Plant Trail Reports, Fallbrook, North San Diego County

30 January 2004: Monserate Mountain (see Trail Plant Guide)

We need rain!!

This trail is in even worse shape in terms of moisture than what I observed four days ago on the Dripping Springs Trail. Essentially no annuals have germinated anywhere on the trail; only a small number of tocalote seeds have germinated at the trailhead. Few grasses anywhere had managed to germinate. Although most of the shrubs still look good, a few are beginning to look stressed.

This comparison with last year is striking: Last year, the shining peppergrass (Lepidium nitidum var. nitidum) was already producing seed on January 15; this year, as of January 30, it hasn't germinated yet.

It is the nightmare come true so far of a repeat of the 2001-2002 extreme drought. We are almost halfway through the rainy season, and we haven't even germinated the annuals.

My main purpose today was to look for the blooms of Eastwood manzanita (Arctostaphylos glandulosa ssp. zacaensis) and Parry's tetracoccus (Tetracoccus dioicus), primarily to voucher them for the San Diego Plant Atlas Project.

The tetracoccus showed no signs of buds, and didn't look all that happy, either. Although last year I found it in bloom on 13 January, I was not too surprised at the lack of blooms this year, because many species bloomed up to six weeks earlier than normal last year.

When I got to the manzanitas, I was pleased that the first plant had a single stem with several sets of blooms. However, that was the only bloom or bud on all of the ~30 plants at this location. There won't be any other blooms this year, because manzanitas set their buds in the summer. Apparently, the plants were too stressed to manage any more than these two sets of blooms.

Surprisingly, the fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) not only looked happy, many plants along the road to the water tower were sending out large numbers of flowering culms. Even more surprising, in the same area there were a large number of Natal Grass (Rhynchelytrum repens) plants doing the same thing.

This location has a lot to do with it. Plants in this area receive extra water, due to runoff from the road and from a roadcut behind them, which also shields them from the afternoon sun. Fountain grass elsewhere showed no signs of new inflorescences.

I had never noticed Natal Grass on this trail before, despite seven previous botanizing trips. But since all seven trips were in August or October, except for a single trip last January, it isn't surprising that I had missed this.

Also along the road, I was very pleased to come across a single shrub that finally revealed its identity to me. I had noticed on one of my first trips that there seemed to be one shrub here that was different. However, I couldn't even find the shrub again on subsequent trips, probably because it was then leafless. Today, it had new growth on it, as well as a few old dead flowers, and I immediately recognized it as chaparral beard-tongue, Keckiella antirrhinoides.

The deerweed (Lotus scoparius) have mostly leafed out, and I was shocked to see that one plant had some leaves with four leaflets! But the JM says it can have even more, 3-6 leaflets.

The Ramona lilac (Ceanothus tomentosus var. olivaceus) has just begun to bloom. If we can only get some rain this week, and maybe even if we don't, this ought to be in beautiful full bloom 2-3 weeks from now. Of all the 73 trails for which Jane Strong and I have done plant trail guides, this trail has the best concentration of this species, with upwards of one hundred plants, with many in dense groupings.

One disturbing note: I noticed for the first time a handful of dead plants of Italian thistle (Carduus pycnocephalus) in one location. This noxious weed has taken over many locations in Fallbrook, and it seems to be spreading rapidly. (For example, I saw it for the first time in one location on the Santa Rosa Plateau this year as well.) If I see any germinating in the future, I'll terminate them.

Plants in bloom: a fair number of California matchweed (Gutierrezia californica) were still in bloom from last year; a single California four o'clock (Mirabilis californica) had a few beautiful first blooms on it; the first blooms of Ramona lilac (Ceanothus tomentosus var. olivaceus); quite a few small-seeded spurge (Chamaesyce polycarpa), which is very similar to, and often mistaken for, rattlesnake weed (Chamaesyce albomarginata); the first bloom of red bush monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus); and a few stems of mule fat (Baccharis salicifolia) with blooms way above my head on stems that had just a few leaves on them. A single toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) apparently bloomed earlier, and was just setting seeds. None of the other toyons had any blooms or buds on them. The first bud was showing yellow color on one slender sunflower (Helianthus gracilentus).

