This was more in the order of a trail exploration than a botanical hike. I was eager to resolve some of the uncertainties I had from my last hike to this area, so I drove up to the same trailhead my friend Richard Sapiro and I used on 25 July, and followed Robinson's directions to "walk west, up the jeep road, to the top of the ridge." I wanted to see if more careful scrutiny could locate the four indistinct jeep paths he refers to. I also wanted to check the species of Chrysothamnus that was growing along the trail, and to confirm or correct the species of Ribes previously reported to be montigenum.
Upon my return to the car, all my questions had been answered. I see now that trying to follow Robinson's directions and reconcile them with the Moonridge topo map is very difficult due to the trail not being on the map and Robinson's regrettably inadequate directions. At that trailhead, as is indicated on the topo map, there is a locked metal gate across what appears to be a rocky jeep road. Robinson says, "Pass the locked gate and walk west, up the jeep road, to the top of the ridge." Something may have changed since Robinson wrote this, since it is clearly incorrect to say 'pass the locked gate,' because you don't. Instead, in the fence along the left side of the road before coming to the gate, there is a wooden hiker's and equestrian gate which we didn't pay any attention to last week. From there no trail is apparent, but if you go straight through the gate and up the hill a short way, you will see a path winding up through the woods. I built a rock cairn to show the direction. This might or might not be the 'jeep road' that Robinson was referring to, although I doubt that a jeep would have an easy time getting up it. It is fairly steep but by following it you will quickly gain access to the top of the ridge, and from that point, Robinson's direction to "continue west, atop the ridge" makes perfect sense because you really are on top of the ridge. Someone has thoughtfully placed rock cairns along the way to indicate the correct route, although it is pretty evident where the trail goes. Soon you drop down to the 4-way junction, as Robinson says, where to the right is toward the Green Canyon trail, to the left is toward Wildhorse Canyon, and straight ahead is the trail to Sugarloaf Mt. This junction is #4 on the map. I only discovered this by hiking around on the same road Richard and I walked on 25 July, and then going left or east at that 4-way junction. It is about 1-1/2 hours to get to that junction by the locked gate and road, and about 30 minutes by the hiker's gate and trail. The problem with the topo map is that it shows the trail, marked 2E02, intersecting with 2N93 about 1/4 mile from the trailhead, whereas it actually comes right down to the trailhead.
One last uncertainty I had was in regard to another junction not indicated on the topo map. On 25 July, I wrote, "About a mile from the beginning there was a junction with one road going off to the left (eastward) and another going straight and then curving around to the right (westward)." Today, rather than going to the right toward the Green Canyon Trail junction, I decided to see where the lefthand road went. It is also a rocky and steep jeep path, but it eventually intersects with the trail up from Green Canyon just 100' or so short of the 4-way junction, and so is a quicker way to go if you are following the road that continues from the start past the locked metal gate. It is unfortunate that the sign at the 4-way junction does not say where the eastbound trail goes, and this is something that hopefully will be corrected in the future.
Tom Chester's map with routes in color
actually shows it better. The red route is the way Richard and I originally
went, turning right onto the blue route (toward Sugarloaf summit) at
#5 and returning the same way. On 2 August, I went via the red route
to the yellow route (which is not on the topo map) to the junction at
#5, turning left onto the blue route and following it back to the car.
The unmarked green route (not on the topo map) shows where that trail
ends up. The unmarked purple route at junction #5 shows the beginning
of the trail down into Wildhorse Canyon.
On my way back from the junction I spied a few Nevin's bird's beak (Cordylanthus nevinii) plants in bloom, and that was about the only addition I was able to make today except for some Rydberg's horkelia (Horkelia rydbergii) and what appeared to me to be spreading fleabane (Erigeron divergens) (I didn't collect a sample) blooming right inside the hiker's gate at the trailhead. I did determine that the Chrysothamnus was nauseosus ssp. bernardinus, and the Ribes we saw so much of was cereum (wax currant) and not montigenum. I have corrected the previous entry. There was a great deal of curl-leaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius var. intermontanus), and I don't think I've ever seen it so covered with its beautiful fuzzy seeds.
