssp. umbellata pink sand verbena 0.01 Onagraceae Camissonia cheiranthifolia ssp. suffruticosa shrubby beach-primrose 0.02 Polygonaceae Eriogonum fasciculatum var. foliolosum California buckwheat 0.01e Polygonaceae Eriogonum parvifolium sea-cliff buckwheat 0.01 Rhamnaceae Ceanothus verrucosus wartystem ceanothus 0.01 Rutaceae Cneoridium dumosum bushrue 1 Solanaceae Solanum parishii Parish's purple nightshade 0.01
e: ending bloom
The % of full bloom is measured against a normal year's full bloom.
Plants in bloom on the Beach / Broken Hill Trail.
Family Latin Name Common Name % of Full Bloom Anacardiaceae Rhus integrifolia lemonade berry 0.01 Asteraceae Hazardia squarrosa var. grindelioides saw-toothed goldenbush 0.01e Asteraceae Heterotheca grandiflora telegraph weed 0.01e Asteraceae Isocoma menziesii var. menziesii coastal goldenbush 0.01e Asteraceae Stephanomeria diegensis San Diego wreathplant 0.01e Capparaceae Isomeris arborea bladderpod 0.01 Cistaceae Helianthemum scoparium rockrose 0.01 Cucurbitaceae Marah macrocarpus var. macrocarpus wild-cucumber 0.01 Ericaceae Xylococcus bicolor mission manzanita 0.01 Fabaceae Lotus scoparius var. scoparius deerweed 0.01 Lamiaceae Salvia mellifera black sage 0.001 Nyctaginaceae Abronia umbellata ssp. umbellata pink sand verbena 0.01 Onagraceae Camissonia cheiranthifolia ssp. suffruticosa shrubby beach-primrose 0.02 Polygonaceae Eriogonum fasciculatum var. foliolosum California buckwheat 0.01e Polygonaceae Eriogonum parvifolium sea-cliff buckwheat 0.01 Rhamnaceae Ceanothus verrucosus wartystem ceanothus 0.01 Rutaceae Cneoridium dumosum bushrue 1
9 February 2004: Cabrillo National Monument (see Bayside Trail Plant Guide)
My main purpose today was to work on the Plant Guide for the Bayside Trail. My only other visit was 10/19/2002, immediately after the end of the 2001-2002 drought year, making my list from that visit quite incomplete. Unfortunately, the list from this visit is still quite incomplete, since most of the annuals, and some perennials, are making no appearances this year due to its severe drought. Sigh.... But fortunately, I was still able to pick up a fair number of new species for the guide.
I was intent on returning here after I recently began plotting the percentage of native plants on each trail as a function of the elevation of each trail. The Bayside Trail stood out as having the highest percentage of native plants among all my low elevation trails. Hence I wanted to see if that was an anomaly of my visit during the drought, or if this truly is a feature of this trail.
Since I found almost no annuals growing today, I still don't have the answer for this trail for sure. But there is no doubt that this trail is much cleaner that other trails in terms of non-native plants. The native plants vastly outnumber the non-native plants on this trail. I was able to find a few more non-native species, but they are not in abundance. For example, I found some dead red brome plant remnants from last year, but I only saw a handful of such plants. I can't recall ever seeing just a few red brome plants on any other trail.
For the native plants, it was interesting to see the difference between this trail and the Torrey Pines trails I did four days ago. Some of the most common plants on the Torrey Pines trails are missing entirely or very uncommon here. Examples: Adenostoma fasciculatum, Navarretia hamata ssp. leptantha, Quercus dumosa, Ceanothus verrucosus, Cneoridium dumosum, Eriodictyon crassifolium var. crassifolium, Xylococcus bicolor, Isomeris arborea, Ferocactus viridescens, Hazardia squarrosa var. grindelioides, and Coreopsis maritima.
Instead, this trail is heavily dominated by four species: Baccharis sarothroides and Rhus integrifolia (similar to the Beach Trail), and Encelia californica and Artemisia californica (far more abundant here than on the Beach Trail). Also, one other species, Astragalus trichopodus var. lonchus, is far more common here than anywhere else I've seen it.
I first suspected the difference between the trails is simply elevation. Most of the above plants dropped out at the lower elevations of the Beach Trail at Torrey Pines. However, I ruled that out when I checked the elevations of the Bayside Trail, which begins at ~400 feet and drops to ~80 feet at the bottom. This is very similar to the Beach Trail, which begins at ~345 feet and drops to sea level.
Perhaps the answer is slope aspect. The Torrey Pines Trails face west; this trail is on an east-facing slope.
But probably the answer is simply what I find nearly everywhere: each trail is quite different from all other trails, even nearby ones. The two trails at Torrey Pines are quite different; each trail at the Santa Rosa Plateau is different from each other; each trail in the San Gabriel Mountains is different from nearby trails. So why should I be surprised that the Bayside Trail is different from the Torrey Pines trails?
Plants in bloom
Family Latin Name Common Name % of Full Bloom Anacardiaceae Rhus integrifolia lemonade berry 1 Asteraceae Encelia californica California encelia 0.001b Capparaceae Isomeris arborea bladderpod 0.001b Euphorbiaceae Euphorbia misera cliff spurge 0.5? Fabaceae Astragalus trichopodus var. lonchus coast locoweed 0.05b Fabaceae Lotus scoparius var. scoparius deerweed 0.02b Polygonaceae Eriogonum fasciculatum var. foliolosum California buckwheat 0.01e Ranunculaceae Clematis lasiantha virgin's bower 0.001b
b = beginning
e = ending
1 = full bloom
? = don't know whether the bloom is beginning or ending.
13 February 2004: Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve (see Plant Guide to Stone Creek Loop and Plant Guide to South Gate to Temecula Gorge)
Annuals! I've finally returned to a place where annuals have not only germinated, but some are blooming!
It has been a bit depressing on the last four hikes to see only a very few annuals, and think of all the wonderful plants that will likely be missing in action this year. So today I even welcomed seeing bur clover and all the other non-native annuals, since it meant I got to see lots of native annuals as well. What a treat to see California plantain about to bloom, many young Chaenactis, and many young Phacelia minor! If we can only get some rain in the next week or two, this season might turn out ok for Fallbrook and northward.
The rainfall totals from each storm this year clearly showed that in San Diego County, only Fallbrook has gotten enough rain to germinate annuals. Even in Fallbrook, the rainfall was marginal to do so, with some south-facing slopes nearly barren of annuals, and with the southeastern corner of Fallbrook, Monserate Mountain, nearly devoid of annuals.
