Don Rideout and I did the 17 Palms - Una Palma - 5 Palms Loop in the Borrego Badlands on Wednesday, 1/18/23, and then surveyed a bit farther down the Arroyo Salado to get in more hiking miles.

We didn't expect to find many flowers, and we didn't.  Still, we did see 28 species in bloom, and some lovely plants of Xylorhiza and Geraea in bloom. The list of plants in bloom is given at the end of this email.

Some Xylorhiza pix by Don:

- A plant we stopped for on our drive along the Arroyo Salado:

It was all the more amazing since the following pix shows the territory in which it was growing and blooming, which looked pretty dry.  Pix by Don looking down the Arroyo Salado:

- A nice plant in the middle of our hike:

- A plant we found by following a small wash that paralleled the Arroyo Salado:

Geraea was essentially everywhere along our driving and hiking routes, and essentially every plant looked very happy, and was in bloom.  There were several good areas of Geraea (but nothing like the Henderson Canyon Road field at its best).  Here's one of the best we saw in Don's post:

We very much enjoyed touring those palm areas, since neither of us had been there for some time.

Alas, all the palm areas looked pretty bleak, with salty soil crusts that made us wonder how anything could grow in that soil. There were no baby palms, and no obvious water, although the salty crust indicated there is water at depth.

The mature palms looked beautiful at 17 Palms, since many of them had their full skirts.  We counted 23 palms there.

Don's posts of the palms; a "bottlecap top post"; and the "mail box", which is apparently now a hike register:

We later encountered a washed-down palm log in the lower Arroyo Salado, that was almost surely washed down from 17 Palms, since only 17 Palms is in a tributary drainage of this location. My post:

The single palm at Una Palma was still dead.

Here is my post from 2009 when this palm was alive, with a link to Fred and Carl's obs in 2021 when it was dead:

My post from this trip, showing that palm is still dead:

Don took this pix of the salty area below Una Palma with salt grass somehow able to grow there:

We counted 4 live palms and one dead one at 5 Palms, with another dead palm a bit farther away.

My post:

One of the main objectives of this trip was to check on the lone Asclepias albicans on our drive down the Arroyo Salado.  Sadly, that plant now appears to be dead. However, in the desert, plants can appear to be dead and then resprout from their roots, so I'm not counting it out for sure quite yet.

Don's post:

My post of this plant when I first saw it in December 2008:

On our drive to the Arroyo Salado, we also stopped at the Henderson Canyon Road Geraea field, where we found a large number of Geraea plants had been hit by frost.  The remaining Geraea plants still looked good, and all of the dune evening primrose looked great.  It will be interesting to see if the frost-hit Geraea plants can recover and bloom again.

My pix showing what it typically looks like now:

Don's pix of the happiest plants in the field:

In the last pix above, you can see where I was standing to take the bleak-looking pix.

We stopped at the sandy area on S22 near Fonts Point Wash, and it still had some good plants of Abronia in bloom.  However, it looked like some of the plants were no longer blooming, at least from a distance.

The fields of Abronia at the corner of Di Giorgio Road and Henderson Canyon Road still looked fabulous.

On our hike, we checked a few Tidestromia plants for their stem buds at the base of the plant, which is part of the key to separate our perennial T. suffruticosa from the annual T. lanuginosa (ann vs per is the other part of the key).  We found no buds for the first young plant we checked, but did find some young shoots on a somewhat-more mature plant.  Don's post:

Don and I posted 45 obs of 36 species at iNat from this trip:,tchester

Almost all of these posts are from Don, 42 obs of 35 species; I posted just 3 obs of 1 species.


The Arctostaphylos glauca along SR76 near the San Luis Rey picnic area on the south side of SR76 were now in full bloom.  The A. pungens on SR79 in the Lake Henshaw area near the SR76 junction has now started blooming.

As on the last trip at Split Mountain, we met just one other person, a lady walking back to her campsite after looking for birds.

The temp was just 58 deg at the start and end of our hike, but the warm desert sun, and lack of any breeze, made it feel surprisingly comfortable.  During the first part of our hike I even took off my sweatshirts for a while.

It is a lot of fun to do this hike in the Badlands, going from one wash to another.

Don's pix of part of this trail-less journey:

Walking up the small drainage from 17 Palms:

This small drainage ends in a little bowl, where you have to climb up to the top to cross over into a drainage going the other way:

View southwest from the ridge at the cross-over point:

After a few turns in the drainages, we hiked for a while in this drainage heading southeast:

We eventually cut out of this drainage to go cross-country to Una Palma.

Near the end of the day, we came across one area that was entirely barren of plants, but which nicely framed the Santa Rosa Mountains.  Don's pix:

Those barren areas had some neat concretions, such as this "flying saucer" one.  Don's pix:

We got back to the car at almost exactly sunset, glad that we now have 15 extra minutes of daylight compared to four weeks ago.

List of plants in bloom:

#Pls in bloom   Name

99    Achyronychia cooperi
99    Chamaesyce polycarpa
99    Cryptantha angustifolia
99    Geraea canescens
99    Perityle emoryi

50    Palafoxia arida var. arida

25    Xylorhiza orcuttii

20    Atriplex hymenelytra
20    Chylismia claviformis ssp. peirsonii
20    Cryptantha maritima

10    Abronia villosa var. villosa
10    Brassica tournefortii
10    Eremothera boothii ssp. condensata
10    Plantago ovata

5    Encelia farinosa
5    Eriogonum thomasii
5    Larrea tridentata

3    Lycium brevipes var. brevipes

2    Ambrosia salsola var. salsola
2    Dalea mollis
2    Lupinus arizonicus
2    Monoptilon bellioides
2    Oligomeris linifolia

1    Ambrosia dumosa
1    Dalea mollissima
1    Eriogonum inflatum
1    Hilaria rigida
1    Psorothamnus emoryi

tom chester