Bloom Reports from the Anza-Borrego Desert: Detailed Observations From Each Hike in 2011-2012

See also Detailed Germination, Growth and Bloom Reports From Each Hike in 2010-2011 and 2009-2010.

11/7/11: S22, Coyote Creek Road. Our main goal for this trip was to look for Kallstroemia californica, a summer annual. We didn't actually expect to find it, since the monsoonal rain this year was minimal. But we did find a few summer annuals here and there, such as Chamaesyce micromera and Datura discolor. We found one small patch of summer annuals on the hill above Second Crossing.

On our entire trip, the most abundant species in bloom are Eriogonum elongatum, long-stemmed buckwheat along S22 in Culp Valley; Dicoria canescens, desert dicoria, in the "Zero" Crossing of Coyote Creek in the drainage just south of the pavement's end on Di Giorgio Road; Baccharis salicifolia, mule fat, at Second Crossing; and numerous Fouquieria splendens, ocotillo, blooms along S22 and near Desert Gardens. Altogether, we observed a pretty-remarkable 46 species in bloom, with over 689 plants total in bloom. (No species counts more than 99 plants to that total.) The number of species in bloom was high due to making many stops along Coyote Creek in different habitats.

11/11/11: S22, Tubb Canyon. Tubb Canyon was very dry; even Tubb Spring looked quite dry. Most of the species we recorded as being in bloom on this trip were found along S22. We found a "more typical for this time of year" total of over 226 plants of 24 species in bloom.

11/15/11 S2, Grapevine Canyon, Bitter Creek Canyon, Borrego Springs. The blooming stars of the show in Bitter Creek Canyon were Gutierrezia californica, Ericameria brachylepis, Isocoma acradenia var. eremophila, and Eriogonum wrightii var. nodosum, California matchweed, boundary goldenbush, solitary-leaved alkali goldenbush, and Wright's buckwheat, with over 100 plants of each species in bloom except for about 50 plants of Wright's buckwheat. Although the soil was moist, we found only a few germinated annuals, two non-natives: Erodium cicutarium, redstem filaree, and Bromus madritensis ssp. rubens, red brome, and one native: Pholistoma membranaceum, white fiesta flower.

Overall on our trip, including the driving portion along S2 in San Felipe Valley below 3000 feet elevation, we found over 553 plants of 25 species in bloom.

11/22/11: S2, SR78, Pinyon Wash, Pinyon Canyon, Harper Flat. Although the soil in this area was moist, we found very little germination so far, just a few scattered Brassica tournefortii, Sahara mustard, along with one of its typical ~one inch diameter clumps containing 50 crowded plants.

Our drive along Pinyon Wash was filled with Chrysothamnus paniculatus, punctate rabbitbrush, in glorious full bloom. We had no idea there were so many plants of this species here! We'd been seeing a handful of plants along SR78, but Pinyon Wash contains the mother lode for this plant in this area. There were a number of chuparosa and ocotillo in bloom in the wash as well, with many ocotillo fully leafed out. Pinyon Canyon had a number of Eriogonum wrightii var. nodosum, Wright's buckwheat, in full bloom.

Overall on our trip, including the driving portion along S2 in San Felipe Valley below 3000 feet elevation, we found over 341 plants of 15 species in bloom.

11/30/11: Wilson Trail. This trip was at 4,000 feet elevation, well above the cutoff of 3,000 feet elevation for this page, so is not included in the plots and tables below. The only germination was abundant and widespread non-native Erodium cicutarium, redstem filaree, which is able to germinate at cool temperatures and thus gets a head start on the native annuals. This is probably a major reason behind its dominance in many places in Culp Valley.

12/4/11: S2, SR78, Fish Creek, Wind Caves Trail. Although this area had received rainfall, we saw no annual germination. Outside of Fish Creek itself, the plants looked pretty pathetic overall, typical of the end of the drought season. But some plants in the wash, with the higher groundwater table, looked pretty good. The Isocoma acradenia was in full bloom, and we even saw one plant each of Astragalus crotalariae, Salton milk-vetch, and Xylorhiza orcuttii, Orcutt's woody-aster, in bloom.

On our entire trip, including the drive along S2 and SR78, we saw over 241 plants of 21 species in bloom.

See Wayne Armstrong's Pictures from this trip.