The blooms were the prize of the day as far as I was concerned. The hoaryleaf ceanothus, Ceanothus crassifolius, was beginning its bloom, with some plants absolutely gorgeous. I saw a handful of our luscious San Diego wild pea, Lathyrus vestitus var. alefeldii, that almost took my breath away with its rich red-purple colors. Wild cucumber, Marah macrocarpus var. macrocarpus, was beautiful in many places. One location had so many small-seeded spurge, Chamaesyce polycarpa, in bloom, that you didn't need to get down close to it to admire it - you could plainly see the side of the road lit up in blooms from some distance away.
I was quite excited to run across Pluchea sericea on the Stone Creek Loop. I hadn't yet done a proper plant trail guide for this route, which was my main goal for today, along with collecting vouchers for the San Diego County Plant Atlas. When I saw these plants just beginning bloom, I first thought they were a Baccharis I hadn't seen before. But I quickly found it wasn't a baccharis, and it keys directly to this id. I then remembered I had seen it on the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail, in Anza-Borrego State Park. But I never expected to find it here!
The bugs were fairly annoying, as they almost always are when botanizing here. I had a cloud of 5-6 around me most of the time when I stopped. You would think that in February the bugs would be all dead.
Plants in bloom: South Gate to Gorge
Family Latin Name Common Name % of Full Bloom Anacardiaceae Rhus ovata sugar bush 0.02b Asteraceae Gutierrezia californica California matchweed 0.001e Asteraceae Stephanomeria exigua ssp. deanei slender wreathplant 0.001e Boraginaceae Cryptantha intermedia popcorn flower 0.0001b Cucurbitaceae Marah macrocarpus var. macrocarpus wild-cucumber 0.2b Ericaceae Xylococcus bicolor mission manzanita 0.5b Euphorbiaceae Chamaesyce polycarpa small-seeded spurge 1 Fabaceae Lathyrus vestitus var. alefeldii San Diego pea 0.01b Nyctaginaceae Mirabilis californica California four o'clock 0.001b Polygonaceae Eriogonum fasciculatum var. foliolosum California buckwheat 0.001e Rhamnaceae Ceanothus crassifolius hoaryleaf ceanothus 0.3b Rubiaceae Galium nuttallii ssp. nuttallii climbing bedstraw 0.001b Poaceae Schismus barbatus *Mediterranean schismus 0.3b
b = beginning
e = ending
1 = full bloom
Plants in bloom: Stone Creek Loop
Family Latin Name Common Name % of Full Bloom Beginning
Apiaceae Osmorhiza brachypoda California sweet-cicely 0.001 b Asteraceae Gnaphalium bicolor bicolored everlasting 0.1 b Asteraceae Heterotheca grandiflora telegraph weed 0.1 e Asteraceae Pluchea sericea arrow-weed 0.001 b Asteraceae Stephanomeria exigua ssp. deanei slender wreathplant 0.001 e Cucurbitaceae Marah macrocarpus var. macrocarpus wild-cucumber 0.5 b Cyperaceae Cyperus involucratus *umbrella plant 0.5 b Ericaceae Xylococcus bicolor mission manzanita 0.2 b Geraniaceae Erodium cicutarium *redstem filaree 0.001 b Hydrophyllaceae Eucrypta chrysanthemifolia var. chrysanthemifolia eucrypta 0.001 b Plantaginaceae Plantago erecta California plantain 0 buds Poaceae Schismus barbatus *Mediterranean schismus 0.5 b Scrophulariaceae Mimulus aurantiacus bush monkeyflower 0.1 b Solanaceae Nicotiana glauca *tree tobacco 0.2 b
17 February 2004: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (see Plant Guide to Borrego Palm Canyon)
Michael Charters, James Dillane and I started the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail around noon. The trail had so many interesting plants on it, mostly annuals, many just beginning bloom, that:
- at about 1 pm or so, when I noticed I had drank half my water already, I decided to go back to my car to get more water. Fortunately, my car was less than 0.1 mile away, so it took me all of 5 minutes to get more water!
- at about 2 pm or so, Michael asked if we were going to get to the end of the trail today, since we still hadn't gone 0.2 miles.
The temperature was around 80° and definitely warm. It felt even warmer since we were almost stationary at the beginning of the trail for so long. We were out in the full sun until 4 pm or so.
I was STUNNED to see all the annuals on the trail! I just simply don't know how that is possible, when many places in coastal San Diego County couldn't germinate or keep alive annuals this winter.
I recorded 40 species blooming on the trail today, including some I had never seen bloom before, like cheesebush, Hymenoclea salsola. (Remember, I'm a novice at desert blooms.) I was surprised to see how pretty it was in bloom!
However, many of the annuals looked quite stressed, with their single bud hanging limp. If they get some rain in the next few days, the bloom may turn out to be pretty good this year here. If they get no rain for a week or two, I predict most of the annuals will die.
We did finally make it all the way around the loop, getting back to the cars around 6 pm. It took me over three full days of botanizing to update the trail guide from this afternoon of fieldwork!