I fulfilled my goals with regard to the Sugarloaf trail in such a short period of time that I decided to drive down the 2N93 on the north side of the ridge and see how that section of road compared to the south side. It is a bit less rocky and the distance to Rt. 38 is about 5.5 miles. I stopped at the Green Canyon trailhead and went looking for butterflies and managed to photograph a gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus). There were also lots of the Boisduval's blues that I saw the other day. I wanted to re-photograph the Rocky Mountain buttercup (Ranunculus cymbalaria) as my previous pictures didn't turn out so well, and got some good shots also of the California goldenrod (Solidago californica) which has developed quite well in a short time.
All in all it was a very excellent day. Now I only have to investigate
the trail that comes up from Rt. 38 through Wildhorse Canyon to have
done a complete survey of the trails around Sugarloaf Mountain. Since
the blooming season is rapidly approaching its conclusion, most of my
hikes until early next year will be for the most part trail explorations,
but I will continue to report on them and include anything of botanical
The topo map covering the approach to the trailhead and the trailhead itself for this hike is Big Bear Lake, but most of the trail is on the Keller Peak topo map. The hike begins north of Angelus Oaks and climbs up above the Bear Creek drainage to Siberia Creek, where you can either return to the start or continue on to Rim of the World Highway or to Bluff Lake to see the Champion lodgepole pine. To get to the Seven Pines trailhead, drive up Highway 38 from Redlands to 0.3 miles past the Angelus Oaks Restaurant, then turn left (north) on Middle Control Road (1N06) and follow it down approximately 3-1/2 miles to Santa Ana River Road (1N09). After reaching a section of paved road, you turn left on 1N09 and proceed 1/4 mile to Clark Grade Road (1N54), which is unmarked. At this fork you bear to the right and go 1.7 miles to 1N64 where you turn left and continue another 1.7 miles to the trailhead, which is marked by a wooden sign on the right. There is parking space for a few cars just beyond.
The elevation at the trailhead is about 5000' and the vegetation around the parking area is for the most part chamise (Adenostema fasciculata), bigberry manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca), birchleaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides), desert ceanothus (Ceanothus greggii), scrub oak, California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), and bristly bird's beak (Cordylanthus rigidus ssp. setigerus). The trail for the first mile is almost dead level, then begins to rise gradually as it contours around a series of ridges and heads in a more northerly direction. I saw chaparral honeysuckle (Lonicera interrupta), whorl-leaf penstemon (Keckiella ternata), ashyleaf silktassel (Garrya flavescens), chaparral whitethorn (Ceanothus leucodermis), white sage (Salvia apiana), and a lot of smooth yerba santa (Eriodictyon trichocalyx), but not surprisingly, given that this is August, only the buckwheat and a bit of the Keckiella was blooming.
A little higher up there began to be some blooming longstem buckwheat (Eriogonum elongatum), and I saw what appeared to me to be two different species of everlasting. I'm pretty sure they were both Gnaphalium canescens, but one was quite fragrant and the other hardly at all. Also, the fragrant one had leaves that were somewhat decurrent. The non-fragrant one almost certainly was ssp. microcephalum with non-decurrent leaves and the other could have been either ssp. beneolens or ssp. thermale. I intend to go up to Fish Creek to look at some known G.c. ssp. thermale there and to Santa Rosa Plateau to see some known G.c. beneolens for comparison, and this may shed some light on the identity of these plants. Based on the elevation, ssp. thermale has a slight edge. Along the trail there were also a number of California asters (Lessingia filaginifolia var. filaginifolia) and some Coville's fleabanes (Erigeron breweri var. covillei) that were blooming.
I stopped and collected a sample of Stephanomeria virgata to be able to provide Tom Chester with some data on numbers of flowers per head, then noticed a few white snapdragons (Antirrhinum coulterianum) just finishing this season's bloom and some lovely chicory-leaved stephanomerias (Stephanomeria cichoriacea) in full bloom. The bigberry manzanita began to be replaced by what I believe was the San Gabriel Mountains manzanita (Arctostaphylos glandulosa ssp. glaucomollis), and there were a couple of diminutive Eriastrums, probably densifolium ssp. austromontanum, with a few dried-up blooms left on them.
