Field Trips Log
It was my birthday weekend, and my wife had planned for us, after my daughter finished taking her SAT II tests, to go up to the Santa Barbara area to celebrate. Since I had a few hours to spare during the morning, I decided to go out to Placerita Canyon County Park and check out the state of things there. I had not been in to Placerita since the Foothill Fire of last year, and I was eager to see what the status of the bloom was. To get to Placerita, you exit from the 14 freeway (north of where it splits off from the I-5) on Placerita Canyon Road and go east a couple of miles to the entrance on the right.
I first decided to meander around the Ecology Trail which is a 1/2-mile
loop that begins and ends at the rear of the nature center. I immediately
saw in bloom buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), heartleaf penstemon
(Keckiella cordifolia), toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia),
common deerweed (Lotus scoparius var. scoparius) and sun cups
(Camissonia bistorta) with its characteristic long stigma exceeding
the anthers, but then I began to see white snapdragons (Antirrhinum
coulterianum), and soon there was the most incredible display of
that species I've ever seen. The trail wound up through a grassy area
that had clearly been scorched, and soon provided another Camissonia
(probably intermedia), caterpillar phacelia (Phacelia cicutaria
var. hispida), lots and lots of morning glory (Calystegia macrostegia),
yellow pincushion (Chaenactis glabriuscula), golden yarrow (Eriophyllum
confertiflorum), cliff asters (Malacothrix saxatilis) nine
feet tall, California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), whispering
bells (Emmenanthe penduliflora), calabazilla gourd (Cucurbita
foetidissima), leafy daisy (Erigeron foliosus), broad-leaved
lupine (Lupinus latifolius var. latifolius), purple nightshade
(Solanum xanti), slender sunflower (Helianthus gracilentus),
perezia (Acourtia microcephala) just about done, rose snapdragon
(Antirrhinum multiflorum), common phacelia (Phacelia distans),
Next I headed up the main trail toward the Walker Ranch picnic area, and here I saw purple clarkia (Clarkia purpurea), California figwort or bee-plant (Scrophularia californica), farewell-to-spring (Clarkia bottae), tons of elegant clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata) and slimy (or many-flowered) monkeyflower (Mimulus floribundus). It was evident that the recent rains had had a negative effect on the trails, and there was a group of volunteers relining the trail with stones. I saw many yellow-throated phacelias (Phacelia brachyloba), which is a species typically found only after a burn, and the beautiful yellow monkeyflowers (Mimulus brevipes) along with the streamside species M. guttatus. I initially thought the farewell-to-springs were speckled clarkia because they were so speckled, but I quickly realized that they lacked the dark reddish blotch in the center, the filaments were all approximately the same width, and the ring of hairs was at the tip of the hypanthium, making them bottae. Later I would see a great many speckled clarkias (Clarkia cylindrica) so I was able to easily compare them.
As I moseyed up the trail, new species kept appearing, mostly in great abundance. There was splendid gilia (Gilia splendens), lanceleaf dudleya (Dudleya lanceolata), wild roses (Rosa californica), stickleaf (Mentzelia micrantha), mountain phacelia (Phacelia imbricata), cobweb thistle (Cirsium occidentale var. occidentale), a stunning patch of Humboldt lilies (Lilium humboldtii) with a hummingbird flying around them, western vervain (Verbena lasiostachys), Chinese houses (Collinsia heterophylla), Spanish clover (Lotus purshianus), chick lupine (Lupinus microcarpus) and globe gilias (Gilia capitata). The trail to the Midgate is almost completely overgrown and appears not to have been maintained this year. Beyond that junction I encountered common linanthus (Linanthus parviflorus), blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum), red maids (Calandrinia ciliata), soap plants (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) with their blooms not fully open yet, sticky madia (Madia gracilis), smooth cat's ear (Hypochaeris glabra), and for me the icing on the cake, several gorgeous butterfly mariposa lilies (Calochortus venustus). The mariposa lilies are my favorite group of wildflowers, and it had been several years since I had seen this species the last time.