12/10/11: S22, Borrego Palm Canyon. This was a delightful trip, since there were a number of baby annuals of five native species, unfortunately accompanied by larger numbers of three non-native annuals. The most abundant annuals were the non-native Brassica tournefortii, Saharan mustard and Bromus madritensis, red brome, and the native Pholistoma membranaceum, white fiesta flower, with hundreds of seedlings of each species. We saw lesser numbers of Phacelia distans, common phacelia, and the non-native Erodium cicutarium, redstem filaree.

On our entire trip, including the drive along S22, we saw over 373 plants of 16 species in bloom.

See Wayne Armstrong's Pictures from this trip.

12/15/11: S22, Fonts Point Wash, Villager Peak Trail, lower Rattlesnake Canyon. No germination was noted along the Villager Peak Trail, and only a handful of individual seedlings were noted in Rattlesnake Canyon, from several native species and from Brassica tournefortii.

On our entire trip, including the drive along S22 and a stop in Fonts Point Wash, we observed over 170 plants of 17 species in bloom.

See Wayne Armstrong's Pictures from this trip.

12/19/11: S22, Villager Peak Trail, upper Rattlesnake Canyon. Germination in upper Rattlesnake Canyon was almost as poor as in lower Rattlesnake Canyon, with only a few spots having more than just a few seedlings.

On our entire trip, including the drive along S22, we observed over 282 plants of 18 species in bloom.

12/23/11: S22, Palo Verde Canyon. Germination was essentially non-existent in Palo Verde Canyon.

On our entire trip, including the drive along S22, we observed over 222 plants of just 10 species in bloom.

12/28/11: S22, Glorietta Canyon. We observed good numbers of annuals of four native species in Glorietta Canyon on 12/28/11, and smaller numbers of another ten native species. However, good germination was confined to patchy fairly small areas, mostly in the washes and canyon floors, with little germination on hillsides.

On our entire trip, including the drive along S22, we observed over 236 plants of just 8 species in bloom.

1/6/12: S2, PCT North of SR78 at Scissors Crossing. Some native germination was observed, but 99% of all the seedlings were from two non-native species, Erodium cicutarium, redstem filaree; and Bromus madritensis rubens, red brome. Redstem filaree was everywhere, whereas red brome was mostly on north-facing slopes.

On our entire trip, including the drive along S2, we observed over 142 plants of 24 species in bloom.

1/8/12: ABF Rebman Field Trip: S3, SR78, S2, Pinyon Mountain Road. No intensive field survey was conducted. The list of plants in bloom were just the ones noted during the trip. Just 18 plants of 8 species were seen in bloom.

1/10/12: S2, PCT North of SR78 at Scissors Crossing. Same conditions as on 1/6/12 in the area surveyed both days, plus we observed significant native annual germination in the sandy area north of the large parking area on S2 a bit north of Scissors Crossing, including Camissonia pallida, Loeseliastrum schottii and Camissonia californica.

On our entire trip, including the drive along S2, we observed over 209 plants of 26 species in bloom.

1/18/12: S22, California Riding and Hiking Trail from Hellhole Canyon toward Culp Valley, Little Surprise Canyon. Nearly all the species we observed in bloom were from two stops along S22 on Montezuma Grade. Germination was shockingly absent along nearly the entire length of the California Riding and Hiking Trail, with just a handful of Cryptantha and Chaenactis carphoclinia seedlings in just a few areas, accompanied by just three small areas where Pholistoma membranaceum, white fiesta flower, has germinated, and one sandy area along a drainage that had a hundred plants of Pectocarya recurvata, curvenut combseed, each about one inch high with a single very tiny flower. There was very sparse germination in Little Surprise Canyon, with some of the tiny Senecio mohavensis plants producing just a few tiny buds.

If you blinked while hiking or driving past any of those areas, none of those plants would have been seen.

The following pictures show just how bad it was at the beginning of the Hellhole Canyon Trail; at the junction of the Hellhole Canyon Trail and the California Riding and Hiking Trail; at about a half mile up the California Riding and Hiking Trail; and in Little Surprise Canyon. In those pix, germination was only seen in Little Surprise Canyon.

On our entire trip, including the drive along S2, we observed over 298 plants of 38 species in bloom.

1/22/12: S2, Fossil Canyon. We made three stops along S2 to check on the germination:

The total number of blooms on our entire trip was low, only 140 plants of just 24 species in bloom.

1/30/12: S2, SR79, Lowermost Oriflamme Canyon. We observed some germination in stops along Oriflamme Road, as well as some germination in the 0.40 miles of Oriflamme Creek that we surveyed above the Campground site. However, the germination was significantly less than we expected from what we had seen in Mason Valley on a stop along S2 on 1/22/12.

