Flora of Upper Tubb Canyon / Big Spring, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Fig. 1. Google Earth View of Upper Tubb Canyon / Big Spring Area. The route surveyed on 17 January 2013 is shown in blue. Click on the picture for a larger version with landmarks labeled.



The Big Spring tributary of Upper Tubb Canyon must be one of the best-kept secrets of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We, and zillions of other people, have driven S22 starting down the Montezuma Grade without having any idea that the very dry landscape around S22 harbors not only a "Big Spring", but a creek with over a half-mile of year-round flowing water! We were simply dumbfounded to discover this the first time we looked at a Google Earth view of the area, and saw the extensive stretch of vegetation along it.

However, the water is normally guarded well by dense vegetation, steep slopes, and waterfalls. Schad (2010, p. 318) comments in describing a hike to Big Spring that:

the water gushes through tall thickets of seepwillow and thorny tangles of catclaw and mesquite - making it hard to reach the water with one's hide intact.

However, a lightning-caused fire burned the entire area in August 2012, which created a window of opportunity to explore the spring and the creek below it before the vegetation grows back and once again make access difficult. However, be warned that there are a number of waterfalls along the creek below Big Spring, so the trip below Big Spring is not for the faint of heart.

Checklist for Upper Tubb Canyon / Big Spring

This checklist is compiled from 2.5 days of fieldwork:

This preliminary checklist is probably still incomplete for some winter / spring annuals and perennials, and some of the determinations may be incorrect that were made from resprouting plants or young annuals not yet in bloom. Species that were not definitively determined are identified in the checklist below.


The family name is abbreviated to the first five characters in order to save space in the table rows.

An asterisk before the Common Name indicates a non-native taxon.

The column labeled #Pls gives a minimum estimate of the number of plants from the field surveys, up to a maximum of 99 plants, for species seen in the field surveys for which abundances were noted. A ~ before the number indicates that the species or subspecies determination is not certain, but instead was just our best guess from the observed plants.

Because no vouchers for this area were present in the Consortium of California Herbaria on 18 January 2013, no voucher column appears below. Mary Jo Churchwell is currently documenting this area, so vouchers will be present online in the future.

Version for printing, without lines and other text on this page: html (4 pages) or pdf Clickbook booklet (1 double-sided page). (See printing instructions for an explanation of these options)