Plants in bloom: Borrego Palm Canyon Trail
Family Latin Name Common Name % of Full Bloom Beginning
Acanthaceae Justicia californica chuparosa 1 Asteraceae Bebbia juncea var. aspera sweetbush 0.01 b Asteraceae Chaenactis fremontii Fremont pincushion 0.01 b Asteraceae Encelia farinosa brittlebush 0.001 b Asteraceae Filago californica California filago 0.001 b Asteraceae Gnaphalium luteo-album *common cudweed 1 Asteraceae Hymenoclea salsola var. salsola cheesebush 0.01 b Asteraceae Malacothrix glabrata desert dandelion 0.001 b Asteraceae Perityle emoryi Emory's rock-daisy 0.01 b Asteraceae Rafinesquia neomexicana desert chicory 0 buds Asteraceae Senecio mohavensis Mojave ragwort 0.01 b Asteraceae Trixis californica var. californica California trixis 0.01 b Asteraceae Viguiera parishii Parish's viguiera 0.01 b Boraginaceae Cryptantha angustifolia narrow-leaved cryptantha 0.01 b Boraginaceae Pectocarya recurvata curvenut combseed 0.05 b Brassicaceae Brassica tournefortii *Asian mustard 0.2 b Brassicaceae Lepidium lasiocarpum var. lasiocarpum hairy-podded pepper-grass 0.1 b Chenopodiaceae Chenopodium murale *nettle-leaved goosefoot 1 Euphorbiaceae Chamaesyce polycarpa small-seeded spurge 1 Euphorbiaceae Chamaesyce setiloba Yuma spurge 1 Euphorbiaceae Ditaxis lanceolata narrowleaf ditaxis 0.01 b Geraniaceae Erodium cicutarium *redstem filaree 0.01 b Hydrophyllaceae Emmenanthe penduliflora var. penduliflora whispering bells 0.01 b Hydrophyllaceae Phacelia distans common phacelia 0.05 b Hydrophyllaceae Pholistoma membranaceum white fiesta flower 0.05 b Lamiaceae Hyptis emoryi desert lavender 1 Malvaceae Hibiscus denudatus rock hibiscus 0.01 b Nyctaginaceae Allionia incarnata trailing allionia 0.01 b Nyctaginaceae Mirabilis bigelovii var. bigelovii Bigelow's desert four-o'clock 0.01 b Onagraceae Camissonia pallida ssp. pallida pale sun-cup 0.01 b Papaveraceae Eschscholzia minutiflora pygmy poppy 0.01 b Plantaginaceae Plantago ovata desert plantain 0.01 b Polygonaceae Chorizanthe brevicornu var. brevicornu brittle spineflower 0 buds Portulacaceae Claytonia parviflora ssp. viridis green miner's lettuce 0.01 b Solanaceae Datura wrightii sacred datura 0.01 b Solanaceae Nicotiana obtusifolia desert tobacco 0.5 b Solanaceae Physalis crassifolia thick-leaved ground cherry 0.01 b Viscaceae Phoradendron californicum desert mistletoe 1 Zygophyllaceae Fagonia laevis smooth-stemmed fagonia 0 buds Poaceae Aristida adscensionis six-weeks three-awn 0.3 b Poaceae Bromus madritensis ssp. rubens *red brome 1 Poaceae Pennisetum setaceum *fountain grass 0.01 b Poaceae Schismus barbatus *Mediterranean schismus 0.5 b
b = beginning
e = ending
1 = full bloom
29 February 2004: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: Coyote Creek Wash (see Plant Trail Guide)
This Report coauthored by Michael Charters.
We explored the route from the end of Di Giorgi Road to the base of Coyote Mountain from 11:30 am to 6 pm, and it was absolutely stunning. We both estimated that the flowers are just now beginning their peak bloom. Michael thought this was the most stunning place in Southern California right now. It certainly is the most stunning place of anyplace I've been so far this season.
- thousands, quite possibly tens of thousands, of sand verbena heads in full bloom;
- thousands of dune primrose flowers;
- hundreds of lupine flowers, probably 3 different species;
- thousands of brown-eyed primrose blooms;
- zillions of cryptantha blooms;
- thousands of Spanish needle bloom heads;
- hundreds of desert lily blooms (some individual plants had 20 or more blooms open at once! In one location we had ~8 plants each with 5 or more open blooms within 20 feet of us);
- hundreds of purple annual Astragalus blooms;
- many tens of beautiful Dalea mollis and D. mollissima plants in bloom and seed;
- many tens of spectacle-pod in flower and fruit;
- many tens of Baileya pauciradiata, Geraea canescens, Helianthus niveus ssp canescens blooms;
- a species of white Chaenactis we hadn't seen before (but only a few individuals): c. stevioides;
- Phacelia crenulata minutiflora in full bloom; and
- many other species, nearly all of which were in bloom.
I am only under-estimating the number of blooms we saw. There is no exaggeration at all in these numbers! Nearly every single plant looked very happy from the rain last week.
The sands were sheets of purple in many places, some of them purple with white dots all over from the dune primrose blooms. On the way back we went through some of the densest stands, and in many places it was not possible to walk without stepping on flowers.
The species blooming are too numerous to list here, and include most of the species on the Plant Trail Guide.
13 March 2004: Garnet Peak from Penny Pines (see trail guide)
I was very glad to have done this trail today. It was just what I wanted:
- I made the first-pass trail guide to it;
- I got some good exercise;
- I got to see what this area was like in March;
- I got to see how the burn area is doing, and
- I came away with only a very few plants to identify, so I can catch up and try to make the trail guides from the last two trips. (;-)
I was stunned to see that most of the burn areas from last year's fire along Sunrise Highway were still absolutely stark black, without a shred of green in site. Where are the annuals? Where are the resprouting perennials and shrubs? Did that area get too little rain to cause anything to grow? Were those nattering nellies right when they worried that the fire was so hot that it incinerated everything, including the seed bank?
I was also surprised by how dry the PCT / Garnet Peak Trail was. It is early March - things ought to be WET! Instead, the place looks like mid-September. Very few annuals have germinated anyplace, although there are some here and there.
This lack of rain is so discouraging....
I did dig in a flattish spot near the peak to the south of Garnet Peak, and at least the soil was moist only an inch down. None of the annuals looked stressed, so they clearly have enough moisture for now.
On the drive from Julian, the only areas that showed overall green were the meadows and flat areas. The area around Cuyamaca Lake was green, but not very lush.
I didn't expect to see anything in bloom so early, but I was surprised to see baby blue eyes right at the trailhead with their first bloom, in that meadowy area. Later on the trail, near Garnet Peak, there were two different patches of cryptantha with their first blooms, two Ribes indecorum in full bloom, and one Lotus strigosus in its first bloom. There were buds on one Tauschia.
The other thing that surprised me was the huge numbers of Hulsea californica, and the huge sizes of some of them. I remember only a few itty-bitty plants last May. Those itty-bitty plants have grown up to be monsters! (They are biennials.) In some places they were so thick that it was hard not to step on them, like near Garnet Peak. There were easily hundreds of them, in many places along the trail. And these plants were by far the lushest, best-looking plants of all the species on this trail.
They are going to create an incredible number of blooms on this trail this year.
But they looked way out of place next to the dry ground and non-lush vegetation next to them. It looked like someone took several truckloads of Hulsea grown under irrigation somewhere else, and transplanted them here!
Near Garnet Peak, there were zillions of small poodle-dog bush, Turricula parryi, that combined looked like a field of cactus.
