Field Trips Log
March 2005

Tuesday, 1 March 2005 (Anza-Borrego Palm Canyon)

I went down to join Tom Chester and Kay Madore at Anza-Borrego Palm Canyon, because there was one thing in particular I was looking for. New species for me today were: alkali western tansy-mustard (Descurainia pinnata ssp. halictorum), Charlotte's phacelia (Phacelia nashiana), dwarf filago (Filago depressa), sleepy catchfly (Silene antirrhina), slender volcanic gilia (Gilia ochroleuca ssp. exilis), winged cryptantha (Cryptantha holoptera), and the best thing, newberry's velvet mallow (Horsfordia newberryi). Tom and Kay worked on updating the plant guide for Palm Canyon, and we resolved several problems we'd been having with the gilias. Tom plans to do a webpage on the gilias of San Diego County, which should make them a great deal easier to key in the future.

Monday, 7 March 2005 (Laguna Mountains and Anza-Borrego area)

This turned out to be a fairly quick trip to the Laguna Mts. to hike the Garnet Peak Trail. It turned out to be quick because there was essentially nothing blooming on it, and I only went about half the way to the peak. I had wanted to see Calochortus concolor especially, and I had persuaded myself that because of all the rain there would be lots blooming. Boy, was I wrong! However, I did see some species that were new to me such as Adams' manzanita (Arctostaphylos glandulosa ssp. adamsii), ashy silktassel (Garrya flavescens), Palmer's ceanothus (Ceanothus palmeri) and cupleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus greggii var. perplexans). I think the only flowers I saw in bloom were whiskerbrush (Linanthus ciliatus) and baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii var. integrifolia). I came away with the determination to go back and do the trail at the time of the year that Tom had done it, which was June.

I drove down toward Cuyamaca and then headed up toward and through Anza-Borrego State Park, because there was something Tom had told me about growing near the entrance. First I stopped at Grapevine Canyon and photographed two species of Caulanthus that were new to me, Hall's caulanthus (Caulanthus hallii) and Payson's jewelflower (Caulanthus simulans). At the entrance to Anza-Borrego I stopped and photographed Muller's oak (Quercus cornelius-mulleri) and oak gooseberry (Ribes quercetorum), the latter species which was a new one for me.

Sunday, 13 March 2005 (Red Rock Canyon)

This was my first visit to Red Rock Canyon this year, and I must admit that I was expecting great things considering how much rain we've had. But despite the favorable conditions and the good displays of many species, I have seen Red Rock look even better in past years. I have had this feeling in several places now, and I can only suspect that we may have had too much rain.

I hiked into Hagen Canyon and there was an immediately profusion of goldfields (Lasthenia californica), yellow peppergrass (Lepidium flavum), fremont phacelia (Phacelia fremontii), and palmer's monkeyflower (Mimulus palmeri). As I continued up the canyon, I added scalebud (Anisocoma acaulis), long-beaked streptanthella (Streptanthella longirostris), and the gilia that Tom would eventually identify as little gilia (Gilia minor). There were shrubs (unblooming) that I believe were little-leaved mojave indigo bush (Psorothamnus arborescens var. minutifolius), and a beautiful patch of what clearly to me was a Spergularia, but which one? I sat down and got my book out and it seemed to key to salt marsh sand spurrey (Spergularia marina). The problem was that it wasn't on the Red Rock plant list, and seemed to be mostly a coastal species. I collected a sample which I con-
firmed at home later to be that species, and former ranger Mark Faull has since added it to the plant list, along with silver puffs (Uropappus lindleyi) which I also found.

Farther along I found spectacle pod (Dithyrea californica), thick-leaved phacelia (Phacelia pachyphylla), tansy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), cooper's jewelflower (Caulanthus cooperi) and bigelow's coreopsis (Coreopsis bigelovii), but the best thing I found today was something I have looked for in many places and even found a couple of times but not blooming. It was desert heron's bill (Erodium texanum), and in full bloom. Now if I could only find the white-flowering filaree (Erodium macrophyllum), I would have both of the native Erodiums.