24 February 2004: Heller's Bend (see Trail Plant Guide)

This was the first time I'd seen Heller's Bend outside of August, October or mid-January. It's a whole lot easier identifying plants that are green and becoming more mature! (;-)

Most plants that were problematic before, like unk juvenile fern like cystoperis fragilis are now clearly identifiable (in this case, goldback fern).

The Fallbrook Land Conservancy bought a new parcel right next to Heller's Bend, so I botanized the trail they just created through it today. That parcel is quite interesting - it is mostly very old css that hasn't burned for a very long time.

My main thought as I was traversing it is that I strongly recommend that we burn a small portion of this parcel, to rejuvenate that portion and protect the whole area from losing species. I.e., we may be on the verge of losing some species that only reproduce after a fire, as the older plants die and the viability of their seeds in the seed bank may be nearing its end.

My second thought is that next year this new trail is going to be ablaze with color, if we get some decent rains. I suppose it is still possible this year if the last rain germinates some annuals. (There are no annuals at all along the new trail that I could see; there are annuals along the old road that connects to this new trail.) But I suspect no annuals will germinate until the thick duff thins out along the new trail.

What surprised me the most about both parcels today was that this area must have the world's largest collection of Chenopodium californicum! In my 3 previous visits, I never saw any evidence of these plants at all. Now the trail is almost lined with them in many places! I've never seen more than ~3 plants on any previous trail; there are at least 50 here, and maybe hundreds, stretching along miles of trail.

There were 35 species in bloom. The most beautiful were:

Plants in bloom: Heller's Bend

FamilyLatin NameCommon Name% of Full BloomBeginning
/ Ending
AnacardiaceaeRhus integrifolialemonade berry0.3b
ApocynaceaeVinca major*greater periwinkle0.5b
AsteraceaeBaccharis salicifoliamule fat0.02b
AsteraceaeCotula australis*Australian brass-buttons1 
AsteraceaeEriophyllum confertiflorum var. confertiflorumgolden yarrow0.05b
AsteraceaeGnaphalium bicolorbicolored everlasting1 
AsteraceaeHeterotheca grandifloratelegraph weed0.1 
BoraginaceaeCryptantha (intermedia)?popcorn flower0.1b
BoraginaceaePlagiobothrys nothofulvusrusty-haired popcorn flower0.1b
BrassicaceaeHirschfeldia incana*shortpod mustard0.01 
BrassicaceaeLobularia maritima*sweet alyssum0.5b
BrassicaceaeRaphanus sativus*purple wild radish0.01b
BrassicaceaeSisymbrium irio*London rocket0.05b
CaryophyllaceaeStellaria media*common chickweed1 
ChenopodiaceaeChenopodium californicumCalifornia goosefoot0.03b
CucurbitaceaeMarah macrocarpus var. macrocarpuswild-cucumber0.7b
EuphorbiaceaeChamaesyce polycarpasmall-seeded spurge1 
EuphorbiaceaeEuphorbia peplus*petty spurge1 
FabaceaeLotus scoparius var. scopariusdeerweed0.5b
HydrophyllaceaePhacelia parryiParry's phacelia0.1b
PaeoniaceaePaeonia californicaCalifornia peony0.5b
PortulacaceaeClaytonia parviflora ssp. parvifloranarrow-leaved miner's lettuce1 
PortulacaceaeClaytonia perfoliata ssp. mexicanasouthern miner's lettuce1 
RanunculaceaeClematis paucifloravirgin's bower1 
RubiaceaeGalium nuttallii ssp. nuttalliiclimbing bedstraw1 
SalicaceaeSalix laevigatared willow1 
ScrophulariaceaeMimulus aurantiacusbush monkeyflower0.3b
SolanaceaeNicotiana glauca*tree tobacco1 
UrticaceaeUrtica urens*dwarf nettle1 
IridaceaeSisyrinchium bellumblue-eyed grass0.001b
PoaceaeAvena barbata*slender wild oats1 
PoaceaeBromus madritensis ssp. rubens*red brome0.3b
PoaceaePoa annua*annual blue grass0.2b
PoaceaeVulpia myuros*rattail fescue0.5b

b = beginning
e = ending
1 = full bloom

Go to:

Copyright © 2004 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 27 February 2004.