I only went 2-1/2 miles along the trail because it was fearfully hot, but made a mental note to return in cooler weather. The trail is brushy in places and there are a couple of spots where you have to clamber over short sections where the trail has actually washed away. As I worked my way up and left the open chaparral behind, I began to have some patches of shade which was most welcome, and I stopped and sat on a log to eat my lunch. I saw no other hikers which was not unexpected since the drive into the trailhead might seem daunting to many, but actually the road surface is in much better shape than the one to the Sugarloaf trailhead described in the 25 July report.
On my way down Middle Control Road, I paused at a place that might be seasonally seepy based on plants growing there such as scarlet monkeyflower (Mimulus cardinalis) and round-leaved boykinia (Boykinia rotundifolia). I stopped because I saw butterfly activity and managed to get some decent pictures of California dogfaces (Colias eurydice) and golden hairstreaks (Habrodais grunus).
This is hike #33 in John Robinson's San Bernardino Mountain Trails
This was just a brief excursion to the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve to find and photograph fragrant everlasting (Gnaphalium canescens ssp. beneolens). Santa Rosa Plateau may be reached by travelling south on I-15 beyond Lake Elsinore and exiting at Clinton Keith Road. Turn right and follow Clinton Keith for several miles to the gravel-surfaced entrance to the Visitor Center on the left. This is one point of entry to the Reserve. You may also continue on Clinton Keith Road which becomes Tenaja Road at a sharp right-hand bend. There is a parking area and entrance gate 1/2 mile further on. This is the Hidden Valley Road trailhead. If you continue on, Tenaja Road becomes Via Volcano, and in about a mile there is another signed entrance on the left with parking on both sides of the road. This is the trail to the vernal pools and the Adobes.
Looking at photos I had previously taken and identified as fragrant
everlasting, I realized that any or all of them could be feltleaf (aka
white) everlasting (Gnaphalium canescens ssp. microcephalum),
since it is very difficult to discern the difference from photos, with
the possible exception of close-up pictures of the leaf attachment to
see whether they are decurrent or not. I think that in my early days
of botany, I often confused the two sub-
I hiked in and quickly found everlasting growing in large clumps along
Monument Road. I could smell the sweet fragrance even before I got close
enough to observe the decurrent leaves, so I knew I had the subspecies
I was looking for. All of the mature flowering heads that I measured
were in the 6-7mm range, so that fits with ssp. beneolens. I
looked at many individual stems and concluded that this was not the
subspecies I had seen on 9 August in the San Bernardinos, whose stems
and leaves were greener and not quite as tomentose, and whose leaves
were slightly wider. I still intend to go to Fish Creek next week to
look at ssp. thermale there, and then I think I will have the
answer I'm looking for. In the meantime, you can see some of the pictures
of fragrant everlasting I took
Once I had finished photographing it, I walked around the parking area to see what else was there. I collected a sample of the rabbitbrush that was in prime bloom and that I assumed to be the subspecies I was familiar with, bernardinus. But when I keyed it out later, I was surprised that it appeared to be a subspecies I had never seen before, threadleaf rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. consimilis), with threadlike (1mm or less wide) leaves and short involucres (6-7mm). This was my tentative identification, but I am going to make a return trip to observe the cauline leaves from further down the stem and measure more of the involucres. Nectaring on the rabbitbrush blooms were dozens of small brownish butterflies which I am guessing were woodland skippers (Ochlodes sylvanioides) which are common late summer and fall fliers (although they could have been another closely-related species.
I also saw a smallish yellow-blooming shrub in the Asteraceae that I had trouble with at first even though it looked familiar. Even when I tried to key it later, it didn't want to cooperate, but I am fairly certain now that it was erect golden-aster (Heterotheca sessiliflora ssp. fastigiata), with upper leaf margins strongly wavy and the heads not subtended by leaf-like bracts. There is also a ssp. echioides in the San Gabriels with upper leaf margins either flat or only slightly wavy and a ssp. sessiliflora in beach areas of the South Coast and Santa Monica Mts with heads subtended by large leaf-like bracts, neither of which I've seen. This is a case where both the generic and specific names have changed, as older sources list it as Chrysopsis villosa, which led to it being called hairy golden-aster. Fastigiate means 'clustered, parallel and erect, having a broom-like appearance.'