Monday, 14 March 2005 (Sawpit Fire Road/Ben Overturff Trail, Monrovia)

The only specific thing I had in mind for today's hike was to see if I could find California tea (Rupertia physodes) which was supposed to be in Monrovia Canyon. I also wanted to see if the pitch trefoil (Bituminaria bituminosa) that we have observed recently on the Mt. Wilson Trail, at the bottom of the Chantry Flats Road, and according to Jane Strong, along the Clamshell Motorway, has spread into this canyon. It was a pleasantly cool day, and the road passes the Sawpit Dam, which interestingly had no water behind it. The last time I had been here a couple of years ago, I had stopped to watch a person (probably one of the dam employees) out in a boat fishing. This is a great place to see big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), which isn't all that common. It was in full bloom. There was a profuse and beautiful display of canterbury bells (Phacelia minor), purple nightshade (Solanum xanti), and the native wild oxalis (Oxalis albicans), and an unbelievable amount of miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata var. perfoliata), but I didn't note many other things.

The road continues about a mile to the junction of the Ben Overturff Trail which was a trail created by Ben Over-turff in the early part of the twentieth century that people used to get to his lodge at Deer Park. The lodge was popular with weekend hikers and was operated from approximately 1911 to 1945, when Mr. Overturff had to give it up due to ill health. The trail winds through some of the most beautiful undisturbed woodlands in the front range of the San Gabriels, and is a 7-mile roundtrip. Although there were many wild plants growing along the trail, the one that I was fascinated to discover simply because it's one that I don't see that often was tower mustard (Arabis glabra), with its tall erect stalks and tiny four-petalled flowers. I have never been anywhere where there was so much of this species.

I walked the foot trail to Deer Park and then returned by way of the Sawpit Fire Road. I did not see any California tea, but I also did not see any pitch trefoil, which I was glad about.

Tuesday, 15 March 2005 (Reagan Ranch)

I went into Reagan Ranch today with my friend Richard Sapiro for two reasons, to find long-spurred plectritis (Plectritis ciliosa ssp. insignis) which Jay Sullivan had tipped us off about, and to see if we could locate the plant which we remembered having seen here before, California tea (Rupertia physodes). After enjoying what was developing as a nice display of purple owl's clover (Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta) and spreading larkspur (Delphinium patens ssp. hepaticoideum), we began searching in earnest the area where Jay said he'd found it. It was only when I left the trail to investigate something else that I found the plectritis. It is a diminutive pink-flowered plant in the Valerian family, which in Southern California includes perhaps one other species in the genus, and the introduced red valerian (Centranthus ruber), which is a native of the Mediterranean, and which I have seen fairly often near habitations in the Santa Monica Mts. and on the Chantry Flats Rd, and in Ireland, where my wife and I saw both a red and white variant of it. I certainly would have been unlikely to have found it if I hadn't known it was there, for it is so small that it would be easily overlooked hiding amongst the grasses, and in fact I may well have passed it by many times without having noticed it. Its subspecific name, insignis, you might think has something to do with being "insignificant," and would seem to be aptly chosen given its tiny stature, however it actually means just the opposite, "distinguished or remarkable," although I don't see how that applies. Later, when our mental image of it had sharpened, we saw many more patches of it growing along the trail.

After taking many pictures of the plectritis (I couldn't tell how well they were turning out so overcompensated), we we went in search of the California tea. We both had a very specific memory of the place we had seen it before and Richard even remembered having seen it in bloom, so it did not take us long to find it. It is a perennial that grows from creeping rootstocks, and so tends to spread over wide areas mostly under shaded areas. It was not in bloom, but its odd-1-pinnate three-leafleted leaves with broadly lanceolate to ovate leaflets growing close to the ground gave us its identity without much ambiguity. Its bloom period is May to June, so we will have to come back in a couple of months to get pictures of the flowers.

