Flora of the Meadows of Tahquitz Valley,
San Jacinto Mountains

Analysis and Numerology of Taxa Found in the Tahquitz Valley Meadows
Plant Checklist


This is just a start at this page, which will be expanded with photographs and references in the future

The Meadows are one of the major delights of Tahquitz Valley, providing large open areas filled with plants, insects, birds and occasionally deer, and in summer providing a mass of greenery and flowers unrivaled almost anyplace else in Tahquitz Valley.

Meadows in general are areas with a high groundwater level, high enough so that water is essentially at the soil surface in places for at least several months per year. That high groundwater level prevents shrubs and trees from becoming established, and provides the perfect habitat for mostly-perennial herbaceous species that love to have their roots in water most of the growing season. Since these species transpire much less water than a shrub or a tree, this is a positive feedback loop that keeps the groundwater level high in the meadows.

In Tahquitz Valley, with one exception, the meadows are found in the flatter areas of the drainages below the ridges that ring the Valley. In and above the meadows, snow accumulates to great depths during the winter. The snow melt, both flowing above ground and in groundwater, converges on the areas of the meadows, where the water is concentrated enough that the groundwater level comes to the surface. The flatter areas where the meadows are formed allow the groundwater to flow slowly enough away from the meadows to keep the groundwater level high for at least several months. The slower-flowing water in the meadows forms part of another positive feedback loop, that allows soil to accumulate, making the area flatter.

The one exception is Reeds Meadow, which is found in a flatter area where the drainages from three other Tahquitz Valley Meadows converge, again resulting in a high groundwater level.

Unfortunately, these meadows are being rapidly destroyed by a period of rapid erosion that has occurred in the last 100 years due to heavy cattle grazing. This timescale is literally roughly 10,000 times greater than the natural time scale for the destruction of these meadows.

Meadows naturally are destroyed on a geologic time scale of typically millions of years as mountain ranges are uplifted and erosion destroys previously flattish surfaces. In particular, Tahquitz Valley itself is a fairly small remnant surface that is slowly being eroded away on all sides except its north side, due to relative uplift of San Jacinto Mountain in the last 2.6 million years. At the estimated knickpoint migration rate of 12 to 44 km / MY at its edges, Tahquitz Valley will be completely eroded in 0.3-1.0 million years (0.8 mi radius / 12-44 km / MY). The meadows will be gone long before that.

In a wet meadow, the soil is bound tightly by a very dense collection of roots from the perennial species, and shielded from intense rainfall by the dense above-ground vegetation. Heavy cattle grazing affects both; cattle eat the dense above-ground vegetation, exposing the soil, and their trampling destroys the binding of the soil. When heavy rains come in summer thunderstorms, the loose soil is then carried away. The additional soil in the runoff water enhances the erosion force, carving gullies. This creates a feedback loop that operates in a destructive manner. As the first tiny gully is formed, it gives more erosive power to the water runoff, which rapidly deepens the gully with every heavy rain. Within a time scale of decades, deep gullies are formed, which then begin to drain the high groundwater table of the meadow, destroying them as wet meadows. This gullification has happened in many environments throughout the west that have been subjected to heavy grazing, and has been well documented, often through historical photographs.

Little Tahquitz Meadow has already been completely destroyed by creek incision. Tahquitz Creek is incised by (six?) feet there now, which has completely drained the meadow. There is no wet meadow left above the banks of Tahquitz Creek. The former meadow area is still evident, but it is essentially a monoculture of wild tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus, and may soon revert to being a forest. The flora of Little Tahquitz Meadow very clearly shows what has happened; it is very depauperate compared to the other meadows (see analysis below). The only wet areas remaining are those within the banks of Tahquitz Creek little different from a number of areas along the Creek in areas where its bank is forested.

Reeds Meadow is a meadow that is in the process of being destroyed. Most of the area of Reeds Meadow is no longer a wet meadow. However, due to its special location at the convergence of the drainages from three other meadow areas, its total destruction has been delayed. The incised Tahquitz Creek is along only one edge of it, removing only one of its former sources of groundwater and providing only one edge to drain the meadow. As a result, the drying of Reeds Meadow has happened so recently that one can still observe two former meadow levels, one of which still has a few intact giant root mounds of the main meadow sedge, Carex senta. These giant root mounds will be gone within a decade or so.