#FamScientific Name(*)Common Name#Pls
1PteriCheilanthes covilleibeady lipfern15
2PteriCheilanthes viscidasticky lipfern1
3PteriPellaea mucronata var. mucronatabird's-foot fern4
4PteriPentagramma triangularis ssp. triangularisgoldback fern2
5CupreJuniperus californicaCalifornia juniper15
6EphedEphedra asperaMormon tea25
7SauruAnemopsis californicayerba mansa99
8AcantJusticia californicachuparosa99
9AdoxaSambucus nigra ssp. caeruleablue elderberry20
10AmaraAmaranthus fimbriatusfringed amaranth99
11AnacaRhus ovatasugar bush99
12ApiacApium graveolens*celery99
13ApiacBerula erectacutleaf water-parsnip99
14ApocyFunastrum cynanchoides var. hartwegiiclimbing milkweed60
15ApocyMatelea parvifoliaspearleaf1
16AsterAdenophyllum porophylloidesSan Felipe dogweed99
17AsterAmbrosia salsola var. salsolacheesebush99
18AsterArtemisia ludoviciana ssp. incomptamountain mugwort99
19AsterBaccharis salicifolia ssp. salicifoliamule fat20
20AsterBahiopsis parishiiParish's goldeneye99
21AsterBebbia juncea var. asperasweetbush99
22AsterBrickellia californicaCalifornia brickellbush3
23AsterBrickellia frutescensshrubby brickellia60
24AsterChaenactis fremontiiFremont pincushion30
25AsterCirsium vulgare*bull thistle~6
26AsterEncelia actoniActon encelia99
27AsterEncelia farinosabrittlebush99
28AsterEricameria brachylepisboundary goldenbush25
29AsterErigeron canadensishorseweed~3
30AsterEriophyllum wallacei var. wallaceiWallace's woolly daisy1
31AsterGutierrezia sarothraematchweed30
32AsterLasthenia gracilisgoldfields99
33AsterMalacothrix glabratadesert dandelion3
34AsterMonoptilon bellioidesdesert star3
35AsterPectis papposa var. papposachinch-weed99
36AsterPerityle emoryiEmory's rock-daisy99
37AsterPluchea sericeaarrow-weed99
38AsterPorophyllum gracileodora50
39AsterPseudognaphalium luteoalbum*common cudweed20
40AsterSenecio flaccidus var. monoensisMono ragwort9
41AsterSonchus oleraceus*sow thistle2
42AsterStephanomeria pauciflorawire-lettuce80
43AsterTrixis californica var. californicaCalifornia trixis99
44BoragAmsinckia intermediacommon fiddleneck30
45BoragCryptantha barbigera var. barbigerabearded cryptantha15
46BoragCryptantha pterocaryawing-nut cryptantha15
47BoragEmmenanthe penduliflora var. penduliflorawhispering bells99
48BoragPectocarya recurvatacurvenut combseed2
49BoragPhacelia distanscommon phacelia30
50BoragPhacelia minorwild canterbury bells6
51BoragPholisma arenariumsand plant1
52BoragPholistoma membranaceumwhite fiesta flower75
53BrassBrassica tournefortii*Sahara mustard25
54BrassDescurainia pinnatawestern tansy-mustard1
55BrassHirschfeldia incana*shortpod mustard8
56BrassNasturtium officinalewater cress99
57BrassSisymbrium orientale*Oriental mustard99
58BrassThysanocarpus curvipes ssp. eradiatusfringe-pod1
59CactaCylindropuntia bigeloviiteddy-bear cholla50
60CactaCylindropuntia ganderiGander's cholla99
61CactaEchinocereus engelmanniiEngelmann's hedgehog cactus75
62CactaFerocactus cylindraceusCalifornia barrel cactus50
63CactaMammillaria dioicaCalifornia fish-hook cactus15
64CactaMammillaria tetrancistradesert fish-hook cactus3
65CactaOpuntia basilaris var. basilarisbeavertail cactus99
66ChenoChenopodium fremontiiFremont's goosefoot6
67ChenoChenopodium murale*nettle-leaved goosefoot40
68CrassDudleya saxosa ssp. aloidesdesert dudleya10
69CucurCucurbita palmatacoyote melon15
70CucurMarah macrocarpawild-cucumber5
71EuphoBernardia incanawestern bernardia1
72EuphoChamaesyce melanadeniared-gland spurge99
73EuphoChamaesyce micromeraSonoran spurge99
74EuphoChamaesyce serpyllifolia ssp. serpyllifoliathyme-leafed spurge1
75EuphoChamaesyce setilobastarfish (Yuma) spurge99
76EuphoDitaxis lanceolatanarrowleaf ditaxis99
77EuphoDitaxis neomexicanaNew Mexico ditaxis99
78EuphoEuphorbia erianthabeetle spurge2
79EuphoStillingia linearifolialinear-leaved stillingia99
80FabacAcmispon glaber var. brevialatusshort-winged deerweed5
81FabacAcmispon rigidusdesert lotus5
82FabacAcmispon strigosusstrigose lotus2
83FabacLupinus concinnusbajada lupine1
84FabacLupinus sparsiflorusCoulter's lupine30
85FabacMelilotus indicus*sourclover~50