In addition to all these taxa, what was interesting to me was what I didn't see. There were no black, white or purple sages, no goldfields, and no white nightshades, which were all things I might have expected to see. But for anyone who wants to see a great display of wildflowers, I heartily recommend this location. I don't think it can be beat.
I stopped first to identify a profusion of large white-flowering shrubs that turned out to be my first new taxa for the day, hairy yerba santa (Eriodictyon trichocalyx var. lanatum), the Peninsular Range variant of the smooth-leaf yerba santa we have in the San Gabriels. Next I pulled over to investigate a little woodsy area where I saw a few splendid mariposa lilies (Calochortus splendens), large-flowered collomias (Collomia grandiflora) and imbricate phacelias (Phacelia imbricata ssp. patula). There also was some spearleaf mountain dandelion (Agoseris retrorsa) and some diamond-petalled clarkia (Clarkia rhomboidea).
I continued up the highway and stopped at a wide turnout near where I had seen masses of summer snow linanthus (Linanthus floribundus ssp. glaber) last year, and immediately saw some little blue flowers nodding in the breeze on the tops of tall slender stems. I got out of the car and crawled through a wire fence to see what they were. It was western blue flax (Linum lewisii var. lewisii) which I had seen only once before on a Jepson field trip to the Big Bear area last year. After photographing that species, I saw a little cow path leading up onto a grassy knoll and decided to see where it led. I walked along it a little ways and saw a flash of yellow ahead, and was amazed to find one of the plants which had brought me to the Lagunas, the beautiful golden bowl mariposa lily (Calochortus concolor). Although I saw a few more later in the day, this fortuitous encounter provided me with the most photogenic individual I would see all day.
My next stop was at the GPS location Wayne had provided for me, where he and Tom Chester found Brodiaea terrestris ssp. kernensis and Calochortus dunnii blooming last year. I walked along both sides of the road about a 1/4 of a mile and although there were masses of plain or shy mariposa lilies (Calochortus invenustus) ranging in color from white to lilac to pale blue, I was not able to find any dunnii and concluded that it was just too early still for them. I did see the yellow-flowered velvety false lupine (Thermopsis macrophylla var. semota), what I believe was San Diego hulsea (Hulsea californica), and a lupine that judging by the smell appeared to be Lupinus escubitus var. austromontanus. And there were onions and plenty of earth brodiaeas. But the Calochortus dunnii will just have to wait for another day.
I headed back to the Penny Pines trailhead of the Garnet Peak trail where I immediately found Palmer's ceanothus (Ceanothus palmeri) which I had seen once before but not in bloom. The yellow form of common linanthus (Linanthus parviflorus) was all around the trailhead area, as well as imbricate phacelia, large-flowered collomia, western morning glory (Calystegia occidentalis ssp. fulcrata) and plenty of tall California thistles (Cirsium occidentale var. californicum). A little farther along the trail there was a Davidson's buckwheat (Eriogonum davidsonii) and a Parry's fringed onion (Allium parryi), both of which were on his plant guide in approximately the right place (I got confirmation on this from Tom on samples I sent him). There were other things I was looking for on his guide, and I soon found them, blue-witch nightshade (Solanum umbelliferum), Parish's bluecurls (Trichostema parishii) which I had only seen previously at the native plant garden at Wild Animal Park, and caraway-leaved gilia (Gilia caruifolia). I am trying to get used to the idea of pronouncing Gilia as "jee-lia" since it was named for the Italian naturalist Filippo Luigi Gilii and in Italian a 'G' before an 'i' is soft and 'i' is pronounced as 'ee' in meet. I thank Al Schneider of SW Colorado Wildflowers for setting me straight on this.
