Plant Guide to Cactus Spring Trail, Santa Rosa Mountains

The guide has been updated from all the field work through 10/4/2016, but the text on this page has mostly not been updated, and a lot of it is very out of date.

Introduction and Explanation of Plant Trail Guides

Highlights of This Trail
Fieldwork Dates and Summary of List Changes With Time
Botanical Trip Reports
The Plant Guide
Comments On Specific Species

Fig. 1. Google Earth view looking east of the first part of the Cactus Spring Trail, with some landmarks labeled. Click on the picture for a larger version.


The Cactus Spring Trail is said to be the only official trail in the Santa Rosa Wilderness; whether that is true or not, it is apparently the main trail. (The Sawmill Trail, which leaves from the same parking lot, is a wide road, which is open to vehicular traffic.)

And what a delightful trail it is! It traverses absolutely beautiful country, beginning at an elevation of ~4045 feet. Surprisingly, the trail travels along drainages for most of the distance to Horsethief Creek. In fact, much of the trail is indistinguishable from a drainage, so one has to be a bit alert when the trail briefly leaves a drainage to go to the next one. The only real non-drainage sections in the portion up to Horsethief Creek are the saddles between drainages.

As a result, the trail has significant ups and downs all along the portion to Horsethief Creek. The net elevation gain going to Horsethief Creek and back is ~1165 feet, not the (net) elevation difference of 900 feet quoted in Ferranti's 100 Great hikes in and near Palm Springs, 2000. It is very surprising that any guidebook would quote the misleading net elevation difference instead of the elevation gain and loss one actually experiences while hiking a trail.

Past Horsethief Creek, the trail briefly ascends a ridge before joining a beautiful wash which leads most of the way to Cactus Spring.

This trail is remarkably rich in species. There are 203 taxa found on the trail itself, and an additional 25 taxa are found just off-trail along it. The richness is due to two main factors. First, the trail contains both low-elevation desert species and higher-elevation montane species, due to its elevation range of 3480 to 4200 feet. The desert species are near their upper elevation ranges, and the montane species are near their lower elevation range. Second, the trail samples many different habitats, including slopes of all aspect ratios (north, south, east and west facing slopes), flat areas, and riparian areas.

For a number of beautiful photographs of species in bloom on this trail on 2 May 2008, see Michael Charters' photo gallery.

The trailhead is 8 miles east of the junction of SR74 and SR371, and is well-signed on SR74. Go south (right if coming from Hemet or Anza) at the sign for 0.4 mile, then turn left onto the wide dirt road. Park in the flat area north of the trash disposal. The class A parking lot, with space for zillions of cars and with a beautiful wood railing all around it, is signed "Sawmill Trailhead".

The parking lot is immediately north of the Riverside County trash transfer station, so if you park and see lots of dumpsters to the south, you're in the right place.

There is a sign at the southeast end of the parking lot that point you toward the Trail, via the southernmost road to the east. Don't take the potentially-confusing "Elk trail", which is simply the driveway to the Elks Lodge, which, for some reason, is just past the northeast corner of the parking lot.

It is 0.15 miles from the east edge of the parking lot to the signed Cactus Spring Trail.

This guide begins at the fire hydrant 0.02 miles past the southeast end of the parking lot.

From the parking lot to Horsethief Creek and back is 4.74 miles roundtrip, with 1165 feet of elevation gain and loss. Of the 1165 feet, 300 feet is gained on the way out, and 865 feet on the way back.

From the parking lot to the creek just beyond Cactus Spring and back is 9.86 miles roundtrip, with 1920 feet of elevation gain and loss. Of the 1902 feet, 1055 feet is gained on the way out, and 865 feet on the way back.

GPS points, all NAD27 and decimal degrees (NOT the archaic degrees - minutes - seconds)

LocationLatitude (° N)Longitude (° E)Elevation (feet)
SR74 turnoff33.58332-116.454634030
Closest parking space at Trailhead parking to the entrance (farthest parking space from the trail side33.57987-116.449874039
Actual signed Cactus Spring trailhead33.57930-116.446184013

Highlights of This Trail

Some of the botanical highlights of this trail are:

The taxa found only on this guide, as of 6/1/08, are:

FamilyScientific NameCommon Name
ApiaceaeLomatium mohavenseMojave lomatium
BoraginaceaeCryptantha decipiensgravel cryptantha
BoraginaceaePectocarya setosamoth combseed
CampanulaceaeNemacladus sigmoideussmall-flowered nemacladus
EuphorbiaceaeTragia ramosadesert noseburn
FabaceaeAstragalus coccineusscarlet milk-vetch
FabaceaeMarina orcuttii var. orcuttiiCalifornia marina
HydrophyllaceaePhacelia campanularia ssp. campanulariadesert bluebells
HydrophyllaceaePhacelia cryptanthalimestone phacelia
LamiaceaeSalazaria mexicanaMexican bladder sage
LiliaceaeAllium fimbriatum var. fimbriatumfringed onion
LiliaceaeCalochortus palmeri var. munziiMunz's mariposa lily
NyctaginaceaeMirabilis pumilatrailing four-o'clock
OnagraceaeOenothera californica ssp. avitaCalifornia evening-primrose
PoaceaeBouteloua curtipendulaside-oats grama
PolemoniaceaeGilia diegensiscoastal gilia
PolygonaceaeChorizanthe xanti var. leucothecawhite-bracted spineflower
PolygonaceaeEriogonum maculatumspotted buckwheat
RosaceaePrunus fasciculata var. fasciculatadesert almond
RutaceaeThamnosma montanaturpentine broom

Number of Unique Taxa On This Trail

The following histogram gives the number of trails in our database that contain each taxon on this trail. We had 128 trails in our database when this histogram was made; 2 of those trails, including this one, are in this area of Santa Rosa Mountain. A number of "1" means the taxon has only been found on this trail among the trails in our database; numbers of "2" or smaller may indicate taxa found only in this area of Santa Rosa Mountains.

