This was a magical trip!

Walt Fidler, Jane Gomery, Don Rideout, Jim Roberts and I began in the field of flowers at the Canyon 41 parking area; hiked through vast fields of sand verbena in stunning bloom; and topped it all off by seeing 20 plants of turtleback in bloom; 100 plants of bristly langloisia in full bloom; and many plants of Chorizanthe corrugata and Eriogonum trichopes in bud.

We saw 62 species in bloom, a new record for this year.  In DECEMBER, when we usually have just 7 to 10 species in bloom per trip.  The full list of species in bloom is given at the end of this email.

What a great desert season!

Best of all, we get to have an extended season to enjoy these flowers, as well as cool temperatures, since the spring and summer heat is still months away.

The plants were so fabulous that Jim and Don posted 138 observations of 73 species at iNat, and I contributed 13 obs of 3 species, for a total of 151 obs of 73 species:,jimirob1,tchester

NINETY-NINE (99) of those observations show plants in bloom!

This is what you get when you have the remnants of a tropical storm dropping lots of rain in September, following a good summer monsoon, conditions that only happen once every ten to twenty years.

Here is just a small sampling of the delights; see the iNat posts for all of them.

- The Abronia fields.  They kept being so spectacular that it was hard to resist taking pix every time a new patch was seen.

My pix:

Don's pix:

Jim's post:

Additional posts from me are at iNat.

The Abronia had the most wonderful rich color near sunset, but cameras can't capture it.

The desert pavement delights are mostly small plants that are beautiful up close, but are hard to see from a distance.  Here's Don's pix of me and Jane admiring one of those, while Jim and Walt are off seeking more:

Here are some of those delights:


Don's posts:

Jim's posts:


Don's posts:

Jim's posts:

and, of course, Monoptilon:

Don's posts:

Jim's posts:

OK, that's the sampler; see the main iNat link above for more treasures.


Along SR76, near the Rancho Cuca area at Palomar, there are cultivated annual sunflowers in bloom in one spot, presumably from someone spreading seeds at that location.  Don also thought the Ribes indecorum near Red Gate Road might have been in bloom, but it was hard to be sure due to the lighting at this time of year.

The cottonwood fall color in San Felipe Valley is mostly gone, with the leaves blown off the trees by the last storm.

Blooms along S2 are the same as we've seen in the last month, with nothing happening until we get near Agua Caliente County Park.

Don and I met Jim, Jane, and Walt at the Canyon 41 parking spot just before 11:30 p.m.  Jim and Walt had showed up a bit earlier, with Jim photographing plants near the parking area and Walt scouting out Ironwood Wash.

Jane is from the CNPS Santa Clara Chapter, visiting San Diego, and has hiked with Don and me once before.

Our forward hiking progress was pretty slow at first, since we were hiking in fields of sand verbena and we had to stop frequently to admire them!  (;-)

We eventually started making some progress up Ironwood Wash, but didn't see any Ironwoods for a while.  The first one we saw was leafless except for small clusters of new growth at the ends of a few branches.

Some trees had the number of leaves expected; Don and Jim's posts:

Other trees had bare branches in part.

I spotted a sandpaper bush that had weird dense growth on it like we see occasionally in Bebbia.  My post:

I spotted the first baby ocotillo at the first Langloisia location, and Don and I ended up spotting EIGHT seedling ocotillos!  Don photographed all of them.  We measured one as 3 cm tall and 5 cm wide.  We also measured some older ocotillos that appeared to be 3, 4, 5, and 7 years old, by using the new growth lengths.  Don and I will make a webpage with this info, to document that this species is not "on the way out", as has been speculated by Jim Cornett, from the lack of seedlings that he has seen.  Don and Jim's 13 posts:,jimirob1&view=&taxon_id=49325&page=

One article reporting Cornett's findings:

This ocotillo and many others are starting to die as climate change takes effect and no new plants are springing up to replace those that have died.


In a pair of recently published research articles, Cornett, of JWC Ecological Consultants, describes how ocotillos and another botanical giant of the southwest desert, Washington fan palms, are succumbing to the impacts of drier <>, hotter weather.

Of course, not all seedlings make it.  Don photographed a seedling right at the Canyon 41 parking area four years ago, in a very distinctive location, and it was gone when we checked it.  Don's post from 4 years ago:

After the excitement of the desert pavement species, Jim and Jane headed back to the cars, while Don, Walt and I continued on.  Don took this pix of Whale Peak from that area:

Our feet took us up the east branch of Ironwood Canyon, close to what I call the "Middle Wash" to the east.  So we decided to try to do a loop with that.

There was no problem getting to Middle Wash, but there was a little problem when we got to its western bank and discovered it was pretty steep, looking a bit treacherous to descend.  Don's pix from the top of that bank:

The slope in his pix looked much more hazardous in real life than in his pix.

I looked around, and spotted the more gentle descent of a ridge to the north, that just sticks above the shadow of the bank in the middle of Don's pix.  That descent worked perfectly.  Don and Walt skipped down that ridge, and I was able to cautiously negotiate it.  (:-)

We had run out of time, so we mostly hiked back to the car, getting there just at the last drop of decent light.

Here's a map of our route:

List of species in bloom on our hike:

#Pls in bloom  name

99    Abronia villosa var. villosa
99    Achyronychia cooperi
99    Allionia incarnata var. incarnata
99    Chamaesyce micromera
99    Chylismia claviformis ssp. peirsonii
99    Cryptantha angustifolia
99    Dalea mollissima
99    Langloisia setosissima ssp. setosissima
99    Palafoxia arida var. arida
99    Perityle emoryi
99    Trichoptilium incisum

50    Ditaxis lanceolata
50    Monoptilon bellioides
50    Pectis papposa var. papposa

40    Hyptis emoryi

30    Physalis crassifolia

20    Hibiscus denudatus
20    Plantago ovata

15    Psathyrotes ramosissima

10    Amaranthus fimbriatus
10    Cuscuta psorothamnensis
10    Dithyrea californica
10    Encelia farinosa
10    Eremothera boothii ssp. condensata
10    Geraea canescens

5    Acmispon strigosus
5    Adenophyllum porophylloides
5    Brassica tournefortii
5    Chamaesyce setiloba
5    Eremothera refracta
5    Eriogonum trichopes
5    Eulobus californicus
5    Hilaria rigida
5    Phacelia distans
5    Psorothamnus schottii
5    Psorothamnus spinosus

4    Mentzelia involucrata

3    Justicia californica
3    Loeseliastrum schottii
3    Psorothamnus emoryi

2    Ambrosia dumosa
2    Boerhavia wrightii
2    Croton californicus
2    Datura discolor
2    Encelia frutescens
2    Fagonia laevis
2    Petalonyx thurberi ssp. thurberi
2    Phacelia crenulata var. minutiflora
2    Stephanomeria pauciflora

1    Aliciella latifolia ssp. latifolia
1    Asclepias subulata
1    Chaenactis carphoclinia var. carphoclinia
1    Chamaesyce pediculifera
1    Ericameria paniculata
1    Eriogonum inflatum
1    Eriogonum thomasii
1    Fouquieria splendens ssp. splendens
1    Krameria bicolor
1    Krameria erecta
1    Lupinus arizonicus
1    Mirabilis laevis var. retrorsa
1    Sisymbrium irio

tom chester