I soon was into an area that was burned in 2002. The trail contours around the rocky open shoulder of the ridge giving great views down into a canyon. Garnet Peak looms ahead. Suddenly I looked down the slope and almost gasped, because there was what looked like several plants of the giant four o'clock (Mirabilis multiflora) covered with flowers, for which I had been looking for several years in many different locations. The difficulty with this species is that it closes up during the day, so you have to either get it in the morning or the evening. I scrambled down the slope and investigated about ten different plants before I found one that had a couple of good open blooms. It was good enough to photograph, but the overall plant still didn't look like much because almost all the flowers were closed. The hillsides on the uphill side of the trail were covered with incredible displays of bluecurls, showy penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis var. spectabilis), poodle-dog bush (Turricula parryi), prickly poppies (Argemone munita), white pincushions (Chaenactis artemisiifolia), and golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum), with occasional splashes of color from San Diego pea (Lathyrus vestitus var. alefeldii) and yellow monkeyflower (Mimulus brevipes).
Just where Tom's guide indicated golden bowl mariposa lily, there were three of them beside the trail, and then a bit farther along a dense patch of yerba santa. Next to a short path to a little overlook there were some tall scarlet larkspurs nodding in the wind, and then the trail dipped down and up again, and began to contour to the right around a ridge, with a few golden eardrops (Dicentra chrysantha) swaying gracefully. As I neared the turnoff to the Garnet Peak trail, the ground suddenly became covered with reddish-colored lace-fringed spineflower (Chorizantha fimbriata var. laciniata) and the three-lobed oxytheca (Oxytheca trilobata) with its delicate white flowers. There were even a few woolly daisies (Eriophyllum wallacei) that I would have expected to see only in the desert, and I saw a San Diego hulsea (Hulsea californica) and a Cleveland's beardtongue (Penstemon clevelandii var. clevelandii), which I recognized as something new for me but didn't knw which Penstemon it was until I sent a sample to Tom.
I turned onto the Garnet Peak trail and began its rocky ascent toward the top. I was looking for a new (for me) species of buckwheat that Tom had on his guide, and in carefully studying the side of the trail saw sticky false-gilia (Allophyllum glutinosum) and then a plant a didn't recognize. It turned out to be little monardella (Monardella nana ssp. nana), for which I had seen another variant in the James Reserve on Mt. San Jacinto. That plant however had been past blooming and didn't look much like this. I saw a white catchfly (Silene verecunda ssp. platyota), and then another buckwheat right on both sides of the trail which I thought might have been the San Jacinto buckwheat, Eriogonum apiculatum, but turned out to be just some more of the Davidson's that looked different.
It was only a short distance to the top. From there are some pretty spectacular views but I didn't linger because the afternoon was wearing on. By the time I returned past the giant four o'clocks, the sun had lowered enough that they were in shadow and almost all the blooms were open. I am so pleased to have finally encountered it at the right time. It was 6:30 by the time I got back to the trailhead, so there was no time to investigate the other areas I had on my list, but they will still be there when I go back in a few weeks to see whether the Dunn's mariposa lily is blooming.
I reached the fence along the ridge that divides Van Tassel Canyon and Fish Canyon which was the point of my farthest advance on my May hike, and armed with a trail description by Dan Simpson, I proceeded onward. The quarry company has bulldozed a road up the ridge to the National Forest boundary, and it is long and extremely steep. I felt better when I got to the boundary and saw the trail contouring around the shoulder of the mountain. Until then I wasn't sure I was on the right track, but then when at one point I looked down into Fish Canyon and saw the trail 1000' below, it began to look like what I remembered from my hike to the Falls of years ago with Bill Hogshead. But it was a long way down, and as I plunged down the steep, poorly-maintained and heavily rutted and overgrown switchbacks, slipping a couple of times because my boots have lost all their tread, I could only think of the difficulty of coming back up. I clipped poison oak out of the way several times, and pushed through the sage, laurel sumac, mustard and various other thriving species on an almost continuously downhill path. By the time I was halfway down, I decided that I wasn't coming back up, but would either take up residence in the Canyon or walk out through the quarry.
