An April Bloom In October!

The 2005 summer monsoon season was very active. From mid-July to mid-August 2005, the Laguna Mountains, and probably most of the Southern California mountains bordering the Sonoran desert, received precipitation on 21 out of 22 straight days.

The monsoons caused an extensive mudslide on S2, at about the mile 2.0 marker and continuing east, on 8 August 2005, which trapped three vehicles and resulted in the closure of the road for a day. So much mud was deposited that Caltrans crews were still working on the mud on the side of the road on 25 October 2005. The mud came from the area burned in the 2002 Pines Fire.

Surprisingly, the wet mud and the continued rain on the fresh surface in the drainages germinated winter annuals, which began to bloom in mid-October 2005, two months later. This makes for a very-interesting comparison with the summer annuals in the desert below that were mostly finished blooming at the same time.

The following pictures show an amazing sight, of the green, robust, growing spring annuals along the drainage, surrounded by the mostly-finished-for-the-year plants in the grassland:

These pictures were taken at approximately 2.4 miles east of SR79 at the following GPS location given in decimal degrees (not in degrees, minutes, seconds):

NAD27, 33.23190, -116.63858, 3071 feet
WGS84, 33.23193, -116.63943, 3071 feet

The vast majority of all the green plants in the drainage are very-robust plants of popcorn flower, Cryptantha intermedia. (Yes, it felt very weird to be keying out a popcorn flower in late October!)

Outside the drainage, especially on the right and at the base of the mountains, are fields of Davidson's buckwheat, Eriogonum davidsonii. (The Davidson's buckwheat is forming great patches of reddish-brown all along SR79 in the Lake Henshaw drainage.) This is blooming a bit later than given in Munz and Beauchamp, which say June - September, probably due to the extensive monsoonal rain.

The property here is owned by the Vista Irrigation District, and is fenced and posted with no trespassing signs. However, one can stop along the road and see all the plants in these pictures along the fence. All pictures were taken from outside the fence, as shown in the following picture:

The display would have been equally good outside the fence, except that Caltrans has been busy scraping the dirt away for several months.

Here is a closeup of one of the popcorn flowers, showing a typical robust plant:

and of a weaker plant from the scraped-off area showing its first blooms:

A few of the other usual spring-blooming suspects that were showing their first blooms are chia, Salvia columbariae; caterpillar phacelia, Phacelia cicutaria var. hispida; white pincushion flower, Chaenactis artemisiifolia; suncup, Camissonia sp. (it wasn't C. bistorta, and no fruit were yet available to pin down the identification); *redstem filaree, Erodium cicutarium; and the wild Canterbury bells, Phacelia minor, shown below:

(An * before the common name denotes a non-native species.) There was one specimen of P. minor that had over 30 blooms on it, and which had been blooming for some time previously, but was too far away for my camera to capture it well. In addition, an annual lotus, Lotus sp., was not yet blooming.

The normal bloom times for the above species, from Munz, are March - July, March - June, March - May, April - July, -, February - May, and March - June, in the order in which the species were mentioned above. October is almost exactly six months later than the typical bloom time, and three months later than the latest bloom time given in Munz!

These spring-blooming annuals were incongruously accompanied by a small number of the usual fall annuals - dove weed, Eremocarpus setigerus; horseweed, Conyza canadensis; and *tumble pigweed, Amaranthus albus.

With the ~two inches of rain received on 16-18 October 2005, this display will continue to get better in the next few weeks. It will be interesting to see what happens during the cold weather of December and January. Will these plants survive and continue to bloom through their normal blooming period?

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Copyright © 2005 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 26 October 2005.