Both Tahquitz Meadow and Skunk Cabbage Meadow have had smaller drying, but the creeks in those meadows are incised, and the groundwater level, and the soil surface itself, is significantly lower in portions of those meadows. The meadows themselves have lost several feet of soil on average, as can be immediately discovered by walking across the meadows. The Carex senta roots now are one to two feet above the surrounding soil surface. This makes for a hazardous walk across the meadow since the leaves cover both the root balls and the deep gaps between the plants, hiding the topography. Since these plants didn't originally have their roots two feet up in the air, the surrounding soil surface has been lost in the time since these plants were established. The days of these meadows are also numbered unless measures are taken to reverse the creek incision.

Due primarily to its location 1,000 feet above the other meadows, Wellman Cienega is the most intact meadow, with creek incision still below the bottom of the meadow. But the creek incision is inexorably working its way upstream. It remains to be seen how much damage will be caused to Wellman Cienega when the new equilibrium creek profile is reached.

Similar erosion was poised to destroy Round Valley Meadow, in an older remnant surface above and to the north of Tahquitz Valley. Fortunately, the State Park took action in 2010 to preserve the Meadow. Similar actions are needed in the Forest Service-managed Tahquitz Valley.

(More to be added later, including photographs and maps documenting the above.)

See also pages on the individual meadows:

Analysis and Numerology of Taxa Found in the Tahquitz Valley Meadows

Note the following major caveat that applies to all the analysis in this section. The checklists for every one of these meadows are incomplete, due to insufficient surveys, and that there is considerable unevenness in the checklists for different meadows. Hence this analysis must be considered preliminary.

With that caveats in mind, Table 1 gives a summary of the number of taxa found in each Meadow.

Table 1. Preliminary Number of Taxa Found in Each Meadow

vouchered, not observed67000

The column heading abbreviations are defined below.

The number of native taxa is expected to correlate with the size of the meadow and its elevation. The parameters for each meadow are given in Table 2, in descending order of meadow size, along with the total number of taxa known from each meadow. In Table 2, for a few meadows we have combined species and subspecies into a single taxon for two species where we expect only one is present.

Table 2. Area, Elevation and Perimeter Length for Tahquitz Valley Meadows

MeadowArea (acres)# Native TaxaPerimeter (miles)Elevation range (feet)Elevation range (m)
Skunk Cabbage15.5981.37900-79402410-2420
Wellman Cienega10.5790.78960-94202730-2870
Little Tahquitz7.5510.57960-80802425-2460

Figure 1 plots the number of taxa vs. meadow area, both from just our surveys and with the inclusion of vouchered species that we have not observed. We also fit a power law to the data for Tahquitz Meadow, Skunk Cabbage Meadow, and Reeds Meadow, without vouchers, since that is a more uniform data set. We excluded Little Tahquitz Meadow from the fit since the plot shows that it is very depauperate for species. We excluded Wellman Cienega from the fit since it is roughly 1,000 feet higher in elevation, and a number of species are not found at such high elevation. The best-fit exponent for the area was a very low 0.09, reflecting the uniformity of habitat for those three meadows.

Figure 1. Number of Native Taxa in each Meadow vs. Area of Meadow

Figure 1 shows the expected trend for each meadow except for Little Tahquitz Meadow, whose flora is significantly more depauperate since that meadow has essentially been drained by incision of Tahquitz Creek through it. There is essentially no wet meadow remaining outside of the incised creek. One prominent example of a missing species is that Little Tahquitz Meadow is the only meadow that does not have any Veratrum californicum, a strong component of all the other wet meadows, and of boggy areas throughout the high elevations of San Jacinto Mountain. The former wet meadow of Little Tahquitz Meadow outside of the incised creek is now a very dry meadow dominated by Artemisia dracunculus. (We note that V. californicum is missing in most of the area of Tahquitz Meadow, too, reflecting the impact of grazing on it as well.)

The incision of Tahquitz Creek is historically recent (see Hamilton 1983, p. 102-104, for discussion of the impact caused by grazing, and further references). The boggy areas in Little Tahquitz Meadow are confined to the Creek channel, and its flora is now little different from other portions of Tahquitz Creek. The same process is occurring in Reeds Meadow, but it has retained more wet area due to high groundwater along the Candy's Creek area, which is coming in roughly perpendicular to Tahquitz Creek.

Reeds Meadow still retains evidence of the recent Tahquitz Creek incision, with two prominent terraces above the current level of the banks of Tahquitz Creek, some of which still retain root clumps of the formerly wide-spread large Carex senta plants. If not for the high groundwater delivered by the Candy's Creek drainage, and the Creek itself, Reeds Meadow would be as depauperate as Little Tahquitz Meadow.