Other bloomers in the near vicinity were a few prickly poppies (Argemone munita) and California fuchsias (Epilobium canum ssp. latifolium), some California brickellbush (Brickellia californica), and the ubiquitous California buckwheat. On the road up to Mt. Baldy, there were many blooming giant blazing stars (Mentzelia laevicaulis).
On the way home, I decided to drive over Glendora Mountain Road to the east fork of the San Gabriel River because I had not been on that road since the Glendora fire and didn't know whether it was open. It was, and I saw lots more of the Heterotheca and Epilobium, and also some slender-leaved sunflowers (Helianthus gracilentus). Finally, I stopped and collected some twiggy wreathplants (Stephanomeria virgata) to add to Tom Chester's data on #s of flowers per head for this species. He is trying to determine whether there are actually two distinct subspecies or not.
Addendum: 8/16/04: A return trip to the Mt. Baldy area this morning and measurements of about two dozen involucres from several different plants along with observed leaf widths of 1mm or less all the way along the stems suggests that the subspecies of the Chrysothamnus nauseosus around that vicinity is indeed consimilis, but I will wait for Tom's soon-to-be-conducted analysis before definitely declaring it so.
Addendum 8/20/04: Tom Chester's visit to the Mt. Baldy area
yesterday confirmed that we were correct about the identification of
the rabbitbrush as C. nauseosus ssp. consimilis. See pictures
The everlasting was growing near the parking area and it only took a glance to see that it did not look like the fragrant everlasting I had just seen at Santa Rosa Plateau. The stems and leaves were somewhat greener, the plant was smaller in overall stature (the ones I measured were only 18"-20" tall), and the heads in particular were shorter (mostly around 4mm as opposed to 5-6mm in beneolens). Although it did have a sweetish odor, its fragrance was not as strong as in the subspecies named because of that characteristic. I now believe that the everlasting I observed on the Seven Pines to Siberia Creek trail was ssp. thermale. More of it was growing along the trail that goes down toward the creek.
Other bloomers along the trail were hoary aster (Machaeranthera
canescens), spreading fleabane (Erigeron divergens), Wheeler's
common madia (Madia elegans ssp. wheeleri), San Bernardino rubber
rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. bernardinus), southern
mountain woolstar (Eriastrum densifolium ssp. austromontanum),
Nevin's bird's beak (Cordylanthus nevinii), Martin's paintbrush
(Castilleja applegatei ssp. martinii), broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia
sarothrae), Davidson's buckwheat (Eriogonum davidsonii),
Wright's buckwheat (Eriogonum wrightii var. subscaposum), Munz's
buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. munzii), California-aster
(Lessingia filaginifolia var. filaginifolia), and San Gabriel
beardtongue (Penstemon labrosus). Down around the creek there
were several other things blooming: perennial mouse-
The day was warm with billows of white clouds scudding overhead, and since I had never been to the upper trailhead to the Fish Creek trail, I decided to drive up there. It's about 5 miles from the lower trailhead to the upper, and the road for the most part is in surprisingly good condition. Both trailheads are well-marked with roomy parking areas. A lovely breeze was blowing through the jeffrey pines and white firs, and the clouds were getting darker as though portending a storm, but none ever materialized. The ground between the conifers was covered with low snowbush (Ceanothus cordulatus) and greenleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula) shrubs as I hiked the short 0.7 miles to the junction of the trail that descends to the Aspen Grove. There was not a whole lot blooming in this area, but I did see both San Gabriel beardtongue (Penstemon labrosus) and beaked penstemon (Penstemon rostriflorus), both of the buckwheats I had seen below, some southern monardella (Monardella australis) and quite a lot of spineless horsebrush (Tetradymia canescens).
On my way back down, I stopped again at the lower trailhead to take a second look at some yellow butterflies that were nectaring on the Eriastrum. They were California dogfaces, and the difference between the males and females was dramatic. The California dogface is the state butterfly of California, and although I could glimpse the spectacular pattern of the upper forewings of the males as they fluttered amongst the flowers, I couldn't get a photograph because they almost never land with their wings spread. The forewings have a somewhat pointed tip (see photograph) which distinguishes them from the cloudless sulphur (Phoebis sennae), and the females are a solid yellow color with one round black spot on the upper surface of each of the forewings.
