Walt Fidler, Jim Roberts, Abbyann Sisk, and I had a flower-filled hike in the vicinity of the Vallecito Creek Wash Road below its junction with the Arroyo Heuso.  We came to enjoy the carpets of sand verbena reported by Fred Melgert and Carla Hoegen, and boy, did we see carpets of Abronia; wow!

I posted eight obs of the Abronia from throughout the trip.  Many of these include pano shots showing the territory here. The last obs below has multi-colored variants for the flowers.


We weren't the only ones enjoying the Abronia.  There were clouds of Painted Lady butterflies on the Abronia wherever we went.  But it was frustrating to try to take pix of them, since they were a skittish bunch.  I got lucky with the first post below, since one butterfly was very intent on getting nectar from the Abronia flowers.

My pix from five times during the day:


Abbyann's pix:

Jim took a pix of a Queen butterfly:


We enjoyed a fair number of other species in bloom, too, mostly the usual monsoonal suspects.  In addition, we saw Astragalus insularis harwoodii in bloom, that we got all excited about in early 2019 in this area, as well as a few younger plants.

My post of A. insularis harwoodii:

Jim's post:

Wherever we went, there were huge numbers of frostmat plants. Jim's post:


Some usual monsoonal suspects were much less numerous here than in other places.  We did see some Pectis, but only as scattered plants, never a carpet.  We saw only two plants of Amaranthus fimbriatus, and a few plants of Stillingia spinulosa.  Boerhavia was almost non-existent here, only a small number of plants of B. wrightii.  Despite this being a wash area, Datura discolor was only found in a few patches where it appeared wetter, from the dried-up mud.  There were also few plants of Kallstroemia californica.

In addition to the fields of Abronia villosa, there were fields of Plantago ovata, coloring the ground silvery-green in many places. My posts:

P. ovata fields:

One plant was especially interesting; P. ovata with "rabbit ears":

Jim and I posted 116 obs of 64 species, including some posts from Scissors Crossing and two stops near Agua Caliente County Park:


Jim posted a whopping 90 obs of 60 species; I posted 26 obs of 9 species.

Abbyann posted one observation linked below, which can't be included above since it has the wrong date on it.


There were only a few plants of Encelia actoni and Senecio flaccidus in bloom along S2 in the San Felipe Valley.  The Pectis fields had all faded away.

I met Jim and Abbyann at Scissors Crossing at 10:30 a.m.

In Shelter Valley, the Pectis fields still had some yellow color.

We seemed to be going back in time, to a time with more flowers, as we traveled south.  The Pectis started looking fresher near the Vallecito Stage Station County Park.  As we rounded the curve in S2 where S2 heads south toward Agua Caliente, and the road parallels Vallecito Creek for a short distance, fields of happy Datura discolor appeared.  We stopped to photograph them.  Jim's post:


On the walk back to the car, Abbyann spotted a beautiful Chamaesyce pediculifera (= Euphorbia p.), Carrizo Mountain spurge, with its distinctive flowers (two long petaloid appendages and two short) in head-like clusters at each node.

My post:

Jim's post:

The ocotillos, however, were beginning to discard their leaves.  Plenty were still green, but a noticeable number were in "fall color".

We stopped at Agua Caliente, which was looking very good now.  There were fields of Cryptantha angustifolia next to S2.


We met Walt at the beginning of the Vallecito Wash Road.

We car-caravaned on the Wash Road, intending to play it by ear as to where we'd park for our hike.

The first thing we noticed on the drive along the first part of the Vallecito Wash Road were the rabbitbrush, Ericam paniculata, in bloom.  I had forgotten about them; what a bonus!


Abbyann made another good find, a sand wasp on a rabbitbrush:


This is a different species than the ones we found sleeping together at SnJt, since the pattern on its back is very different, a "horseshoe" or "omega" instead of a face.  Compare to the feline face here:


The environs of the road got better and better, and when we saw wonderful carpets of sand verbena at the junction with the Arroyo Heuso, we parked there.

We spent 45 minutes surveying the vicinity around the car, finding good diversity there, ate lunch, and then started hiking to the southeast in the vicinity of the road.

We actually first hiked directly south, to get to the base of the hills on the southwest side of Vallecito Creek.  But it got less interesting in that area, since it was less sandy.

We then headed directly east to a sandy area, and the fields of Abronia returned.  We hiked to the base of the hills there, which had numerous plants of both Dalea species.

We then hiked southeast, but that section was fairly uninteresting, mostly being a huge field of Plantago.

Things picked up again farther southeast.

We were hiking toward some pretty dramatic scenery.  Abbyann took this pix of Jim and me in front of that scenery:


We found just a handful of plants of spectacle-pod.  Jim's post:


We turned around at 3:15 p.m., crossed over the the southwest side of the road, and mostly hiked back to the car.

We did find five plants of turtleback along that route, two of which were blooming.  My posts:


And I spotted a single monkeyflower in bloom.  Jim's pix:


Near the car, I gathered some fruit of Abronia for Eric LoPresti, an Abronia researcher, who was curious as to whether these "unseasonal" plants would set fruit.  I tried to cut open the fruit to check for seeds, but the perianth clings so tightly to the seed that I couldn't do it.

Eric gave me the tip how to expose the seed; use fingernail clippers!  That did the trick; see the last pix here, which shows a developed seed:


We got back to the cars at 4:25 p.m., with just enough light to show Walt the Chamaesyce pediculifera north of Agua Caliente, since he had never seen that species.  We weren't 100% sure we could relocate it, since we didn't have easy access to a GPS point for it, and we didn't have a clear memory of exactly where it was.  Fortunately, the collective recollections of Jim, Abbyann, and myself, had enough information to pinpoint the spot where we had parked and seen it.

Finding the single observed plant was then the last difficulty.  I was worried I might have parked on top of it, or driven over it. But within less than a minute, Jim cried out "Bingo!", making for a perfect end to a good day.  (:-)

tom chester