Plants in bloom: Garnet Peak from Penny Pines
Family Latin Name Common Name % of Full Bloom Beginning
Apiaceae Tauschia arguta southern tauschia buds Boraginaceae Cryptantha intermedia popcorn flower 0.1 b Boraginaceae Cryptantha micrantha purple-root cryptantha 0.1 b Fabaceae Lotus strigosus strigose lotus 1 Geraniaceae Erodium cicutarium *redstem filaree 1 Grossulariaceae Ribes indecorum white-flowering currant 1 Hydrophyllaceae Nemophila menziesii var. integrifolia baby blue eyes 0.1 b
b = beginning
e = ending
1 = full bloom
18 March 2004: Torrey Pines (see Beach Trail / Broken Hill Trail Loop and Guy Fleming Trail Plant Guides)
It was good to see the plants at Torrey Pines looking happy and healthy! Although most of the annuals never germinated this year, the perennials are looking great, and the small number of annuals that did germinate are doing well. No plant looked stressed at all - it's wonderful what a little rain can do!
Around 30 species were blooming on this cool, overcast day. I wore a sweatshirt from 11 a.m. to ~ 3 p.m., then put on an additional wind-breaker after that.
I was surprised to see the bushrue (Cneoridium dumosum), wartystem ceanothus (Ceanothus verrucosus) and milkmaids (Cardamine californica var. californica) still blooming strongly. Some of the C. verrucosus plants were putting on quite a show. And although it only takes a few milkmaids to put on quite a show for me, I delighted in seeing many tens of plants in full bloom.
At the Visitor Center, an Agave shawii was in full bloom; what an inflorescence that plant has!
What delighted me the most, however, were some blooms only a few mm across. After five previous visits, seeing no flowers or fruit, I finally got to see California box-thorn (Lycium californicum) in bloom.
Plants in bloom: Beach Trail / Broken Hill Trail Loop
Family Latin Name Common Name % of Full Bloom Beginning
Anacardiaceae Rhus integrifolia lemonade berry 1 Apiaceae Sanicula crassicaulis Pacific sanicle 0.1 b Asteraceae Coreopsis maritima sea dahlia 0.1 b Asteraceae Cotula australis *Australian brass-buttons 1 Asteraceae Encelia californica California encelia 0.01 b Asteraceae Gnaphalium bicolor bicolored everlasting 1 Asteraceae Heterotheca grandiflora telegraph weed 0.05 Asteraceae Isocoma menziesii var. menziesii coastal goldenbush 0.001 e Asteraceae Senecio californicus California groundsel 0.3 b Asteraceae Stephanomeria diegensis San Diego wreathplant 0.01 e Boraginaceae Cryptantha intermedia popcorn flower 0.1 b Cactaceae Opuntia Xoccidentalis western prickly pear 0.01 b Capparaceae Isomeris arborea bladderpod 0.1 b Cistaceae Helianthemum scoparium rockrose 0.1 b Crassulaceae Crassula connata pygmy-weed 1 Crassulaceae Dudleya edulis ladies fingers buds Crassulaceae Dudleya lanceolata lanceleaf dudleya buds Cucurbitaceae Marah macrocarpus var. macrocarpus wild-cucumber 1 Ericaceae Arctostaphylos glandulosa ssp. crassifolia Del Mar manzanita 1 Ericaceae Xylococcus bicolor mission manzanita 1 Fabaceae Astragalus trichopodus var. lonchus coast locoweed 1 Fabaceae Lotus scoparius var. scoparius deerweed 1 Geraniaceae Erodium cicutarium *redstem filaree 1 Grossulariaceae Ribes speciosum fuchsia-flowered gooseberry 0.2 e Hydrophyllaceae Eriodictyon crassifolium var. crassifolium thick-leaved yerba santa 0.001 b Iridaceae Sisyrinchium bellum blue-eyed grass 0.001 b Lamiaceae Salvia mellifera black sage 1 Liliaceae Yucca schidigera Mohave yucca 0.01 b Nyctaginaceae Abronia umbellata ssp. umbellata pink sand verbena 0.2 b Nyctaginaceae Mirabilis californica California four o'clock 0.01 b Onagraceae Camissonia cheiranthifolia ssp. suffruticosa shrubby beach-primrose 0.2 b Papaveraceae Eschscholzia californica California poppy 0.01 b Poaceae Bromus diandrus *ripgut brome 1 Poaceae Melica imperfecta small-flowered melica buds Poaceae Nassella cernua nodding needlegrass 1 Poaceae Vulpia octoflora var. octoflora six-weeks fescue 1 Polygonaceae Eriogonum fasciculatum var. foliolosum California buckwheat 0.1 b Portulacaceae Claytonia parviflora ssp. parviflora narrow-leaved miner's lettuce 1 Primulaceae Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. clevelandii shooting star 0.01 b Ranunculaceae Clematis pauciflora virgin's bower 1 Rhamnaceae Ceanothus verrucosus wartystem ceanothus 1 Rosaceae Cercocarpus minutiflorus San Diego mountain mahogany 0.1 b Rubiaceae Galium angustifolium ssp. angustifolium narrowleaf bedstraw 0.05 b Rubiaceae Galium nuttallii ssp. nuttallii climbing bedstraw 0.2 b Rutaceae Cneoridium dumosum bushrue 1 Scrophulariaceae Castilleja affinis ssp. affinis coast Indian paintbrush 1 Scrophulariaceae Castilleja foliolosa woolly Indian paintbrush 1 Scrophulariaceae Mimulus aurantiacus bush monkeyflower 0.05 b Solanaceae Lycium californicum California box-thorn 1 Solanaceae Solanum parishii Parish's purple nightshade 0.1 b
b = beginning
e = ending
1 = full bloom
27 March 2004: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (see Plant Guide to Borrego Palm Canyon)
James Dillane and I joined Wayne Armstrong on his field trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park today.
Wayne usually takes his class to Coyote Creek Wash, and for over 20 years, that location has been reliably fantastic for blooms in late March. But the last three weeks of temperatures in the 80s and 90s have essentially ended the bloom there, so Wayne diverted his class to Borrego Palm Canyon.
Borrego Palm Canyon was a zoo! I had to wait almost ten minutes to pay my entrance fee for the trailhead, and the parking was nearly all gone when I got there. Most people in Wayne's group were told that the parking was full, and were only given 15 minute passes to drive around. This immediately created a black market for the day passes when people returned to their cars to leave and open up a parking space.
The bloom here was also only a fraction of what it was last year at this time. For example, common phacelia, Phacelia distans, was stunning here one year ago. This year it made a decent display, but didn't approach last year's bloom in quantity and showiness.