My next visit to this area will be to hike the Fish Creek trail hopefully
as far as Fish Creek Saddle, but I don't know when that will be.
The main purpose of today's hike was to photograph red-rayed hulsea (Hulsea heterochroma) which Cliff McLean, a docent at the Los Angeles County Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park and Nature Center, told me he had seen blooming a few days ago. I also wanted to see if there were any butterflies hilltopping on Throop Peak.
Dawson Saddle at 7903' is the highest point on the Angeles Crest Highway and is about 5 miles east of Islip Saddle and about 5 miles west of Vincent Gap. There is a maintenance shed with a sign saying Dawson Saddle with a parking area on the south side. The trail that goes up from there is actually the old trail which is not in good shape, so what you need to do is drive a few tenths of a mile east where there is parking available on the north side of the highway directly across from the trail. It is a bit less than 2-1/2 miles to the summit of Throop Peak, and the trail is not a difficult one. Today was a beautiful day with lovely cool breezes and the only problem was that the bugs were quite irritating. A little ways up the trail there is a sign saying "Dawson Saddle Trail. Built by Boy Scouts the summer of 1982 to commemorate the 75th year of world scouting. Total volunteer hours 3540." This is Hike #80 in John Robinson's 1998 edition of Trails of the Angeles.
The most conspicuous plants blooming along the Angeles Crest Highway especially in the higher regions were the rabbitbrushes, San Bernardino rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. bernardinus) and threadleaf rubber rabbitbrush (C.n. ssp. consimilis), which lined the roadway for miles with yellow, and there were also numerous scattered giant blazing stars (Mentzelia laevicaulis) with their spectacular yellow flowers. I also stopped at a seepy area to see if the scented shooting stars (Dodecatheon redolens) were still in bloom, but unfortunately they weren't. There was however a mass of Bigelow's sneezeweed (Helenium bigelovii) with its dramatic globular heads and brilliant scarlet monkeyflowers (Mimulus cardinalis) in prime condition.
The path starts up from the trailhead through jeffrey and sugar pines and soon is into white firs and lodgepole pines. There was not a great number of blooming species, but being late in the summer it's not surprising that there were some low mats of alpine sulphur-flowered buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. minus) and southern alpine buckwheat (Eriogonum kennedyi var. alpigenum) in good bloom. I also saw a few delicate Davidson's lotus (Lotus nevadensis var. davidsonii) and beaked penstemon (Penstemon rostriflorus), and was pleased to be able to photograph mousetail ivesia (Ivesia santolinoides) which I didn't have any pictures of and which looks like nothing so much as a little pile of fuzzy gray spaghetti.
The trail goes along a ridge and then just below the ridge, and there
are beautiful views of Mt. Williamson and some of the more distant peaks
of the San Gabriels. About three-quarters of a mile up the trail, bush
chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens) starts to make its presence
known and soon takes over the dominant ground shrub position from the
greenleaf manzanitas (Arctostaphylos patula). Many plants had
both fruits and flowers, although most people would not recognize the
latter as flowers. There was a lot of San Bernardino beardtongue (Penstemon
caesius) and pine lousewort (Pedicularis semibarbata), although
their bloom was over. As I got higher there began to be limber pines
(Pinus flexilis) and I saw the remains of several wierd-looking
parasitic pinedrops (Pterospora andromeda)
and snow plants (Sarcodes sanguinea).
Another gooseberry tentatively identified as Ribes montigenum
began to join the more prevalent wax currents (Ribes cereum),
which were covered with red fruits about 3/16" in diameter. A trip
up the trail earlier in the year will be required to firm up this identification.
At a little more than 1 mile up the trail, you reach the first area
that burned in the Curve Fire of 2002, and from this point on you are
seldom far from burned treetrunks and bush chinquapins regenerating.
I looked down at the trailside and saw a plant that I took from its
large pendulous fruits to be a member of the pea family, but the more
I looked at it, the more it shouted Arabis! to me, and checking
Tom Chester's plant guide I saw the broad-seeded rock-cress (A. platysperma)
listed there with a 95% confidence rating. Tom later confirmed from
a picture that it certainly looked like that species, but it blooms
from June to July, so this is another one that will require a return
trip to make a positive identification.