I passed quite a few large-flowered phacelias (Phacelia grandiflora), a lot of bush lupine (Lupinus longifolius) and some canyon sweet pea (Lathyrus vestitus var. vestitus), and then an area loaded with indian pinks (Silene laciniata). Near the intersection of this "trail" with the old Fish Canyon Falls trail, there were some patches of the stunningly lovely scarlet larkspur (Delphinium cardinale). Almost three hours had passed since I started up the trail on the other side, and the woods and a heavy overcast made it quite dim in the canyon even though it was only 2:30. I was pretty tired but I felt good about my decision to exit through the quarry. I knew that I didn't have the time or energy to get back up over that ridge. I think it's a shame that the quarry company (Vulcan Materials) has blocked this canyon, but I keep hearing rumors of a deal in the works that would provide at least limited access.
After turning onto the Falls Trail, I almost immediately saw my first Plummer's mariposa lily (Calochortus plummerae), that elusive species that had been my quest in May. Obviously it had been too early then, because as I walked along through the canyon (and I was the only one in the canyon) I saw more and more of them, both beside the trail and higher up on the banks overlooking the trail. I was in search of something else however. Cliff had told me that there was a good population of the rare San Gabriel Mountains dudleya (Dudleya densiflora), which I had never seen before and which I was hopeful to locate in bloom. I didn't think I would have any trouble finding it because he had given me fairly explicit directions to several locations, and this dudleya looks more like ladies fingers (Dudleya edulis) than the other dudleys we might encounter in this area, lanceolata and cymosa. And sure enough, at the first spot, I saw several plants that appeared to be still in bud on a steep cliffside that I couldn't get very close too. So I kept going, and at the point where the trail crosses from the west to the east side, there were plants in full bloom on the bare rocky west wall of the canyon. I walked a few hundred yards farther, came around a corner to where the canyon opened out, and my jaw dropped at the profusion of plants growing out of a rocky scree slope. See pictures here. I scrambled up onto the rocks and photographed to my heart's content. This was a perfect example of "rare but locally common," a phenomenon Richard and I had experienced with the San Fernando Valley spineflower at Ahmanson Ranch.
After getting the pictures I wanted, I walked back down the trail to the trailhead, and then continued down through the quarry, seeing no one and being confronted by no one. It took me approximately 25 minutes to get back to the car, compared to the three hours it had taken by going over Van Tassel Ridge. I hope I don't hear about any more rare plants in Fish Canyon, because I think I'm done with it for a while.
This year I have benefitted enormously from tips that people have given me regarding the locations of many rare and interesting plants, and I thank each and every one of them heartily. They have contributed a great deal to my website. Today, in response to a tip from Jane Strong that Bob Muns had seen a yellow Calochortus in Evey Canyon recently, and thanks to Bob for letting me know where he saw it, I headed up into Evey Canyon for the second time this year. The last time was in March, and then I had been looking for California tea (Rupertia physodes) but didn't see any. However, there had been baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii), bajada lupine (Lupinus concinnus), a lot of Canterbury bells (Phacelia minor), Martin's paintbrush (Castilleja applegatei ssp. martinii), miniature lupine (Lupinus bicolor), mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium glomeratum), redmaids (Calandrinia ciliata), shooting stars (Dodecatheon clevelandii), smooth-leaf yerba santa (Eriodictyon trichocalyx) and spreading larkspurs (Delphinium patens ssp. hepaticoideum). Since a couple of months had passed, I expected a different set of flowers to be in evidence today, and was not disappointed.
The gated area near the parking turnout was awash in mediterranean mustard (Hirschfeldia incana), bush monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus), elegant clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata) and Spanish broom (Spartium junceum), with morning glories (Calystegia macrostegia var. intermedia), white nightshade (Solanum douglasii), yellow monkeyflowers (Mimulus brevipes), golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum) and the phacelias minor, ramosissima and cicutaria providing additional color. As I walked up the fire road, I saw lots of lanceleaf dudleya (Dudleya lanceolata), common phacelia (Phacelia distans), California thistle (Cirsium occidentale var. californicum), purple nightshade (Solanum xanti), and big patches of California everlasting (Gnaphalium californicum) and, unfortunately, Italian thistle (Carduus pycnocephalus), which I have seen almost everywhere I've hiked this year.