But amazingly, the plants looked quite good overall. There were still plenty of annuals blooming, and they didn't look stressed. How they do this is almost completely beyond me, but James speculates that water is somehow transported up from the ground table, perhaps as vapor that condenses near the surface, and made available to plants. There certainly is a lot of water flowing in the Wash at the Palm Grove, and it is amazing to see it all sink into the sand within a fairly short distance downstream.
And despite the trail not being as fantastic as last year, the trail was still excellent for botanizing. Although there were no real stunning displays, at least 30, if not many more species, were in bloom. A bonus produced by the three weeks of heat is that some species were blooming today that weren't blooming last year at this time, such as the cactus and Krameria.
The temperature today cooperated with us, too. This was the coolest day in the last three weeks, with a high of 83° F. Although we had no problems botanizing out in the full sun most of the day, we were glad to finally get into the shade once we crossed the wash at the location of the former bridge.
14 April 2004: Daley Ranch (see Vascular Plants of Daley Ranch, Escondido, California)
James Dillane and I botanized the southwestern section of Daley Ranch, primarily to check the burn area for new species for the Daley Ranch plant list maintained by James. He had already found several new species from a trip a week ago, so was excited at the prospect of exploring further and finding additional species.
I was greatly pleased to see the number of annuals that had germinated in many places! Although the germination rate was very low in most exposed areas, areas that collected more water than the average location had plenty of plants to captivate us. This year is far better than the severe drought year, even though the rainfall is only a few inches more than that year (8 inches in Fallbrook this year compared to 5 inches in the severe drought year). Of course, this year is still nowhere near as good as a normal rainfall year.
The areas that had a decent number of annuals were north-facing slopes, flattish areas, and areas that received drainage from nearby areas of exposed rock, etc. It has become increasingly clear to me in my botanical travels that the average slope of the ground is directly correlated with how much moisture is retained in the soil. In many cases, this factor is almost as important as being on the rainy side or the dry side of mountains.
Most perennials are doing fine this year. They've seen plenty of years with only half the normal rainfall, and are clearly adapted to that. I was ecstatic to see perennials such as spectacular penstemon, Penstemon spectabilis, in full bloom.
Some of the best displays were the blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium bellum; and the fire-follower giant-flowered phacelia, Phacelia grandiflora. It was amazing how the annual plants of Phacelia grandiflora were able to grow so large and robust on such a small amount of rainfall!
Another good display was the prettiest bank of tomcat clover, Trifolium willdenovii, I've seen in any year.
There were a handful of plants of another fire-follower, fire poppy, Papaver californicum. In the Fallbrook fire, I also found just a handful of these poppies in one spot.
The burn area also produced several beautiful patches of the tiny common skullcap, Scutellaria tuberosa, which were a delight to see.
I was totally shocked to see how tall and robust the immature flowering stalks were of what James assured me was small-flowered soap plant, Chlorogalum parviflorum. The leaves were very wide, up to 19 mm. I would never have believed that this was the id, and taken them to be the taller and more robust species of Chlorogalum pomeridianum var. pomeridianum, if James hadn't been such an expert on the flora here!
As for our primary mission, we were quite successful, thanks primarily to the sharp eyes of James. I was quite excited that James spotted a single California polycarp, Polycarpon depressum, in a burn area. I had seen tons of the non-native weedy four-leaf polycarp, Polycarpon tetraphyllum before, but had never seen the native species. James found a red maids that looked a bit different to him, and it is quite possible that it will turn out to be Brewer's calandrinia, Calandrinia breweri. However, verification awaits ripe fruit. We found a new camissonia for the list, either C. micrantha or C. intermedia, which needs a more complete sample to decide between those two species.
I also enjoyed seeing what I think is the only Southern California occurrence of the non-native pink grass, Petrorhagia dubia.
21 May 2004: Otay Mesa Brodiaea / Vernal Pool Location By Brown Field.
This was the Brodiaea-quest trip #5.
On Wednesday, I learned of the supposed location for the voucher #662 by Niehaus of "Brodiaea jolonensis" in San Diego County, thanks to the help of Richard Moe at the Jepson Herbarium. (The location is supposed, since I strongly suspect Niehaus mixed-up the voucher from this location with one of a true Brodiaea jolonensis from northern California.) So today, Friday, Wayne Armstrong and I went off in quest of it. We of course strongly suspected that the species here would turn out to be the standard B. terrestris ssp. kernensis here, but wanted to verify that in person.
The location by Niehaus was wonderfully-specific: "on higher tussock in vernal pool area northwest of junction Airway Road and La Media Road on Otay Mesa", collected on May 2, 1966. I looked in the San Diego Thomas Brothers Map, and those roads still existed 38 years later. There was only a single location where these two roads intersected in the County, just a bit southeast of the southeast corner of Brown Field. From the map, it looked like it was possible that this location had not yet been "developed".
We had no trouble finding that location, and were pleased that some area there, surrounded by commercial buildings, seemed intact. But we saw no "tussocks" there at all. Instead, the intact habitat there was clearly entirely a vernal pool area, with typical vernal pool plants. Coyote thistle, or San Diego button-celery, Eryngium aristulatum var. parishi, was abundant, and there were tons of alkali mallow, Malvella leprosa, in full bloom. I was very impressed with the amount of alkali weed, Cressa truxillensis, growing there as well.
Where the tussocks probably would have been had all been leveled and plowed, with a bulldozed berm surrounding the vernal pool area.
We covered that area pretty thoroughly, including the plowed area next to the intact habitat. But there were no Brodiaeas to be seen, and I wouldn't have expected any B. terrestris ssp. kernensis so close to the vernal pool areas. There was only a small amount of habitat slightly above the vernal pool areas in elevation, and it was smothered by Italian rye-grass, Lolium multiflorum. I don't think any Brodiaeas could have survived the heavy infestation of that dense matted-down grass, nor could any bloom stalks have emerged through that cover.
Outside the actual inundated vernal pool areas, the plants were mostly non-native weeds, a sad testimony to how humans have screwed up California by introducing these weeds, and the lack of stewardship for that area to remove them.
We then tried the area northeast of that junction, but the whole acreage there had been plowed in the past, and it was nearly 100% non-native weeds.
Going back to the car, Wayne noticed that there were intact tussocks on the southwest corner. We explored those, and they were perfect locations for B. terrestris ssp. kernensis! Although there was significant coverage by wild oats and other non-native grasses, there were some areas with very low grass infestations. Most of those areas were covered with ashy spike-moss, Selaginella cinerascens.