Another rough idea of the completeness for each survey can be gleaned by considering the number of species found in only a single meadow out of these five; the number found in exactly two of the meadows; up to those found in all five meadows. The actual numbers are given in Table 3, and the numbers converted to percentages are plotted in Figure 2. We have excluded vouchers from these numbers, and combined the subspecies of Epilobium ciliatum, which are difficult to separate, so that the list of species in each meadow is comparable. In addition, it is not always certain from which meadow a species was vouchered.

Table 3. Number of Observed Native Species Found in N Total Meadows


The 29 species found in all five meadows can be easily found in the Checklist by scanning for species with entries in all five columns, and combining the subspecies of Epilobium ciliatum, which are difficult to separate.

Figure 2. Percent of Species vs. # of Meadows in which they occur

Once again, Little Tahquitz Meadow stands out as being different from the other four meadows. It is the only one with no species unique to it. Over half the species found in it are common ones that are found in the other four meadows. All other meadows have about one-third of their species being such common species.

It is also a bit surprising that Wellman Cienega, does not appear different in Figure 2 than Skunk Cabbage Meadow and Tahquitz Meadow, despite being at significantly higher elevation, over 1000 feet (300 m) higher.

Table 4 gives the breakdown for the number of species found in N total meadows, for the entire meadow checklist, considering just the 134 native species we've observed from any meadow. (The total checklist contains 151 taxa, the 134 native species we've observed; eight vouchered native species we haven't observed; seven non-native species; and the two other entries for Epilobum ciliatum).

Table 4. Number of Observed Native Species Found in N Total Meadows from All Meadows

# Total Meadows# Species% Species
13022 %
22519 %
32821 %
42216 %
52922 %
total134100 %

This is a pretty even distribution, as expected since the habitat is much the same in all these meadows. (Compare to the usual declining power law with a strong peak at being found in just one location.)

Plant Checklist

The checklist gives the minimum number of plants observed in each meadow, or in their immediate vicinity, up to a maximum of 99 plants, with the following exceptions:

The column heading abbreviations are:

FAM: The first three letters of the 1993 first edition Jepson Manual Family name. See Plant Family Abbreviations.

SCM: Skunk Cabbage Meadow

TQM: Tahquitz Meadow

WLM: Wellman Cienega (both portions)

RM: Reeds Meadow

LTM: Little Tahquitz Meadow

An asterisk before the common name indicates a non-native taxon.

Notes on some non-observed vouchered species:

Version for printing, without other text on this page: html (6 pages) or pdf Clickbook booklet (2 double-sided pages). (See printing instructions for an explanation of these options)

