Flora of Little Surprise Canyon
This checklist is a start at a flora of Little Surprise Canyon, a very small canyon south of the Hellhole Canyon parking lot just west of Borrego Springs.
The flora has been made from only two full days of fieldwork in a single year, on 16 January 2008 and 1 April 2008, and a few hours of fieldwork on 2 March 2009. Fortunately, 1 April 2008 was in prime time, when most of the annuals and perennials were in bloom and could be reliably identified. Nonetheless, this flora is undoubtedly incomplete for three reasons. First, it takes significantly more days of fieldwork to expect a high degree of completeness. Second, some annuals are only seen in some years, and hence might have never germinated in early 2008. Third, there are no online vouchers from this canyon at all.
The name Surprise Canyon is ambiguous, since it is used for several locations. The main use is for a canyon in the Mountain Palm Springs drainage. It is also an alternate name for Flat Cat Canyon immediately north of Hellhole Canyon.
There is very little mention of Little Surprise Canyon online or in reference books. The name is given on the display board in the Hellhole Canyon parking lot. The Canyon is mentioned, as Surprise Canyon, in Lindsay 2001, Anza-Borrego A to Z. However, it is not mentioned in Schad (1998) or Lindsay and Lindsay (2002). Fortunately, the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association has a nice page on it, mentioning it as a nice wildflower location.
The name of Little Surprise Canyon comes from Mark Jorgensen: It is a surprise during good wildflower seasons and holds many species in its shady confines (quoted in Lindsay 2001).
The location of Little Surprise Canyon is shown in the following Google Map, which can interactively be zoomed or panned:
In the Google map on the left, the Hellhole Canyon Parking lot is the dirt area in the upper part of the map just left of center. Little Surprise Canyon extends south from the parking lot. The west branch of Little Surprise Canyon extends south from the middle of the map. The east branch, which consists of two forks, extends from the center of the map to Highway S22 on the right of the map. Click on the plus or minus symbol at upper left to change the scale of the map.
The map on the right shows the survey path on 16 January 2008, much of which was resurveyed on 1 April 2008. East Canyon was surveyed on 26 February 2008, and no new species were found. Highway S22, Montezuma Valley Road, is offset slightly so that our survey route along the road can be seen.
There are no vouchers from this canyon that we know of. Hence the checklist consists entirely of our observations.
Although this canyon is small, it has considerable appeal. It is a beautiful little canyon, with steep (albeit short) walls rising quickly above you which makes it very scenic. It is indeed a good wildflower location, since there was good annual growth in 2008, which was a fairly-low-desert-rainfall year. The favorable environment is due to decent rainfall in this west-side desert location, good concentration of that rainfall along the bottom by the walls of the canyon without too much runoff, and an abundance of niches in which plants can grow.
See also Botanical Trip Report from 16 January 2008.
The following photograph shows the view from near the top of the west branch of Little Surprise Canyon looking north down into the west branch:
Toro Peak is the highest peak on the left in the farthest ridge, and is due north in this photograph. The intermediate ridge that is the highest-appearing feature on the left leads to Indian Head to the left of the pictured area. Borrego Palm Canyon, the Visitor Center, and the Campground are out of sight to the left in front of Indian Head. The closest prominent buildings are the Administrative Headquarters for Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Checklist for Little Surprise Canyon
The Checklist is sorted first by category - ferns, dicots and monocots - and then by family and scientific name. The Family and Scientific Name are from the Jepson Manual. An asterisk before the Common Name indicates a non-native taxon.
A rough estimate of the number of plants, and the number of locations for each species, is given in the last two columns. Maximum values are 99 plants, and 9 locations. The main intent of this column is to indicate the species for which we found very few plants or locations.