Gently ascending as you traverse the north face of Throop Mountain, in a little less than two miles you arrive at a junction where you have a choice of going to the left two more miles over Mt. Burnham to Mt. Baden-Powell or sharply to the right to Throop Peak. The silky lupines (Lupinus elatus) which had been fairly common along the trail now began to be in bloom. At a Y-junction you can go right and take the direct, steep route to the top (I used this trail on my return), or continue to the left around the south side of Throop Mountain and use the easier ascending trail from there. Along the trail there was volcanic gilia (Gilia ochroleuca ssp. vivida), California fuchsia (Epilobium canum ssp. latifolium), and twiggy wreath plant (Stephanomeria virgata) in good bloom, also a small bushy Eriogonum which I didn't recognize. When I approached the point where I expected to find the red-rayed hulsea, I slowed down and began searching carefully. As it turned out, I would have had to be blind not to see it right next to the trail with several blooms in good shape. I took many shots of it, passed up the coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attentuata) which was past its bloom, and then stopped to enjoy some spineless horsebrush (Tetradymia canescens) in perfect shape and covered with bees.
I took a steep "shortcut" trail to the top of Throop Peak, seeing in the process about two dozen more red-rayed hulseas in full bloom, and found a shady place to eat my lunch. There is a marker plaque on the top which says "Throop [pronounced Troop] Peak 9138', in honor of Amos G. Throop, founder of Throop University in 1891, now known as the California Institute of Technology; May 13, 1992." As I was sitting eating my lunch, I heard a sound that I can only describe as somewhere between a whistle and a whine, and a long-winged white glider drifted slowly almost overhead. After resting for a while I started looking for butterflies. There had been none on the hike up the trail, but right away I began seeing what was obviously a kind of swallowtail flitting in pairs and landing on the bush chinquapins. I didn't have my butterfly book with me, so I had to wait until I got home to identify them as pale swallowtails (Papilio eurymedon), a species the males of which often hilltop on nearby Mt. Baden-Powell and other peaks. A few Grinnell's penstemons (Penstemon grinnellii) were in bloom on the top, and the burned and blackened branches of many bush chinquapins gave evidence that the fire had swept right across the peak.
It only took me 40 minutes to hike back to the car, and I felt it had been a successful outing. Next year I will do this hike in June to see what might be there then. You can see Tom Chester's detailed plant guide for this trail at http://tchester.org/sgm/plants/guides/dawson_saddle_trail.html.
Addendum 8/28/04: Anyone who has dealt with plant names is aware of the fact that not all species have common names. This is especially true of subspecies or varieties, where many taxa are referred to by the same name. I believe that any taxon which is deserving of subspecific status is equally deserving of its own name. Unfortunately there is no official organization to assign common names to such taxa, as there is for birds, so compilers of floras often come up with names on their own or leave them nameless. Tom Chester, Jane Strong and I in our websites have been trying to apply some consistency to names for which little consistency has been applied in the past. A good example is the genus Astragalus, in which taxa are sometimes referred to as milkvetch, rattle-pod, locoweed and woollypod. Ambrosias have been called ambrosia, beach-bur, bur-sage and ragweed. Our Artemisias have received the names sagebrush, mugwort, wild tarragon, wormwood and sagewort. There are many other examples too numerous to list..
We have attempted to apply some logic and consistency in the awarding of common names for the species in our databases, but we are reluctant to change common practice or names that are generally accepted by the major floras. However we are sometimes faced with the dilemma of choosing between two equally distasteful options, adopting a name that is more accepted but less appropriate or logical, or adopting one that is less accepted but more appropriate or logical. There have been times when we have been forced to come up with a common name from scratch. One of the downsides of attempting to apply a consistent name to a group of species is that some of the more interesting, colorful and descriptive names that have been locally used are lost. For example, the species which we have referred to as "smooth many-flowered linanthus" (Linanthus floribundus ssp. glaber) was also known by the lovely name "summer snow," which anyone who has seen it will agree is a very appropriate name, and since it would be a shame to lose it, I have decided to use the name "summer snow linanthus." It is important for this reason not to be obsessive about this process.