#FAMScientific Name(*)Common Name# Plants
1DENPteridium aquilinum var. pubescensbracken999959999
2DRYCystopteris fragilisbrittle bladder fern10510  
3PINAbies concolorwhite fir999999991
4PINPinus contorta ssp. murrayanalodgepole pine11 199
5PINPinus jeffreyiJeffrey pine999950993
6PINPinus lambertianasugar pine1 2  
7APIOsmorhiza chilensismountain sweet-cicely   1 
8APIOxypolis occidentaliswestern cow-bane    99
9APIPerideridia parishiiParish's yampah6099  99
10APISphenosciadium capitellatumranger's buttons501099510
11ASTAchillea millefoliumyarrow9999999999
12ASTAgoseris retrorsaspear-leaved mountain dandelion 1   
13ASTAntennaria rosearosy everlasting, pussytoes11  10 
14ASTArtemisia dracunculuswild tarragon99999999 
15ASTArtemisia ludoviciana ssp. incomptamountain mugwort45505010 
16ASTAster alpigenus var. andersoniiAnderson's oreastrum-aster1099  99
17ASTAster occidentalis var. occidentaliswestern mountain aster3099 99 
18ASTChrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. bernardinusSan Bernardino rubber rabbitbrush20 12 5
19ASTCirsium scariosumelk thistle 3   
20ASTGnaphalium palustrewestern marsh cudweed 50   
21ASTHelenium bigeloviiBigelow's sneezeweed V  20
22ASTSolidago californicagoldenrod9999 8020
23ASTTaraxacum officinale*common dandelion 1   
24ASTTragopogon dubius*yellow salsify 1   
25BRAErysimum capitatum ssp. capitatumwestern wallflower20151450 
26CAPSambucus mexicanablue elderberry1    
27CAPSymphoricarpos rotundifolius var. parishiiParish's snowberry9910995020
28CARSagina saginoidespearlwort10  8010
29CARSilene verecunda ssp. platyotawhite catch-fly67  10
30CARStellaria calycanthanorthern starwort5015   
31CHEChenopodium atrovirensforest goosefootV13550
32CHEChenopodium fremontiiFremont's goosefoot 1  10
33ERIArctostaphylos patulagreen-leaf manzanita1   2
34ERIPterospora andromedeapinedrops1  1 
35ERIPyrola pictawhite-veined wintergreen 11   
36ERIRhododendron occidentalewestern azalea3   2
37ERISarcodes sanguineasnow-plant 5   
38FABLotus nevadensis var. nevadensisSierra Nevada lotus13 13
39FABLotus oblongifolius var. oblongifoliusstreambank lotus599 30 
40FABLupinus hyacinthinusSan Jacinto lupine30999930 
41FABLupinus latifolius var. parishiiParish's lupine    3
42FABLupinus polyphyllus var. burkeibigleaf lupine1070 45 
43FABTrifolium longipes var. nevadensemountain cloverV20   
44FABTrifolium microcephalumsmall-head field clover 20   
45FABTrifolium monanthum var. grantianummountain carpet clover9999999999
46FABTrifolium wormskioldiicows clover3025   
47FAGChrysolepis sempervirensbush chinquapin  10 99
48FAGQuercus chrysolepiscanyon live oak1    
49GERGeranium californicumCalifornia geranium550501099
50GRORibes cereum var. cereumwax currant103202010
51GRORibes roezlii var. roezliiSierra gooseberry1   40
52HYDPhacelia mutabilischangeable phacelia9950999950
53HYPHypericum anagalloidestinker's penny9999999999
54LAMMonardella australissouthern mountain-monardellaV   50
55LAMStachys ajugoides var. rigidarigid hedge-nettle 99 9920
56ONAEpilobium canum ssp. latifoliummountain California-fuchsia    30
57ONAEpilobium ciliatumwillowherb    30
58ONAEpilobium ciliatum ssp. ciliatumwillowherb35    
59ONAEpilobium ciliatum ssp. glandulosumglandular willowherb35997099 
60ONAEpilobium densiflorumspike primrose V   
61ONAEpilobium glaberrimum ssp. glaberrimumglaucus willowherb   720
62ONAEpilobium oregonenseslimstem willowweed599  2
63ONAGayophytum diffusum ssp. parviflorumgroundsmoke8099 9999
64ONAGayophytum oligospermumpinegrove groundsmoke99209999 
65POLAllophyllum divaricatumpurple false-gilia991 205
66POLAllophyllum gilioides ssp. violaceumdense false-giliaV    
67POLGilia splendens ssp. splendenssplendid gilia50    
68POLEriogonum apiculatumSan Jacinto buckwheat50 99  
69POLEriogonum nudum var. pauciflorumnaked buckwheat1010 5 
70POLPolygonum bistortoideswestern bistort550 10 
71POLPolygonum douglasii ssp. douglasiiDouglas' knotweed20999999 
72POLRumex acetosella*common sheep sorrel   99 
73POLRumex salicifolius var. salicifoliuswillow-leaved dock    99
74PORCalyptridium monospermumpussy paws99 9999 
75PORMontia chamissoitoad lilyx99   
76PRIDodecatheon alpinumalpine shooting star8599 5099
77RANAquilegia formosawestern columbine10 5020 
78RANRanunculus alismifolius var. alismellusslender buttercup V   
79RANThalictrum fendleri var. fendleriFendler's meadow-rue   520