Version for printing, without lines and other text on this page: html (4 pages) or pdf Clickbook booklet (2 double-sided pages). (See printing instructions for an explanation of these options)
# Family Scientific Name (*)Common Name # Plants
GPS # 1 Pteridaceae Cheilanthes parryi woolly lipfern 30/5 65 2 Acanthaceae Carlowrightia arizonica Arizona carlowrightia 3/2 70 3 Acanthaceae Justicia californica chuparosa 50/9 58 4 Asteraceae Adenophyllum porophylloides San Felipe dogweed 1/1 80 5 Asteraceae Ambrosia dumosa burroweed 50/9 8 6 Asteraceae Bebbia juncea var. aspera sweetbush 20/9 63 7 Asteraceae Calycoseris wrightii white tackstem 20/9 9 8 Asteraceae Chaenactis carphoclinia var. carphoclinia pebble pincushion 99/9 9 9 Asteraceae Chaenactis fremontii Fremont pincushion 99/9 8 10 Asteraceae Encelia farinosa brittlebush 40/9 8 11 Asteraceae Hymenoclea salsola var. salsola cheesebush 20/5 8 12 Asteraceae Malacothrix glabrata desert dandelion 20/5 8 13 Asteraceae Monoptilon bellioides desert star 10/3 8 14 Asteraceae Perityle emoryi Emory's rock-daisy 50/9 58 15 Asteraceae Rafinesquia neomexicana desert chicory 30/9 9 16 Asteraceae Senecio mohavensis Mojave ragwort 30/9 68 17 Asteraceae Stephanomeria pauciflora var. pauciflora wire-lettuce 5/3 8 18 Asteraceae Trichoptilium incisum yellow-head 10/1 89 19 Asteraceae Trixis californica var. californica California trixis 5/3 85 20 Asteraceae Uropappus lindleyi silver puffs 2/1 73 21 Asteraceae Viguiera parishii Parish's viguiera 2/1 75 22 Boraginaceae Amsinckia menziesii var. menziesii small-flowered fiddleneck 10/1 8 23 Boraginaceae Amsinckia tessellata var. tessellata bristly fiddleneck 99/9 9 24 Boraginaceae Cryptantha angustifolia narrow-leaved cryptantha 99/9 8 25 Boraginaceae Cryptantha barbigera bearded cryptantha 20/9 8 26 Boraginaceae Cryptantha maritima Guadalupe cryptantha 99/9 57 27 Boraginaceae Cryptantha pterocarya wing-nut cryptantha 30/9 76 28 Boraginaceae Pectocarya heterocarpa chuckwalla pectocarya 20/1 8 29 Boraginaceae Pectocarya recurvata curvenut combseed 99/9 59 30 Brassicaceae Brassica tournefortii *Asian mustard 99/9 13 31 Brassicaceae Descurainia pinnata ssp. glabra smooth western tansy-mustard 20/1 87 32 Brassicaceae Guillenia lasiophylla California mustard 10/1 2 33 Brassicaceae Lepidium lasiocarpum var. lasiocarpum hairy-podded pepper-grass 50/9 9 34 Brassicaceae Lyrocarpa coulteri var. palmeri Coulter's lyrepod 1/1 43 35 Brassicaceae Sisymbrium irio *London rocket 5/2 79 36 Cactaceae Echinocereus engelmannii Engelmann's hedgehog cactus 1/1 34 37 Cactaceae Ferocactus cylindraceus California barrel cactus 20/9 66 38 Cactaceae Mammillaria dioica California fish-hook cactus 5/5 45 39 Cactaceae Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris beavertail cactus 5/5 27 40 Cactaceae Opuntia bigelovii teddy-bear cholla 1/1 8 41 Cactaceae Opuntia ganderi Gander's cholla 50/9 9 42 Campanulaceae Nemacladus glanduliferus var. glanduliferus glandular nemacladus 3/1 70 43 Chenopodiaceae Chenopodium murale *nettle-leaved goosefoot 2/1 92 44 Crassulaceae Crassula connata pygmy-weed 99/1 8 45 Cucurbitaceae Cucurbita palmata coyote melon 1/1 67 46 Euphorbiaceae Chamaesyce polycarpa small-seeded spurge 50/9 8 47 Euphorbiaceae Ditaxis lanceolata narrowleaf ditaxis 20/9 62 48 Fabaceae Acacia greggii catclaw 5/1 24 49 Fabaceae Lotus salsuginosus var. brevivexillus