Farther along, short-leaved cliff aster (Malacothrix saxatilis var. tenuifolia) began to make itself known, and there was leafy daisy (Erigeron foliosus), whispering bells (Emmenanthe penduliflora), common deerweed (Lotus scoparius var. scoparius), and then some golden ear drops (Dicentra chrysantha), some poodle-dog bush (Turricula parryi) in the woods away from the road, and many globe gilias (Gilia capitata) and masses of farewell-to-spring (Clarkia bottae). I saw golden stars (Bloomeria crocea) beginning to fade, some ramona clarkias (Clarkia similis) in good condition, and then indian pinks (Silene laciniata) began to line the side of the road. A single fire poppy (Papaver californicum) peeped out at me next to a California figwort (Scrophularia californica ssp. californica), and hiding behind all the elegant clarkias were some Chinese houses (Collinsia heterophylla).
As I grew closer to the location Bob had given me, there was a lovely Humboldt lily (Lilium humboldtii) hanging over the trail, and I took a few pictures of it and then began carefully scrutinizing the road bank on the left. A few hundred yards further on, I saw it, a flash of bright yellow about 20 feet up a fairly steep slope. I already had a good idea what it was, but I wanted to look at it more closely, so I took my backpack off and managed to work my way up the bank and over to a position overlooking it. Once I had arranged myself in a position that seemed stable, I inspected the flower and could tell at once that it was another rare plant for me, the slender mariposa lily (Calochortus clavatus var. gracilis) which I had just seen a picture of in the Field Guide to the Rare Plants of the Angeles National Forest. There was only a single plant with several flowers on it, and it was outstandingly beautiful and certainly different from the yellow mariposa lily (Calochortus clavatus ssp. pallidus) that I had seen before in the Santa Monica Mts. Thanks, Bob!
A friend of mine stopped by yesterday with some flowers that she had collected on the Mt. Wilson Trail and wanted to know what they were. One of them was Plummer's mariposa lily (Calochortus plummerae), and so I decided to walk up there this morning to record its location for Tom's plant guide. I didn't remember ever seeing it on this trail before, and it seems funny to me that after all the places I have looked for it this year, I find it in my own backyard.
Anyway, although some things are fading and the prime part of the spring blooming season is sadly coming to an end, the trail is still quite colorful with buckwheat, both caterpillar phacelia (Phacelia cicutaria var. hispida) and the perennial branching phacelia (Phacelia ramosissima var. latifolia), and lots of short-leaved cliff aster (Malacothrix saxatilis) and white sage (Salvia apiana). I found a pair of women pouring water on a plant that Tom and I had puzzled over but which had turned out to be an exotic, foxglove. The only Digitalis species in the Jepson Manual is D. purpurea, but there is no guarantee that this is that species. I will have to take my Bailey's Manual of Cultivated Plants up there and see if I can pin down the species.
There were still some Canterbury bells (Phacelia minor), morning glories, wishbone bush (Mirabilis californica), chia (Salvia columbariae) and mustard evening primrose (Camissonia californica), and some nice displays of bush monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus), golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum), common deerweed (Lotus scoparius var. scoparius), elegant clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata) and leafy daisy (Erigeron foliosus), but the star of the trail today was the spectacular scarlet larkspur (Delphinium cardinale). As I rounded the corner that always marks the transition between the sound of the freeway and the sound of water flowing down the canyon, I saw a patch of about six Plummer's mariposas. I recorded the location, and continued on toward First Waters. There were several stickleafs (Mentzelia micrantha) in bloom and a big grouping of yellow pincushions (Chaenactis glabriuscula). Beyond the slide area and the switchbacks leading up to the new section of the trail, I saw some perezia (Acourtia microcephala) on both sides, then a few delicate sticky false-gilias (Allophyllum glutinosum), and finally a considerable number of globe gilias (Gilia capitata) and farewell-to-springs (Clarkia bottae). There was even an oriental poppy (Papaver orientale, identified for me by Jane Strong) that had somehow made it a mile and a half up from the nearest residences.