But it was far too dry for any Brodiaea to bloom there this year. So after exploring ~ten tussocks, we gave up and headed back to the car.
Just before we got to the car, I caught a glimpse of what looked like a few pathetic specimens of goldenstars, Bloomeria crocea. But when Wayne got close to them, he wondered if they might be the RARE San Diego goldenstar, Muilla clevelandii. We both immediately recognized that the flowers looked like Muilla, not Bloomeria. Since Wayne and I had each looked at zillions of Bloomeria to try to find Muilla clevelandii, we knew exactly what to look for to confirm the id: the absence of anther basal cups. And there weren't any!
There was just one teeny-tiny problem with the Muilla id. When we finally got around to counting the number of petals, there were only five petals, not six. (;-) We were, ahem, a little hasty in jumping deep within a family key instead of starting at the beginning! This is one reason I rarely trust identifications made in the field. There are so many ways to go wrong that only careful identification work at home or the lab can be trusted.
These little depauperate plants turned out to be Dudleya variegata, variegated dudleya. This was just as good as finding Muilla clevelandii for me, since I had never seen either species before.
So even though we found no Brodiaea, we were mighty pleased at finding Dudleya variegata.
We'll return next year to hunt for the Brodiaea, and see the Dudleya variegata in a better year.
15 June 2004: Garnet Peak from Penny Pines (see trail guide, and Wayne Armstrong's beautiful pictures)
Plants are so amazing!
If you had been with me on this trail on 13 March 2004, and seen how dry it was then, and how few annuals had germinated, you probably wouldn't even have come with me on this trail today, figuring that it would be a waste of time. After all, essentially no rain fell since then, and we had nearly a month of extremely high temperatures. So surely there would be no annuals in evidence at all, and even the perennials would look pathetic, right?
This trail was stunningly beautiful! Plants were in bloom everywhere, including good displays of annuals such as gilia.
Wayne Armstrong and I worked on our plant list for this trail, and the trail was so captivating that I ended up missing a CNPS talk I had planned to attend that evening. We kept finding surprise after surprise, and pretty display after pretty display.
The trailhead held little indication of what was to come. But within the first few tenths of a mile, the blooms started coming in profusion, and they never stopped.
Some of the highlights:
- The trail contains FOUR species of Calochortus, each of them in full bloom! It was missing only a single one of the species of Calochortus that are found in the Cuyamaca / Laguna Mountains, C. dunnii, which is found at somewhat lower altitudes than those of our trail.
We spent some time examining the nectaries (glands) of all these species, and ended up with a much better understanding of them than we had previously. There is nothing like studying fresh specimens of different species side-by-side!
The display started with plain mariposa lily, C. invenustus at mile 0.10. But these flowers were far from plain; they had the lavender shades of the splendid mariposa lily, C. splendens, and were the prettiest C. invenustus I'd ever seen. Fortunately, the green stripe on the petals gave away their id easily, else I might have mistaken them for C. splendens.
The key to identify the different Calochortus species heavily uses the characteristics of the nectary glands in the flower. There is one gland per petal, near its base. For C. invenustus, the glands are clearly depressed, covered by a large number of purplish hairs whose ends form a mound over the gland. There is even a bump on the outside of the petal from the sunken gland.
The gland for C. invenustus is surrounded by a very short membrane that is only 0.1-0.2 mm in width. The membrane quickly gives way to a ciliate fringe of hairs, which match exactly the hairs coming out of the gland itself.
The mound of purplish hairs might easily be mistaken as the gland itself, leading to the wrong conclusion about whether the gland is depressed or not, a crucial characteristic of the key. To see the gland, you have to remove a petal and scrape out the purple hairs with your fingernail. Sometimes there is a small opening under the purplish membrane at its base that reveals the depressed smooth gland.
What contortions this flower makes an insect undergo in order to get the nectar! I now understand why I frequently find bees and other insects laying on their side at the base of the flowers; they are not "drunk"; they are simply in the proper position to get the nectar. Furthermore, it is a lot of work to get the nectar. All those hairs effectively separate the gland into many portions, and the insect has to go in-between each of the hairs to get all the nectar. I can imagine their grumbling as they have to maneuver to get the nectar....
C. splendens quickly joined the show at mile 0.14. Its nectary is not depressed. Placing the petals side by side clearly reveals the difference in the coloration at base as well.
We thought it was pretty neat to have these two species virtually side-by-side on the trail. But then at mile 0.23 we came across C. weedii ssp. weedii! There's no mistaking this beautiful Calochortus, with its lovely yellow petals, speckled with red dots and covered by hairs on the inside portion, and the fringed tips. We saw nearly every variation of the red-tipped rim as well, from its complete absence to a striking band on the top.
The stunning variety of the flowers of this species on this trail utterly captivated Wayne, who spent much time in photographing many of them. These flowers alone made Wayne's day, since this species is one of his top 10 wildflowers of Southern California.
Then at mile 0.60 was the topper: C. concolor, the golden-bowl mariposa lily, with its rich golden color. There is no need for a magnifying glass to see its depressed nectary; there is an obvious bump on the outside of the petals!
What an amazing display of Calochortus! If this were the only display on the trail, it would have made our days. But it was far from the only display!
- Two species of Gilia graced the trail, with a lovely lavender species, caraway-leaved gilia, Gilia caruifolia, lining nearly the entire trail. This species was quite tall and showy.
But perhaps the most interesting one for a botanist is a not-very-showy white to pink gilia near the trailhead, which turns out to be a new species for San Diego County, Gilia modocensis.
- The trail was also lined with California thistle, Cirsium occidentale var. californicum. This is one of the loveliest of our native thistles, with a rich deep pink color.
- The fire-followers produced the best displays of all. All of these displays were from the second year after the Pines Fire, and each display was stunning in its own right.
Short-lobed phacelia, Phacelia brachyloba, was near the end of its bloom, but still looked robust and happy, showing off its beautiful flowers just as if it had been watered conscientiously by a gardener. In many places, the petals from literally hundreds of finished blooms on each plant looked like snow drifts under each plant.
The poodle-dog bush, Turricula parryi, looked better than we had ever seen it, in its second year after the fire here. Near Garnet Peak, there were vast seas of purple from its extremely-abundant flowers.
Prickly-poppy, Argemone munita, made fields of white in a number of places. They were especially beautiful when we were coming back at dusk, as is the wont of white flowers everywhere.
San Diego sunflower, Hulsea californica, produced acres of yellow on large, robust, fuzzy plants.