Recently we have been struggling with what common names we should apply
to some of our local subspecies of Chrysothamnus nauseosus. When
I first began learning to identify plant species about ten years ago,
I was not particularly concerned with subspecies. It was all I could
do to remember plant names at a species level. So I learned C. nauseosus
by the name rubber rabbitbrush, which is the name most authorities accept,
and which is a name that relates to its rubber-producing potential and
differentiates this rabbitbrush from all the other rabbitbrushes. But
the Jepson Manual lists six subspecies for Southern California and doesn't
give any of them individual names. For C.n. ssp. bernardinus,
the CalFlora database uses and we have decided to adopt the name "San
Bernardino rubber rabbitbrush." This seems appropriate and logical
because even though it is not confined to the San Bernardino Mts or
to San Bernardino Co., its type locality is Bluff Lake near Big Bear.
For C.n. ssp. consimilis, the names used by CalFlora are "leafy
common rabbitbrush" and "gray rabbitbrush," neither of
which are very satisfactory because while common, it is not nearly as
leafy as ssp. bernardinus, and it is not gray. I have decided
to use a name which has been infrequently applied to this taxon (and
I think my colleagues are in agreement) and that name is "threadleaf
rubber rabbitbrush," which is descriptive of its narrow leaves.
For C.n. ssp. hololeucus, which has the very wonderful nickname
"white ghost," because of its densely white-tomentose stems
and leaves and because it stands out amidst surrounding green vegetation
like a white ghost, CalFlora gives the name "common rabbitbrush,"
which it is not except in certain localized areas, and I am joining
Tom in using the name "ghostly rubber rabbitbrush," and for
C.n. ssp. mohavensis, which CalFlora calls "Mojave common
rabbitbrush," I am going to use the name "Mojave rubber rabbitbrush."
The other two subspecies in Southern California are both desert dwellers,
ssp. ceruminosus and ssp. leiospermus, neither of which
we have encountered and the names for which we will worry about when
Monday-Tuesday, 30-31 August 2004 (Angeles Forest Highway and vicinity, San Gabriel Mts)
This week I have been concentrating pretty heavily on one of the species of rabbitbrushes whose blooming period is typically from August to October, which makes it a good candidate to study right now. Anyone who has driven mountain roads like the Angeles Crest Highway during the fall has to have noticed a bright yellow bloom lining the pavements. Of course, earlier in the season, Spanish broom performs the same function, and there are indeed other yellow bloomers right now such as shrubby butterweed (Senecio flaccidus), Parish's goldenbush (Ericameria parishii), and scalebroom (Lepidospartum squamatum), but it is the rabbitbrushes that are by far the most prevalent especially at elevations above 5000'.
What I didn't realize when I first learned to recognize rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) is that there are four subspecies in our local area, an area roughly defined as the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mts, and adjacent desert and coastal margins. The most common overall seems to be ssp. consimilis or threadleaf rubber rabbitbrush, but this is a conclusion that we have only recently come to and may or may not be correct. Tom Chester and Jane Strong had done several field trips along the eastern part of the Angeles Crest Highway, Big Rock Creek Road northwards, and Lone Pine Road eastward to Rt. 138, surveying those areas rather intensively. More recently they had surveyed along Mt. Baldy Road, and of course both Tom and Jane have seen rubber rabbitbrushes in many locations in Southern California. I however was confused about the subspecies and wished to learn more about where they lived and how to differentiate them.
According to the Jepson Manual, sssp. bernardinus, consimilis and mohavensis are often confused, and that was the case with us, having initially lumped bernardinus and what we thought was consimilis together into one subspecies because we believed that to be the only possibility for the San Gabriels. The JM doesn't even list the San Gabriels as a location for ssp. consimilis, saying instead that it is on "generally alkaline soils" in the Tehachapis and San Bernardinos and in the Peninsular Range, while the Munz Flora of Southern California says "occasional in open alkaline valleys, sagebrush scrub, skirting the deserts from San Diego Co. to e. of the Sierra Nevada." A USDA Forest Service article on Chrysothamnus says, "Ecologically, ssp. consimilis is more likely to be found in alkaline valley bottoms." So it came as a surprise when Tom, who was looking for consimilis, found it around Mt. Baldy and began to question whether it was more widespread than we had thought.