Monday, 21 March 2005 (Cushenbury Canyon, San Bernardino Mts)

My goal in driving up to the Big Bear area and Cushenbury Canyon was to see if I could find the spiny greasebush (Glossopetalon spinescens) in bloom as my friend RT Hawke had told me when I met him recently at the Santa Rosa Plateau. I had seen this shrub last year on our Jepson Big Bear field trip in May of last year, but it had not been blooming then. The side canyon where I was heading was between Cactus Flats and Cushenbury Springs, and there is a little sandy parking area. Crossing a small stream channel affords one access to a rocky road that switchbacks up into this canyon. The first thing I saw along the road was what I believe was Minthorn's milkvetch (Astragalus minthorniae var. villosus) with its beautiful lavender purple blooms. There was a small tansy mustard, possibly Descurainia pinnata, growing all along the side of the road. On the whole it was not as profusely flowered as it had been last May. Not far from the beginning I struck out away from the road across a series of stony gullies to the base of the canyon wall, where a lot of desert almond (Prunus fasciculata) was growing. I scouted around and soon found what I took to be the greasebush. I had to examine about 20-30 shrubs before I found one that had blooms on it that were of sufficient quality to satisfy me. See photo here.

In the same area I found in bloom the stunning Cushenbury milkvetch (Astragalus albens), cooper's jewelflower (Caulanthus cooperi), and what I'm pretty sure was Shockley's rock-cress (Arabis shockleyi).

Wednesday, 30 March 2005 (Red Rock Canyon)

I drove up to Red Rock Canyon today to see if I could get some more pictures of the two gilias I saw there last time and collect samples for Tom to identify. Despite the tremendous rains of this year, I don't think that this was the best bloom I have ever seen in Red Rock Canyon, but it certainly was very nice.

I stopped at the parking area called Tamarisk Grove located just at the mouth of the canyon in order to search for Charlotte's phacelia (Phacelia nashiana). Tom and I had seen what we were pretty sure was this species down in Anza-Borrego, but it is out of range there. The Jepson Manual describes it as rare and gives its range as the east slope of the Tehachapis. It is on the Red Rock plant list, and a non-botany friend of mine from the Page Museum told me recently that she had seen it there and told me pretty much where she had seen it. So I climbed up the rocky slope from the parking area through desert holly (Atriplex hymenelytra), at least two different species of Chaenactis, some onion that I still haven't identified, yellow frocks (Eriophyllum ambiguum var. paleaceum), chia (Salvia columbariae) and beautiful desert asters (Xylorhiza tortifolia var. tortifolia), and it only took me about a half-hour before I began seeing the characteristic white-spotted blue flowers of the Charlotte's phacelia. There was no doubt about it, it was the same species we had seen in Anza-Borrego Palm Canyon, where it is seriously out of range.

Later I went into Hagen Canyon which I think is the best part of Red Rock floristically, and photographed and collected samples of what Tom subsequently identified as rosy gilia (Gilia sinuata) and little gilia (Gilia minor). There was also lots of Palmer's monkeyflowers (Mimulus palmeri), brittle spineflower (Chorizanthe brevi-
), desert dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata), fremont pincushion (Chaenactis fremontii), what we think is puff-calyx gilia (Gilia aliquanta ssp. aliquanta), desert sun cup (Camissonia boothii ssp. desertorum), and quite a few other things that I didn't bother to note because they were pretty common.

I need to go back up to Red Rock again during the summer or early fall to try to get a handle on the Atriplexes that are growing in Hagen Canyon. I'm sure there's both confertifolia and polycarpa, but I'm not familiar enough with either to be able to identify them before they set their fruits. And the Red Rock Canyon plant list also has A. parryi, A. rosea and A. phyllostegia, so they might be in there too. Unfortunately the former ranger there, Mark Faull, who had a good deal of expertise with Red Rock flora has retired and the new rangers apparently don't have any botanical espertise.