This was a drive and stop botany excursion, prompted by some species
reported by Jane Strong and the recent reopening of the Glendora Ridge
Road after the fires of last year. One of my primary goals was to photograph
Grant's gilia (Gilia splendens ssp. grantii),
which I had never seen before. At the first stop on Mt. Baldy Road I
found sticky false-gilia (Allophyllum glutinosum), three different
phacelias (cicutaria, minor and ramosissima), golden
yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum), purple nightshade (Solanum
xanti), both bush and yellow monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus
and M. brevipes), the most extensive display of rose snapdragon
After turning onto Glendora Ridge Road, I drove up to Cow Canyon Saddle, parked and walked about a mile of the Sunset Peak trail, where the bugs drove me crazy (as they have also on the Mt. Wilson trail recently). There was smoothleaf yerba santa (Eriodictyon trichocalyx), masses of buckwheat, some bush senecio (Senecio flaccidus), sticky madia (Madia gracilis), extensive patches of farewell-to-spring (Clarkia bottae), some lovely baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii var. integrifolia), and whispering bells (Emmenanthe penduliflora). I continued along Glendora Ridge Road, which was totally empty and allowed me to putter along at about 5 mph looking for interesting plants. I stopped at almost every turnout, and saw some clusters of Grinnell's penstemon (Penstemon grinnellii var. grinnellii), then stickleaf (Mentzelia micrantha), more farewell-to-springs, and then an incredible showing of urn-flowered alumroot (Heuchera elegans) and southern Chinese houses (Collinsia concolor). There were golden stars (Bloomeria crocea), and some slender mariposa lilies (Calochortus clavatus var. gracilis), which I had just seen in Evey Canyon. The steep rocky road embankments were just loaded with the round white seedpuffs of spear-leaved mountain dandelion (Agoseris retrorsa) and the white blooms of yarrow (Achillea millefolium). I rounded one corner and noticed the intricate patterns made by the fleshy leaves of broadleaf stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium) covering the rocks, so I pulled over to check out its bloom, noticed some rock goldenbush (Ericameria cuneata) not flowering yet, and then another life plant that I was very eager to see, Lemmon's catchfly (Silene lemmonii). It was around 3:30 in the afternoon and the flowers were only beginning to open, but I found a few good ones to photograph. The other thing that Jane had mentioned, Child's collinsia (Collinsia childii), I never did find, but farther along there were some beautiful clumps of San Bernardino beardtongue (Penstemon caesius), and then short-leaved cliff aster (Malacothrix saxatilis var. tenuifolia) and California thistles (Cirsium occidentale var. californicum) took over. A few miles later the terrain changed, the tall embankment along the road ended, and grasses became predominant. I had to go down the road to the East Fork of the San Gabriel River because the Glendora Mountain Road is still closed.
Today's excursion was a follow-up to my brief visit to this area on Tuesday last, which in turn was prompted by an e-mail from Cliff McLean that he had seen some dudleyas along the embankment of the San Gabriel River bikepath that looked like two species intermixed, lanceleaf dudleya (Dudleya lanceolata), and the one he was really interested in which appeared to be the rare San Gabriel River dudleya (Dudleya cymosa ssp. crebifolia). I had quickly found the area he mentioned and discerned immediately what he had been talking about, that there seemed to be two very different-appearing species, one taller with reddish stems and flowers, and the other shorter with yellowish stems and flowers. I had photographed them while my wife continued up the bikeway into a bee swarm, and never having been confident in my ability to key dudleyas, had collected samples to send to Tom. Today I returned to the area to do some follow-up photography, including the leaves which I had neglected on Tuesday, and to study them again in more detail. I have since heard from Tom that based on my samples and my photographs of the leaves, this is indeed the San Gabriel River dudleya, which is included in the Field Guide to the Rare Plants of the Angeles National Forest. The leaves in particular are elliptic and not lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate as with Dudleya lanceolata. I thank Cliff for letting me know about this.