Now, as a result of some recent obervations, we realize that along the Angeles Crest Highway, the situation is much more complex than we at first appreciated. Both ssp. bernardinus and consimilis are interspersed and in many cases located immediately adjacent to each other, and in fact it seems to be consimilis that predominates. All of this was basically new to me and so I welcomed the opportunity to learn from Tom and contribute in a small way to the geographical distribution plot that he is developing for this species.
On Monday I decided to drive up the Angeles Forest Highway. I started on the Angeles Crest Highway at La Canada, turned onto the Angeles Forest Highway at Clear Creek, and proceeded all the way to Mill Creek Summit, returning from there to ascend Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road to the Angeles Crest and home. On Tuesday, I retraced the basic route but this time I drove through Sunland, up Tujunga Canyon to its junction with the AFH, continuing over Mill Creek Summit and turning east on Mt. Emma Road toward Littlerock, then swung back on Pearblossom Highway to the AFH, Upper Big Tujunga and the Angeles Crest. I did this mainly because my notes from Monday were somewhat disorganized, and I was having trouble linking the notes to the GPS positions I had recorded and the photographs I had taken.
I was hoping especially to see ssp. hololeucus, the so-called "white ghost," supposedly a fairly frequent resident of the high deserts, sagebrush scrub and pinyon-juniper woodland of the western ends of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts to about 8000', but a taxon which I was completely unfamiliar with and had never seen to my knowledge. Tom had told me that I would have no trouble identifying it if I saw it, even though I knew it would not be blooming yet, and as I drove up the Angeles Forest Highway and finally got to the required elevation, I began seeing what looked to me like rabbitbrushes, but they had a decidedly greenish cast and I didn't think they could be the "white ghosts." I GPS'ed several locations and took some photographs, then suddenly came around a bend and there was one that was distinctly a dusty white color. It had very white-tomentose stems and leaves, and its little nascent buds were extremely woolly. This I felt sure was ssp. hololeucus, and I thought to myself, "Boy, it would be hard to mistake this!"
But this raised the troubling question in my mind as to what the greenish rabbitbrush was. By this time, as a result of my trips to Throop Peak and the Mt. Baldy area, I felt pretty confident that I could fairly easily tell ssp. bernardinus and ssp. consimilis apart, and I knew the green rabbitbrush wasn't bernardinus. All the other consimilis I had seen recently had been blooming, but this only had tiny green buds on it. So I started thinking that maybe this was mohavensis, but it had lots of leaves on it. A little later, I found a blooming rabbitbrush which was completely leafless, and I had read in the Jepson Manual that mohavensis is often leafless at blooming time. The spreading corolla lobes matched what would be the case with mohavensis, so I concluded that that's what it was. There was also a Rancho Santa Ana voucher of mohavensis for this exact area. But now I had two taxa to figure out, the greenish leafy non-bloomers and the leafless bloomers, because by now I had seen a couple more of these. And then I remembered that Tom had said there was supposed to be a green form of hololeucus, and since around each of the "white ghosts" there had been some of these green ones, I decided that they must be hololeucus 'green form.'
While going up Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, I saw some more of the purported "mohavensis" blooming, although these were not completely leafless, but rather had the majority of their leaves dried up and dead. When I reached the Angeles Crest Highway, I saw more plants that looked similar to the last group I had seen, but these were going to seed. I began to have doubts about the Upper Big Tujunga Canyon "mohavensis." After all, it wasn't even supposed to start blooming until September, and its habitat according to Munz was joshua tree woodland and creosote bush scrub. But I still held on to "mohavensis" for the one on AFH because it had just started to bloom and was completely leafless already, and there was a Rancho Santa Ana voucher for ssp. mohavensis just south of Mill Creek Summit exactly where I had seen it.
I redid my notes on Tuesday, and more carefully recorded GPS locations,
but did not ultimately reach any different conclusions. The hololeucus
down on Mt. Emma Road seemed to be primarily the white form, whereas
up around Mill Creek Summit, it was the green form that appeared to
predominate. I was fairly con-
Meanwhile, I was very happy to have been introduced to a "white
ghost," and didn't think that I would ever fail to recognize it
if I saw it again.