Although we saw several shrub species in full bloom, Ribes indecorum, white-flowering currant; and Ziziphus parryi, lotebush, most shrubs had no buds on them. They looked like they were barely surviving, and not thriving like they should be doing at this time of year.

Although we saw 42 species in bloom in total, there were only 471 plants in bloom by our count, a very low total for that number of species in bloom. For example, we saw a single pathetically-small plant of chia, Salvia columbariae, in bloom, without any other baby plants of that species present. Seedlings of many other annual species appeared to be missing totally, or were few in number.

See Wayne Armstrong's photos from this trip.

2/3/12: S2, SR79, Rainbow Canyon. Rainbow Canyon presented several different faces to us. Parts of it had decent germination, with plants either just about to flower, or plants in flower. Most of these annuals were very small, as expected in a year with poor rainfall. Some of these areas had chuparosa in full bloom, and looked pretty good. But other areas had only annual species finishing bloom and beginning to dry up, and it looked like the bloom was over!

Overall on this trip, we observed over 742 plants of 56 species in bloom. That is a low number of plants for that many species in bloom. For example, last year, when we had 58 species in bloom on 1/23/11, we had 1,656 plants in bloom, 2.3 times as many. And those were showier plants on average, with more blooms per plant.

That comparison of the bloom numbers also obscures the fact that this year there are large areas of the Borrego Desert that have essentially no blooms, with no annuals present at all. Last year, the numbers of plants in bloom often came from plants in the lower desert, where the bloom totals this year approach zero.

We're lucky we can go to the desert transition area and find blooms this year!

See Wayne Armstrong's photos from this trip.

2/9/12: S2, SR79, Bisnaga Alta Wash. Full bloom has begun here, but it isn't the full bloom that most people expect in the desert. We observed over 1,871 plants of 67 species in bloom on 2/9/12 in Bisnaga Alta Wash and nearby, numbers that typically are found at the beginning of full bloom (see the plots). Of those 67 species, 20 were annuals that we hadn't seen in bloom previously this year. Coincidentally, we have now observed 67 species of annuals in bloom so far this year, over half the number we usually see in bloom in each entire year.

However, some people might be hard-pressed to find any plants in bloom, since the vast majority of these annuals are tiny plants only an inch or two tall, with small flowers, and are found only in places that received more water. Two examples are:

The first barrel cactus, Ferocactus cylindraceus, and desert pincushion, Chaenactis stevioides, plants were seen in bloom on this trip. Both of these species are among the last bloomers in the usual bloom sequence. However, the hillsides of pebble pincushion, Chaenactis carphoclinia, had yet to grow their bloom stalks, so they were reporting that the season wasn't as far along as the other two species were reporting.

One of our main goals for this trip was to find the plants of Lotus haydonii that were vouchered here. Although we were quite disappointed not to find any plants of that species, or even the similar L. scoparius, we were stunned to find our first specimen of Horsfordia alata essentially at the exact voucher location! This is only the second record in San Diego County of this species.

See Wayne Armstrong's photos from this trip and Michael Charters' Photo Gallery from Bisnaga Alta Wash on 2/9/12.

Pictures From Each Hike

See Photo Gallery of Desert Species Observed in Bloom for photographs organized by flower color. The date and location of each picture are given in that table.

Most of the rest of Tom's pictures were taken for scientific purposes, and not specifically to show anything about the bloom. However, they may be of interest to people showing some aspects of what the bloom was like on a given date. Tom's pictures are not even on standard webpages; Table 3 gives links to a directory and you have to click on the link for each picture to see it. Scientific names are used almost exclusively for the picture names.

Table 3. Links to Directories With Pictures From Each Trip

November 07
November 11
November 15
November 22
November 30
December 4
December 15
December 19
December 23
January 18
January 22
January 30
February 3
February 9

See also the pictures from Wayne Armstrong for the trips on 12/4/11, 12/10/11, 12/15/11, 1/30/12, 2/3/12, and 2/9/12, and Michael Charters' Photo Gallery from Bisnaga Alta Wash on 2/9/12.

See also Tom's Pictures From Each Hike in 2010-2011 and 2009-2010 (caution: some pictures may have been deleted due to web space limitations).

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Copyright © 2008-2012 by Tom Chester, Kate Harper, and Mike Crouse.
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Updated 15 February 2012