short-bannered coastal lotus 20/9 8 50 Fabaceae Lupinus arizonicus Arizona lupine 40/9 8 51 Fabaceae Lupinus sparsiflorus Coulter's lupine 5/1 4 52 Fabaceae Psorothamnus schottii indigo bush 20/9 8 53 Fouquieriaceae Fouquieria splendens ssp. splendens ocotillo 50/9 9 54 Geraniaceae Erodium cicutarium *redstem filaree 99/9 8 55 Geraniaceae Erodium texanum Texas filaree 5/1 1 56 Hydrophyllaceae Emmenanthe penduliflora var. penduliflora whispering bells 30/9 61 57 Hydrophyllaceae Nama demissum var. demissum purple mat 3/1 8 58 Hydrophyllaceae Phacelia cicutaria var. hispida caterpillar phacelia 10/3 75 59 Hydrophyllaceae Phacelia crenulata var. minutiflora little-flowered heliotrope phacelia 30/9 8 60 Hydrophyllaceae Phacelia distans common phacelia 99/9 8 61 Hydrophyllaceae Phacelia pedicellata pedicellate phacelia 10/1 82.5 62 Krameriaceae Krameria erecta Pima rhatany 15/5 60 63 Krameriaceae Krameria grayi white rhatany 15/5 83 64 Lamiaceae Hyptis emoryi desert-lavender 20/9 8 65 Lamiaceae Salvia vaseyi Vasey's sage 2/1 75 66 Loasaceae Mentzelia affinis yellow blazing star 20/5 5 67 Loasaceae Mentzelia involucrata bracted blazing star 20/9 8 68 Malvaceae Hibiscus denudatus rock hibiscus 10/5 71 69 Nyctaginaceae Mirabilis bigelovii var. retrorsa wishbone plant 5/5 64 70 Onagraceae Camissonia boothii ssp. condensata Booth's evening primrose 20/9 9 71 Onagraceae Camissonia californica California suncup 99/9 8 72 Onagraceae Camissonia cardiophylla ssp. cardiophylla heartleaf sun-cup 20/3 78 73 Papaveraceae Eschscholzia minutiflora ssp. minutiflora small-flowered poppy 40/9 9 74 Papaveraceae Eschscholzia parishii Parish's poppy 99/9 58 75 Plantaginaceae Plantago ovata desert plantain 99/9 9 76 Polemoniaceae Eriastrum eremicum ssp. eremicum desert woolly-star 30/9 8 77 Polemoniaceae Gilia stellata star gilia 50/9 59 78 Polemoniaceae Langloisia setosissima ssp. setosissima bristly langloisia 99/9 57 79 Polemoniaceae Loeseliastrum matthewsii desert calico 20/1 7 80 Polygonaceae Chorizanthe brevicornu var. brevicornu brittle spineflower 40/9 8 81 Polygonaceae Eriogonum inflatum desert trumpet 30/9 8 82 Polygonaceae Eriogonum thomasii Thomas' buckwheat 50/9 8 83 Polygonaceae Pterostegia drymarioides threadstem 1/1 75 84 Scrophulariaceae Mimulus bigelovii var. bigelovii Bigelow's monkeyflower 5/2 74 85 Scrophulariaceae Mohavea confertiflora ghost flower 10/2 77 86 Simmondsiaceae Simmondsia chinensis jojoba 5/2 90 87 Solanaceae Nicotiana obtusifolia desert tobacco 1/1 81 88 Solanaceae Physalis crassifolia thick-leaved ground cherry 1/1 72 89 Sterculiaceae Ayenia compacta ayenia 2/1 86 90 Urticaceae Parietaria hespera var. hespera pellitory 30/9 65 91 Zygophyllaceae Fagonia laevis California fagonia 50/9 58 92 Zygophyllaceae Larrea tridentata creosote bush 99/9 9 93 Liliaceae Agave deserti desert agave 10/2 51 94 Liliaceae Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum blue dicks 1/1 59 95 Poaceae Bromus madritensis ssp. rubens *red brome 30/9 65 96 Poaceae Pleuraphis rigida big galleta 3/1 91 97 Poaceae Schismus barbatus *Mediterranean schismus 99/9 8 98 Poaceae Vulpia myuros? *rattail fescue? 20/1 30
Copyright © 2008-2011 by Tom Chester, Wayne Armstrong, Paula Knoll, Kate Shapiro and Michael Charters
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to us at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last update: 24 February 2011