80RHACeanothus cordulatusmountain whitethorn310  1
81ROSHolodiscus microphyllus var. microphyllusmountain spray    15
82ROSHorkelia clevelandiiCleveland's horkelia306099 99
83ROSPotentilla glandulosa ssp. nevadensisNevada cinquefoil9950709950
84ROSPotentilla glandulosa ssp. reflexasticky cinquefoilV    
85ROSPotentilla gracilis var. fastigiataslender cinquefoil1070 15 
86ROSPrunus emarginatabitter cherry99  9915
87SALSalix lemmoniiLemmon's willow 10   
88SALSalix luteayellow willow30  20 
89SALSalix scoulerianaScouler's willow301011 
90SCRCastilleja applegatei ssp. martiniiMartin's paintbrush    3
91SCRCastilleja miniata ssp. miniatagiant red paintbrush115  20
92SCRKeckiella rothrockii var. jacintensisSan Jacinto Mts. keckiella5099   
93SCRMimulus breweriBrewer's monkeyflower 99  2
94SCRMimulus cardinalisscarlet monkeyflower    3
95SCRMimulus floribundusfloriferous monkeyflower    5
96SCRMimulus moschatusmusk monkeyflower9999 5099
97SCRMimulus primuloides ssp. primuloidesprimrose monkeyflower8099999999
98SCRMimulus suksdorfiiSuksdorf's monkeyflower    1
99SCRMimulus tilingiilarger mountain monkeyflower4099999999
100SCRPedicularis semibarbatapine lousewort31   
101SCRPenstemon grinnellii var. grinnelliiGrinnell's beardtongue V   
102SCRPenstemon labrosusSan Gabriel beardtongue5 99  
103SCRPenstemon rostriflorusbeaked penstemon5    
104SCRVeronica serpyllifolia ssp. humifusathyme-leaved speedwell9920999910
105URTUrtica dioica ssp. holosericeastinging nettle    20
106VIOViola macloskeyismall white violet 993099 
107CYPCarex abruptaabrupt-beak sedge9999 9920
108CYPCarex fractafragile sheath sedge993052099
109CYPCarex heteroneura var. heteroneuravari-nerved sedge3099105030
110CYPCarex hoodiiHood's sedge   55 
111CYPCarex nebrascensisNebraska sedge80   99
112CYPCarex rossiiRoss' sedge 5 5 
113CYPCarex sentaswamp sedge9999999999
114CYPCarex subfuscabrown sedge530599 
115CYPEleocharis acicularis var. acicularisneedle spikerush 10   
116IRISisyrinchium bellumblue-eyed grass101  99
117JUNJuncus duraniiDuran's rush  2 1
118JUNJuncus effusus var. pacificusPacific rush 4   
119JUNJuncus longistylislong-styled rush   2050
120JUNJuncus macrandruslong-anthered rush9999999999
121JUNJuncus mexicanusMexican rush9999 99 
122JUNLuzula comosahairy wood rush9920999999
123LILCalochortus invenustusplain mariposa lily99  301
124LILLilium parryilemon lily21613246
125LILNarcissus hybrid*garden trumpet daffodil 10   
126LILSmilacina stellatalittle false-solomon's-seal5556 154
127LILVeratrum californicum var. californicumCalifornia corn lily7099 9999
128ORCCorallorhiza maculataspotted coralroot11 2 
129ORCMalaxis monophyllos ssp. brachypodaadder's-mouth V   
130ORCPlatanthera leucostachyswhite bog orchid 3 950
131ORCSpiranthes romanzoffianahooded ladies-tresses V   
132POAAchnatherum occidentale ssp. occidentalewestern needlegrass   1 
133POAAgrostis exarataspike bentgrass2  5 
134POAAgrostis idahoensisIdaho bentgrass9999999999
135POAAgrostis scabrarough bentgrass5099155 
136POABromus carinatus var. carinatusCalifornia brome2020209950
137POABromus ciliatusfringed brome110 15 
138POABromus orcuttianusOrcutt's bromeV    
139POADactylis glomerata*orchard-grass 3   
140POADeschampsia elongataslender hairgrass9999999950
141POADigitaria sanguinalis*crabgrassV    
142POAElymus elymoidessquirreltail205 40 
143POAElymus glaucus ssp. glaucusblue wildrye9999999950
144POAElymus trachycaulusslender wheatgrass9999999920
145POAElytrigia intermedia ssp. intermedia*intermediate wheatgrass9999   
146POAGlyceria elatatall mannagrass99992099 
147POAMuhlenbergia andinafoxtail muhly 2  30
148POAMuhlenbergia filiformispullup muhly99    
149POAMuhlenbergia richardsonismat muhly5099309999
150POAPhleum alpinummountain timothy203  30
151POAPoa pratensis ssp. agassizensisKentucky blue grass9999999950


Hamilton, Michael P. 1983. A floristic basis for the management of rare plants and their communities in the San Jacinto Mountains, California. Dissertation Thesis. Cornell University. 189 pp.

Voucher data provided by the participants of the Consortium of California Herbaria (ucjeps.berkeley.edu/consortium/).

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Copyright © 2011 by Tom Chester and Dave Stith.
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Last update: 1 November 2011