Each one of the above displays alone would warrant a trip to see them. In concert, it is like a botanist died and went to heaven to see a display like this. And all on a very measly half-normal rainfall this year, under very stressful hot and dry weather!
There were many other treats along the trail, of which I'll only mention two. First, I was enchanted by seeing small-flowered collinsia, Collinsia parviflora, which I've never seen outside of San Diego County, with its salmon-colored flowers that quickly change to white. Second, at dusk, on our return journey along the same path, just when you would figure all the displays were over, we came across the large beautiful purple flowers of the giant four o'clock, Mirabilis multiflora var. pubescens. These flowers open only at night. We had not recognized them when we had passed them earlier, mistaking their leaves as those of resprouting Garrya.
Plants are so amazing!
25 June 2004: Palomar Mountain State Park: Weir Trail / Lower Doane Valley Trail Loop (see trail guide, not yet updated from today's trip)
I approached this trail quite today with some trepidation, since when I did it almost exactly a year ago, there were so many deer flies that I had to wear a full-strength bug suit (made of fine-mesh netting to cover everything but my hands and face) in order to allow any botanizing at all. Wearing the suit would have been a bit unpleasant today, since the high temperature was in the low 80s.
Much to my surprise, the deer flies were not bad today at all. It was pleasant to botanize the trail!
I joined Paula Knoll and two other Canyoneers who were doing a preview of the trail prior to their public walk tomorrow. It is always a pleasure to hike with a single Canyoneer, due to their store of knowledge about Nature, and to hike with three of them was a rare treat.
The trail did not disappoint overall for flowers; we added a few new species to the guide, and a few previously-unidentified species were in bloom this year so they could be identified. But the trail was much drier than last year, and the bloom was much less. Annuals in particular had mostly finished, or were looking pretty pathetic.
We talked to the head ranger, J. Lee, after our hike, who told us that they had received just under 20 inches of rain, which is just under half of their normal 40 inches of rain per year.
The ranger also told us deer flies had been out and bad for about a month, so we were lucky not to be bothered by them. In fact, we did see a group of 5-6 people sitting at a picnic table in the campground, all but one of who had netting over their faces. Maybe the fact that three of us sprayed ourselves with deet had something to do with the lack of deer flies, but I don't think so. Before I put on deet, I had previously noticed very few flies near me. I suspect the campground had black flies that were troubling the people at the picnic table, which were largely absent along the trail when we walked it.
For large size or numbers of blooms, the star of the show today was of course the western azalea, Rhododendron occidentale, supported mainly by a cast of one, western dogwood, Cornus sericea ssp. occidentalis.
There were perhaps 20-30 other species in bloom, including a few plants each of Alaska rein orchid, Piperia unalascensis; and western columbine, Aquilegia formosa; and a number of plants of spreading dogbane, Apocynum androsaemifolium; and Parish's burning bush, Euonymus occidentalis var. parishii.
Of course, the most exciting blooms for me are the ones I will now work on identifying!
The meadow just north of the Weir Trail was very dry, and essentially nothing was blooming in it except for slender cinquefoil, Potentilla gracilis var. fastigiata. Last year at this time, there were many blooms of blue-eyed grass, Ranunculus and checkerbloom there.
If you go here during the week, be prepared for 5-10 minute delays each way since they are logging the trees next to the road. The lumber (incense cedar and white fir) is being milled at a temporary mill set up at Mesa Grande. This logging is to provide a safe exit for people in the park in the event of wildfire, and to create a fire break at the roads.
2 July 2004: Kwaaymii Point; Garnet Peak from Penny Pines (see trail guide, not yet updated from this fieldwork)
Wayne Armstrong and I had a delightful spur-of-the-moment day in the Lagunas!
We first went to Kwaaymii Point, looking at the Penstemons there. Even though they were not in bloom, it was quite interesting to see the variation in leaves in the hybrids there. As a bonus, we came across a Stephanomeria virgata in bloom, which had eight ligules. This was another interesting data point in my ongoing analysis of the Stephanomeria virgata characteristics in Southern California, since the only subspecies in the Lagunas, pleurocarpa, is supposed to have only 5-6 flowers per head. (;-)
The rest of the day was spent working on the Garnet Peak Trail guide. Our main goal was to identify all the remaining species that were not fully identified, and we were fairly successful at that. What surprised us was that we found a handful of new species for the trail guide, despite having previously worked on the trail just two weeks ago.
For me, the most exciting new species on the trail by far was Galium angustifolium ssp. nudicaule. I have previously examined literally hundreds of specimens of Galium angustifolium, searching in vain for any other subspecies.
A friend had alerted me to the possible existence of sspp. jacinticum and nudicaule in the area, so I was specifically looking for a different subspecies on the trail. The first Galium angustifolium plants on the trail were clearly the usual ssp. angustifolium. But quite close to Garnet Peak, I saw a much shorter plant and knew immediately that was a different subspecies.
I had seen such short plants before in both the San Gabriel Mountains and San Jacinto Mountains, but they had always seemed consistent with being ssp. angustifolium. The key to separate them is a bit tricky, being:54. Corolla gen hairy
54'. Corolla gen glabrous or not more hairy then st or lf
It turns out the hairiness of the corolla for ssp. nudicaule is minute, consisting of perhaps ten hairs viewable only with a microscope on the back of each corolla lobe. It is even easy to miss those hairs under the microscope! And the leaves usually have about ten hairs as well. So it is easy to conclude that the corolla is not more hairy than the leaf here.
However, the hairs are much more closely spaced on the corolla than on the leaves, which indeed makes them more hairy than st or lf. This is another example of how difficult it is to use most keys; you often have to see both examples of each key couplet element to really know what the key means.
What really tipped me off to the id in the field, in addition to the short stature of the plants, was the inflorescence being few-flowered. I had dismissed that before as simply variation within ssp. angustifolium, which was incorrect.
At home, the clincher was that the stems were indeed papillose on the ridges, as predicted by the identification, whereas the samples of ssp. angustifolium were not.
So I finally concluded: Yay! a different subspecies at last! (;-)
5 July 2004: Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve (see Plant Guide to South Gate to Temecula Gorge)
Claudia Luke and I met a writer interested in learning more about habitat preservation and mountain lions, then I worked a bit on the trail guide, primarily at the Gorge.
The River looked quite different today than I remembered it from previous trips. There were abundant mats of algae in many places. Interestingly, there was a big change where the River flowed over the concrete crossing.
