Photographs by Michael Charters

The Tejon Ranch is a place I have wanted to visit for many years, but being private property has not been very accessible to the public. It is the largest contiguous piece of private property remaining in California. Recently, at least in part because of an agreement that has been reached between the ranch and environmental groups, and also due in no small measure to the work of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, public access albeit under controlled conditions is increasingly being assured. Those who have opposed the development plans of the ranch should be gratified that a large percentage of the 270,000 acres are going to be conserved, that the Pacific Crest Trail is going to be reconfigured across the ranch, and that there are going to be opportunities for members of the public to explore parts of the ranch on regular guided hikes. The ranch itself sprawls across the Tehachapi Mountains bordering on Interstate 5 with the San Joaquin Valley to the north and the Antelope Valley to the south. Because of the difficulty of accessing the ranch in the past, it has been essentially a floristic black hole, but over the past several years that has begun to change with significant survey work having been done. This area forms a nexus of four bioregions, the Central Valley, the southern Sierras, the Mojave Desert and the Transverse Range, and contains a substantial elevational range permitting the growth of a wide variety of species. In the clear skies above the ranch cruise California condors in abundance and I was especially excited to see them. I missed out on a Tejon Ranch lower elevation Jepson workshop last year, so I was very pleased to be able to join the higher elevation workshop this year led by my friend Neal Kramer and local authority Maynard Moe from CSU Bakersfield. We were joined by the Conservancy's Conservation Science Director Dr. Mike White and Public Access Coordinator Scot Pipkin, and it was a priviledge to share their expertise and knowledge about the ranch. The symbol ^ next to the common name indicates a taxon that was new to me when I photographed it on this field trip, * is for a non-native taxon, and ~ is for an uncertain identification.

I want to emphasize that the Tejon Ranch is private property, and that anyone seeking to visit there should respect that and should do it under the auspices of the Conservancy's public access program. The relationship between ranch, Conservancy and the public is still in the process of being worked out, and it would be regrettable if anyone jeopardized that by trying to enter the ranch without proper authority. Click here for the Conservancy's website.

NOTE: As of December 2018, the Tejon Ranch management has banned the California Plant Society and associated botanical organizations such as Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, the Eriogonum Society and possibly also the Jepson Herbarium from their previously allowed visits to the ranch, due to public opposition to the Centennial Project, a project which Los Angeles County has yet to finally accept and which if finalized will create a 19,000-home community on the Antelope Valley side, a gigantic developed footprint of enormous financial value to the ranch but one where the threat of fire, the enormous consumption of water, and the impact of tens of thousands of vehicles are obviously of great concern. It appears that for the moment at least, the ranch's participation in further botanical endeavors seems at an end, and it sadly remains to be seen whether it will ever be revitalized.

Elegant clarkia
Clarkia unguiculata
[unguiculata = furnished with a claw]

Salvia columbariae

Pink spineflower
Chorizanthe membranacea

Speckled clarkia
Clarkia cylindrica ssp. clavicarpa

Heermann's tarplant
Holocarpha heermannii
[for physician/naturalist Adolphus Lewis Heermann, 1827-1865]

Miniature lupine
Lupinus bicolor

Purple clarkia (white form)
Clarkia purpurea
Tansy-leaved phacelia
Phacelia tanacetifolia

Wand buckwheat ^
Eriogonum roseum

Red spot clarkia ^
Clarkia speciosa ssp. polyantha

Venus thistle, Red thistle
Cirsium occidentale var. venustum
The photographer
[Steve Matson in background]

Chinese houses
Collinsia heterophylla
California thistle
Cirsium occidentale var. californicum


Copyright © 2014 by Michael L. Charters.
The photographs contained on these web pages may not be reproduced without the express consent of the author.

Comments and/or questions may be addressed to: mmlcharters[at]gmail.com.