When Jane mentioned Gilia splendens ssp. grantii the other day, it got me to thinking about this species. When I became interested in botany and started learning to identify some plants, all I really cared about was the genus and species. That is, I was not concerned about variants or subspecies. The more I became involved in the field, and the more I interacted with professional botanists and others far more knowledgeable than myself, the more I felt I needed to know about what variants or subspecies I was dealing with. Somewhere along the line, I had learned about splendid gilia, and I was content to know it as Gilia splendens. Somehow, I'm not exactly sure now how, the photograph I displayed in my website became listed as Gilia splendens ssp. splendens. When I found and photographed ssp. grantii the other day, I looked back over my pictures and found that most of them, including the one in my website, were actually that taxon, and I really had no decent photos of ssp. splendens. The Calphotos website also had no pictures of ssp. splendens, so I consulted Tom Chester's plant guides and found that he listed Gilia splendens ssp. splendens on two trails of the eastern San Gabriel Mts.
This morning I drove around via the I-15, SR-138, Lone Pine Canyon Road and SR-2 through Wrightwood and into the eastern end of the Angeles National Forest. The other side of Wrightwood, I saw a sign saying "Road closed ahead," and I shuddered inwardly because I knew that there was still a lot of snow on Mt. Baldy and that there was a section of the Angeles Crest Highway that often remained closed until early- or mid-summer. Would my drive be in vain, and would the closure be before Lightning Ridge? I was in luck, for the closure was at Dawson Saddle, beyond Lightning Ridge, and the Highway is closed from there to Islip Saddle.
Quoting from Tom's plant guide: "A nature trail was created at Lightning Ridge because there is a great variety of species on a short trail. The trailhead, at Blue Ridge summit, is also the second-highest area on the Angeles Crest Highway, exceeded only by the area near Dawson Saddle. This may be one of the most species-rich trails in the area, perhaps because the trail is at the divide between the desert and the coast side of the San Gabriel Mountains in the High Country and perhaps due to the profusion of annuals seen after a fire. The trail offers wonderful vistas of the desert with its dry lakes, distant peaks, and mountain canyons, some of which can be enjoyed from two very-well-placed benches."
It was quite chilly at Lightning Ridge even though the sun was bright, and there was a light breeze blowing. I had neglected to wear anything other than a short-sleeved shirt, so I decided not to spend a great deal of time there. Tom had the Gilia splendens listed near the trailhead, but I didn't see any there, and continued on down the path. I didn't see much blooming except for Martin's paintbrush (Castilleja applegatei ssp. martinii), golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum), and then some western wallflower (Erysimum capitatum ssp. capitatum) as the pines and oaks began to appear along the trail. There was quite a lot of what looked like Linanthus although it was far gone, and a few good patches of Davidson's phacelia (Phacelia davidsonii). I did see a few gilias but at first I took them to be the volcanic gilia (Gilia ochroleuca ssp. vivida) that Tom also has on his plant guide. I kept going and then all of a sudden there was Wright's collinsia (Collinsia torreyi var. wrightii) all along the sides of the trail, which was a new taxon for me.
A fairly dense black oak (Quercus kelloggii) forest began and
I still hadn't seen any more gilias, but then I found alpine gooseberry
(Ribes lasianthum) with a
few stems still in good bloom, the others already in fruit. This was
another new one for me. There really wasn't anything else around the
loop that I was looking for, so I decided to turn back and look at the
gilias I had seen more closely. The ones I had seen before had all been
only a few inches tall, but now I saw some tall ones on the downhill
slope, and the more I studied them, the more it became apparent that
they were not volcanic gilia since the lower stem and leaves were not
arachnoid-woolly and the throat of the flowers seemed pretty uniformly
pink rather than darker as in G. ochroleuca. I took some pictures
and collected a sample to look at more closely under the microscope.