The borders of the water at the crossing itself always had a large population of water cress, Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum. But today, it was nowhere to be found! In its place, was a large population of another native plant I had never seen before in 12 previous visits, knot grass, Paspalum distichum. It probably had been there all along, but hidden by the water cress previously.
Surprisingly, I added five other new species to the trail guide, all from the shaded north-facing slope. None of them were unexpected, and this probably simply reflects the few days of fieldwork done in a non-drought year.
9 July 2004: Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve (see Plant Guide to North Rim Trail and Plant Guide to North Gate to Temecula Gorge)
Mark VanScoy and I gave a tour to a reporter from the Riverside Press-Enterprise, and then I spent some time working on the north rim plant guides.
The poor rainfall this year was quite evident on these south-facing slopes; very few species were blooming, and nearly everything looked dried and parched.
The most interesting find was some very unusual leaves on an Engelmann oak, Quercus engelmannii, on the North Rim Trail. In addition to its normal leaves (55-65 x 16-22 mm, oblong to narrowly oblanceolate, entire, blue-green, tip rounded), it had a small minority of strongly-toothed-with-spine-tips, honking leaves of 95 x 65 mm! Engelmanns are not supposed to have leaves like that!
I took some samples home, and all the hairs are normal Engelmann hairs. The inescapable conclusion is that this is a true Engelmann, not a hybrid, but something has caused perhaps 1% of its leaves to go bonkers this year.
The honking leaves were scattered amidst the normal leaves, so were not the result of something happening to an individual twig.
I've seen zillions of Engelmanns at the Santa Rosa Plateau, but I've never seen anything like this before; I'll watch for it in the future elsewhere.
31 July 2004: Daley Ranch (see Plant Guide to Rock Ridge Trail)
For some time, I have wondered why I essentially only see white everlasting, Gnaphalium canescens ssp. microcephalum, and never fragrant everlasting, Gnaphalium canescens ssp. beneolens. The two species seem to have roughly the same commonness in floras, so this is a bit surprising.
Last year, on a road trip along SR76 and S22 in San Diego County on 21 September, I stopped for every everlasting I saw in bloom, to check for beneolens. I saw many microcephalum, and finally found a single plant that fit the floral descriptions of beneolens. It was quite clear that at least for this transect, beneolens was much less common than microcephalum.
I had mentioned this to James Dillane, and he told me there were lots of beneolens at Daley Ranch. After he told me they were blooming, we picked this relatively cool day to study it and compare it to white everlasting, Gnaphalium canescens ssp. microcephalum. A friend from Fallbrook accompanied us.
There are five major differences in the floras between these species:
- beneolens has strongly-decurrent leaves; microcephalum does not;
- beneolens has erect to ascending cauline leaves; microcephalum has spreading leaves;
- beneolens has narrowly lanceolate leaves on its flowering stems and linear leaves on its basal tufts; microcephalum has leaves ranging from oblong to lanceolate to oblanceolate to spoon-shaped;
- beneolens is sweet-scented; microcephalum is not; and
- beneolens has white-woolly to greenish-yellow leaves; microcephalum is white-tomentose.
Characteristics used in the keys are in bold above. In addition, the Jepson Manual key uses leaves narrowly lanceolate for beneolens versus leaves ± oblong to spoon-shaped for microcephalum.
James had observed that it was easy to separate the two subspecies at Daley Ranch, since microcephalum was always white, and beneolens was always greenish, with narrower leaves.
I was surprised at this distinction, because when I learned microcephalum at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, I had seen both a white form and a green form. Both of these forms appeared to be microcephalum, since neither had any fragrance at all and beneolens was not on the Lathrop and Thorne plant list there.
We saw the first microcephalum at the entrance to Daley Ranch. It was indeed clearly white-tomentose, but the cauline leaves were all clearly ascending! My first thought was of course Oh, brother, here we go again, having to see where the floras went wrong.
But fortunately, the leaves were not decurrent, and they had no smell. The leaves were narrowly oblong to very narrowly oblanceolate. So three out of four key differences went to microcephalum.
James soon led us to beneolens specimens. I was very disappointed in the fragrance of the plants, smelling nothing at first. But both James and my friend detected an odor, and I finally detected the hint of a scent.
In every other character, these specimens matched beneolens well. The leaves were strongly decurrent, and significantly narrower than the microcephalum leaf.
We saw a number of other specimens of both species. With just one other exception, all other specimens of microcephalum had spreading leaves. So I left feeling pretty satisfied that the floras were basically correct and that I could indeed confidently tell the difference between those subspecies.
At home, I looked over pictures I had taken of the plants at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in 2001. It clearly looks like the green plants there are beneolens, which were somehow overlooked by Lathrop and Thorne. I was way too young a botanist then to think that the green form might be a new taxon for the SRP plant list. In fact, I was delighted simply to identify them as G. canescens, since they had been misidentified as G. leucocephalum in lists of plants blooming there.
I plan to go back to the SRP soon to make sure, and voucher one for the SRP plant list.
With our major objective done, we proceeded to other botanizing.
I was delighted when James showed me a species I had never seen before, western sea-purslane, Sesuvium verrucosum. It is a small annual native iceplant, which keys under Petals 0. So I was quite surprised when I looked at its flower and saw what looked to be clearly red petals on top of green sepals! But it turns out there is only one perianth whorl, and these apparently-two parts were actually only a single part.
Nearby was annual water-aster, Aster subulatus var. ligulatus, in bloom, a plant which I had only seen as dead specimens from 2001-2002 at the Santa Rosa Plateau in January 2003. But amazingly, Jane Strong was able to recognize it from the dead plants, and we were able to key it out from the dead plants. It looks very different in bloom! I was surprised to see what small blooms it had.
After all this excitement, we began a plant list for the Rock Ridge Trail. The botanical highlight there was for us to smell the Cleveland sage, Salvia clevelandii, long before we saw it, and then finding it still in bloom at this late date.
On the way back to the trailhead, we came across a young Engelmann oak that had a fair number of the grossly-oversized leaves that I had come across at the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve on 9 July. I still have no idea why this happens.
Although I expected it might be hard to botanize the trails at Daley Ranch on a Saturday due to the vast numbers of mountain bikers there, we weren't bothered at all. We encountered only 4-5 groups of bikers, all but one of whom were very considerate and stopped or slowed down to pass us. Being there at mid-day was probably the key here, since it looked like many bikers had ridden before we got started at 11 a.m.
Copyright © 2004-2005 by Tom Chester.
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Updated 9 January 2005.