Don Rideout and I, accompanied by Cathy Wiley and her husband Chuck Bemis for the first hour, had a good time botanizing Palo Verde Wash north of S22 and its Canyon.

We had two main goals:

 - to check on the Cottontop Cactus, Echinocactus polycephalus = Homalocephala p., plants that I had GPS'd in 2007 and one post by Jim Roberts from 2015, to see if they had any blooms on them, and see how they were doing.

 - to document the monsoonals present along our hike.

Summary of the cottontop:

 - we found no plants in blooms, and no sign that any had recent blooms.  We saw just one old detached fruit.

 - it looks like the cottontop population here has declined since 2007.  We checked seven locations, six from my GPS points from 2007, and one from an iNat observation in 2015.  Of those, we found no evidence of any Echinocactus at three points, and dead plants at two points.  At the other two points, we found multiple plants - four live plants and two dead plants at one; and three live plants and two dead plants at the other.

I was able to match up two of my pix from 2007 with pix from 2022.  In both cases, the plant was alive and happy in 2007, but dead in 2022.

Plant #1, with a bonus dead ocotillo in 2007 that was still dead in 2022, looking much the same.



better pix of the ocotillo in 2022:

Plant #2:



On the plus side, Don spotted one plant at a new location, as did Chuck and Cathy.

Summary of monsoonal plants:

 - there were lots, which we documented!  (;-)

We were very pleased to see a ton of yellowhead, Trichoptilium incisum, all in bloom.  They were found in numerous places along our hike.  We posted 7 obs of it:,lagoondon,wiley1

As in many places this year, Perityle was very abundant, especially on the canyon walls.  Here's my post of a good display in one spot:

Chamaesyce was very abundant, with C. polycarpa (Euphorbia p.) the most abundant, and C. setiloba not far behind.  We found no other Chamaesyce species.

Boerhavia wrightii was everywhere as well, mostly in fruit.

In total, we found 32 species in bloom.  The list, with abundances, is at the bottom of this email.

Don, Cathy and I posted a whopping 138 observations of 64 species from our hike, as well as from two stops in the Borrego Springs area:,lagoondon,wiley1

Surprisingly, for the second trip in a row, I posted the most observations, 65 obs of 28 species, but Don posted the most species, 49 obs of 42 species.  Cathy posted 24 obs of 22 species.

I posted a lot of the same species to document how widespread the monsoonals were.


On our drive to Borrego, the Encelia actoni plants were still in bloom, but it looked like their bloom was winding down.

The ocotillos along the Montezuma Grade were now mostly leafless.

This time we drove along Di Giorgio Road, and saw a good Abronia bloom at the southwest corner with Henderson Canyon Road.  My post:

We then stopped at the desert sunflower field along Henderson Canyon Road, and it was in full bloom.  Don's pix and post, and my post:

We then stopped at the Abronia field along S22 in the sandy area just west of the Villager Peak Trailhead.  The Abronia there was still in good bloom.  My post:

We met Cathy and Chuck at the junction of S22 and Palo Verde Wash at 11:30 a.m.  There were a number of annuals in the Wash on the north side of S22, so we dawdled over them for a while.

Chuck took a very nice pix of three happy botanists at that spot, made much better by him asking us to smile.  (:-)

There were a ton of Palo Verde seedlings at that location, and all along our hike, as befitting a canyon called "Palo Verde Canyon". (;-)  You can see the density of them in Chuck's pix linked just above.

Some had germinated fairly recently, some had germinated earlier in the summer. Presumably all of the seedlings germinated this summer.

We posted eight observations of Palo Verde, five seedlings, one plant with a few flowers, one big boy, and one dead large plant:,lagoondon,wiley1

We spent the next two hours mainly on cottontop cactus, with Cathy and Chuck turning around halfway through those plants.

Eventually Don and I got tired of traversing the dissected alluvial fan perpendicularly to the channels to check more cottontops, especially since we had obtained our answer about whether they were blooming, and what the status of the population was.  So we got back into the main wash and headed up canyon.

Palo Verde wash and canyon are not walks in the park.  There is no main wash most of the time, only little snippets one follows for a while before having to move over to the next snippet.

The ocotillos along our hike had either lost all their leaves, or were in the process of doing so, except for a single plant in the Canyon that was still lush with green leaves.  Some plants were in not-bad fall color, like the one in my post:

Just before we entered the canyon, Don found a very interesting baby Ferocactus, that at first we thought might be a baby cottontop due to the absence of the radial white spines.  It was very unusual in having a fused base, with very elongate tubercles above.  Baby cacti are sometimes quite different! Don's pix:

I was surprised when we came across a large band of pure white rock, since I had forgotten about it from my previous trips there.  I thought at first it might be the Bishop Tuff, especially since it crumbled easily.  But it couldn't be, since we were solidly in the metamorphic rock of the Santa Rosa Mountains.

The ABDSP Geology book says they are "tortured, twisted layers of light-colored marble" that are "remnants of Ordovician marine sediments, 470 mya" (p. 102).  Our pix definitely show some torture of those rocks!

Don's pix:

My pano pix, from bottom to top, of a small fault in those rocks:

As is almost always the case, we had to turn around far too soon.

Don's pix of the upper canyon beckoning to us to continue:

and his pix looking down canyon from whence we had came:

After we had some cookies and brownies, I quickly tried to document all the annuals at our turn-around point, and back down the canyon we went.

On the way back, I spotted some unusually fine sediments.  Don's pix:

We got back to the car just as the daylight was fading, another good trip.

List of plants in bloom in Palo Verde Wash and Canyon:

#Pls in bloom   name

99    Boerhavia wrightii
99    Bouteloua aristidoides var. aristidoides
99    Chamaesyce polycarpa
99    Chamaesyce setiloba
99    Pectis papposa var. papposa
99    Perityle emoryi
99    Trichoptilium incisum

50    Allionia incarnata var. incarnata

40    Aristida adscensionis

20    Dalea mollissima

15    Physalis crassifolia

10    Bouteloua barbata var. barbata
10    Ditaxis lanceolata
10    Palafoxia arida var. arida

5    Encelia farinosa var. farinosa
5    Eriogonum inflatum
5    Euphorbia eriantha
5    Hyptis emoryi

3    Encelia farinosa

2    Eschscholzia parishii
2    Horsfordia newberryi
2    Krameria bicolor

1    Abronia villosa var. villosa
1    Bebbia juncea var. aspera
1    Croton californicus
1    Cryptantha angustifolia
1    Geraea canescens
1    Larrea tridentata
1    Mentzelia involucrata
1    Parkinsonia florida
1    Peucephyllum schottii
1    Psorothamnus schottii

tom chester