Later I was able to verify that this was the splendid gilia (Gilia
splendens ssp. splendens) that I had been looking for, so I
was pleased to be able to add pictures of that taxon to the Calphotos
website and my own.
This was my last opportunity to check out several areas in the Laguna Mts before heading back east on a college visiting tour with my wife and daughter, and there were several specific things I was looking for. I headed directly for the trailhead to the Garnet Peak trail at Penny Pines, stopping only after the turnoff onto Sunrise Highway from I-8 to inspect a group of pink rock-rose (Cistus creticus) shrubs. On the trail itself, I was surprised right away to see how many golden bowl mariposa lilies were blooming compared to my previous visit only twelve days ago. There were not masses of them, but they certainly were in evidence all along the trail. Parish's Jacumba milkvetch (Astragalus douglasii var. parishii) was blooming near the trailhead and farther along, with an extensive display of tumble mustard (Sisymbrium altissimum), some western morning glories (Calystegia occidentalis ssp. fulcrata), and a mixture of yellow salsify (Tragopogon dubius), spear-leaved mountain dandelion (Agoseris retrorsa) and silver puffs (Uropappus lindleyi), pretty much all gone to seed. The plain mariposa lilies (Calochortus invenustus) and diamond-petalled clarkias (Clarkia rhomboidea) were about gone, but the purple clarkias (Clarkia purpurea ssp. quadrivulnera) and California thistles (Cirsium occidentale var. californicum) were still doing nicely. A bit beyond these displays there was dwarf lupine (Lupinus bicolor), golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum) and leafy daisy (Erigeron foliosus var. foliosus).
I began looking for some of the things on Tom's list I was interested
in, and the first one I found was wand wire-
The next thing I looked for was Indian Valley bush mallow (Malacothamnus
aboriginum) which I found unfor-
Thanks to a note from Wayne Armstrong, I headed next for Kitchen Creek
Road, five or ten miles back down the Sunrise Highway. He had mentioned
Parry's green-gentian (Swertia
parryi), which I had never seen and was anxious to photograph.
Having seen other Swertias, they were not hard to find, and although
he had indicated they were not blooming yet, his visit was a couple
of weeks ago and I was able to find several in full bloom. What an interesting
and beautiful plant it is, one among the relatively limited number with
green flowers. There were other things blooming there too, coyote tobacco
(Nicotiana attenuata), Indian milkweed (Asclepias eriocarpa),
and beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris), but
I was eager to get to the one flower I had most wanted to see, Dunn's
mariposa lily (Calochortus dunnii),
which I had failed to find on my previous visit. Tom had told me about
a place where I would be certain to find it, Inspiration Point, along
Rt. 79 just north of Cuyamaca Lake, so I fired up the van and headed
north. I was a little surprised that there didn't seem to be anything
blooming in the meadows approaching the lake, whereas last year it had
been a solid mass of color. Of course, that was in April, so I guess
I was just too late for that. Only a couple of miles beyond the junction
of Sunrise Highway and Rt. 79, I began to see roadside slopes covered
with the white blooms of morning glories, and then I suddenly realized
that some of them were not morning glories at all, but some other white-blooming
flower, and I had a strong hunch that this was what I was looking for.
I found a place to pull over and clambered up through an area of burnt
chamise stems to find another species of my favorite group of wildflowers,
the mariposa lilies. And then for the next several miles, the hillsides
were covered with them. Now I still have to find the mariposa lily which
is usually called yellow mariposa lily (Calochortus superbus)
but which can actually be white to yellow to lavender, and which I call
the superb mariposa lily because there are at least three other species
which have a better claim to the "yellow" name. I know a single
location for it but I may be too late for this season. And then that
will leave only winding mariposa lily (Calochortus flexuosus)
and the marginally Southern California species C. panamintensis
and C. luteus plus a couple of uncommon variants to complete
my collection of our mariposa lilies.