86FabacProsopis glandulosa var. torreyanahoney mesquite30
87FabacSenegalia greggiicatclaw99
88FouquFouquieria splendens ssp. splendensocotillo10
89GeranErodium cicutarium*redstem filaree99
90GrossRibes indecorumwhite-flowering currant20
91KrameKrameria erectaPima rhatany99
92LamiaHyptis emoryidesert-lavender65
93LamiaSalvia apianawhite sage1
94LamiaSalvia columbariaechia2
95LamiaScutellaria mexicanaMexican bladder sage15
96LoasaMentzelia albicauliswhite-stemmed blazing star20
97LoasaMentzelia veatchianaVeatch's blazing star2
98MalvaAyenia compactaayenia40
99MalvaHibiscus denudatusrock hibiscus5
100MalvaMalacothamnus aboriginumIndian Valley bush mallow60
101MalvaSphaeralcea ambigua var. ambiguaapricot mallow2
102MalvaSphaeralcea ambigua var. rugosadesert globemallow99
103MolluMollugo cerviana*carpet-weed2
104MontiCalyptridium monandrumsand cress10
105NyctaBoerhavia coccineascarlet spiderling10
106NyctaBoerhavia triquetra var. intermediafivewing spiderling99
107NyctaMirabilis laevis var. retrorsaBigelow's desert four-o'clock99
108OnagrCamissonia strigulosastrigose suncup3
109OnagrCamissoniopsis confusaSan Bernardino suncup~5
110OnagrCamissoniopsis pallida ssp. pallidapale suncup2
111OnagrEpilobium canum ssp. latifoliummountain California-fuchsia99
112OnagrEulobus californicusCalifornia suncup10
113PapavArgemone munitaprickly poppy99
114PapavEschscholzia minutiflora ssp. minutiflorasmall-flowered poppy3
115PlantKeckiella antirrhinoides var. microphyllalittle-leaved chaparral beardtongue15
116PolemEriastrum eremicum ssp. eremicumdesert woolly-star~30
117PolemEriastrum sapphirinum ssp. sapphirinumsapphire woolly-star~15
118PolygEriogonum fasciculatum var. polifoliumCalifornia buckwheat99
119PolygEriogonum wrightii var. nodosumWright's buckwheat20
120PortuPortulaca oleracea*common purslane99
121RhamnZiziphus parryi var. parryilotebush20
122RosacPrunus fremontiidesert apricot99
123RosacPrunus ilicifolia ssp. ilicifoliahollyleaf cherry2
124RubiaGalium stellatumstar-flowered bedstraw2
125RutacThamnosma montanaturpentine broom1
126SalicSalix exigua var. exiguanarrowleaf willow99
127SalicSalix laevigatared willow30
128SimmoSimmondsia chinensisjojoba99
129SolanDatura wrightiisacred datura99
130SolanLycium andersoniiAnderson's boxthorn60
131SolanNicotiana obtusifoliadesert tobacco85
132SolanPhysalis crassifoliathick-leaved ground cherry99
133SolanSolanum douglasiiwhite nightshade15
134SolanSolanum parishiiParish's purple nightshade20
135TamarTamarix ramosissima*saltcedar15
136UrticParietaria hespera var. hesperapellitory99
137UrticUrtica dioica ssp. holosericeastinging nettle25
138ViscaPhoradendron californicumdesert mistletoe50
139ZygopLarrea tridentatacreosote bush10
140AgavaAgave deserti var. desertidesert agave50
141AgavaYucca schidigeraMohave yucca8
142AraceLemna minutaduckweed99
143ArecaPhoenix dactylifera*date palm~2
144ArecaWashingtonia filiferaCalifornia fan palm2
145CyperEleocharis parishiiParish's spikerush99
146JuncaJuncus mexicanusMexican rush99
147JuncaJuncus xiphioidesiris-leaved rush99
148PoaceAristida adscensionissix-weeks three-awn8
149PoaceAristida purpureapurple three-awn2
150PoaceBouteloua aristidoides var. aristidoidesneedle grama25
151PoaceBouteloua barbata var. barbatasix-weeks grama99
152PoaceBromus madritensis ssp. rubens*red brome99
153PoaceDistichlis spicatasaltgrass99
154PoaceMelica frutescenstall melica5
155PoaceMelica imperfectacoast-range melic1
156PoaceMuhlenbergia microspermalittleseed muhly1
157PoaceSchismus barbatus*Mediterranean schismus25
158PoaceStipa speciosadesert needlegrass1
159ThemiDichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatumblue dicks10
160ThemiMuilla maritimamuilla2
161TyphaTypha domingensissouthern cattail30
162TyphaTypha latifoliabroadleaf cattail~99

Go to:

Copyright © 2013-2016 by Tom Chester, Kate Harper, Vince Balch, Adrienne Ballwey, Mary Jo Churchwell, Mike Crouse, Walt Fidler, and Karin Vickars (authors in alphabetical order after first two authors)
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: 25 March 2016