Number of Trails
Containing A Taxon
Number Of Taxa
On This Trail
% of Taxa
On This Trail
Total Taxa200100%

We found 3 additional species not in the above table, since they have not been fully identified yet. The unidentified ones are marked with ? or sp in the id? column in the guide, and have no entries in the #all column.

Fieldwork Dates and Summary of List Changes With Time

The following table gives the dates the trail was walked and taxa recorded. After each visit, the table gives the total number of taxa on the list and the breakdown of the taxa without positive identification. See Explanation of Plant Trail Guides to understand the symbols below.

Visit DateVisit ## taxa# "?"# "sp"# "~"# "ssp"

The fieldwork on 10/31/06 was only to mile 1.18. There are thus two entries for 11/12/06. The first gives the results only up to mile 1.18; the second gives the results to mile 1.43. Similarly, there are two entries for 11/16/06, which was the first time the guide was extended to Horsethief Creek, and for 5/28/08, which gives the results for the first the guide was extended from Horsethief Creek to the Creek just beyond Cactus Spring.

The numbers were not recorded separately for 4/30/08 and 5/24/08. Most of the new taxa reported on 5/28/08 came from those two previous trips.

Botanical Trip Reports

The Plant Guide

The column #Pls gives the number of plants of each species on and in the area of the trail, and the number of distinct locations along the trail that contain that species, up to a maximum of 99 plants and 9 locations. Many of the numbers used the old convention of only counting plants within an arms-length of the trail, but some of the numbers include plants that can easily be reached from the trail. Some species do not yet have abundance estimates; that column is either blank for those species, or contains an x.

The Scientific Name is mostly in the Second Edition Jepson Manual system.

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

See also Checklist of the species in traditional family order, which contains links for every species to the Jepson Manual treatment and to Calphotos.

The mileages up to mile 2.3 in the guide have been fit to Topo!, which probably means the mileages are a bit on the low side. Mileages post mile 2.3 come from a detailed GPS recording of the trail, but the GPS readings were not terribly accurate due to signal multipath from the many exposed rocks in the area.

Version for printing, without lines and other text on this page: html (10 pages) or pdf Clickbook booklet (3 double-sided pages). (See printing instructions for an explanation of these options)

MileS#id?Common NameScientific Name#Pls
    The first four species are in the parking lot area (the Pediomelum is along the entrance road across from the turn into the parking lot) and not yet seen on the trail (the Pediomelum is also vouchered from near Cactus Spring)
  1 Sonoran spurgeChamaesyce micromerax / 1
  2 coyote melonCucurbita palmatax / 1
  3 Indian breadrootPediomelum californicum5 / 2
  4 *Russian thistleSalsola tragusx / 1
    The following two species are vouchered from “Pinyon Flats area, c. 0.5 mi west of the Dolomite Mine”, and may or may not be on the Cactus Spring Trail itself
    spike dropseedSporobolus contractusV /
    sand dropseedSporobolus cryptandrusV /
    Begin trail guide just past southeast corner of parking lot, at fire hydrant; elevation ~4045 feet (1233 m).
0.00b5 fringed onionAllium fimbriatum var. fimbriatum20 / 1
0.00b6 western tansy-mustardDescurainia pinnata30 / 5
0.00b7 whispering bellsEmmenanthe penduliflora var. penduliflora99 / 9
0.00r8 *rattail fescueFestuca myuros5 / 1
0.00b9 *redstem filareeErodium cicutarium99 / 9
0.00b10 rattlesnake weedChamaesyce albomarginata50 / 9
0.00b11 Mojave lomatiumLomatium mohavense10 / 5
0.00b12 bur-ragweedAmbrosia acanthicarpa20 / 2
0.00b13 matchweedGutierrezia sarothrae99 / 9
0.00b14 San Jacinto mariposa lilyCalochortus palmeri var. munzii3 / 1
0.00r15 coastal giliaGilia diegensis50 / 9
0.00r16 red shanksAdenostoma sparsifolium99 / 9
0.00r17 bristly bird's beakCordylanthus rigidus ssp. setiger99 / 9
0.00l18 Pima rhatanyKrameria erecta99 / 9
0.00l19 *Oriental mustardSisymbrium orientale30 / 5
0.00l20 desert scrub oakQuercus cornelius-mulleri99 / 9
0.00b21 desert prickly-pearOpuntia phaeacantha99 / 9
0.00r22 narrowleaf goldenbushEricameria linearifolia99 / 9
0.00r23 desert needlegrassStipa speciosa99 / 9
0.00b24 Engelmann's hedgehog cactusEchinocereus engelmannii30 / 9
0.00b25 Davidson's buckwheatEriogonum davidsonii40 / 9
0.00b26 *red bromeBromus madritensis ssp. rubens99 / 9
0.00l27 cupped-leaf ceanothusCeanothus perplexans30 / 9
0.00l28 chaparral yuccaHesperoyucca whipplei50 / 9
0.00   End fence
0.00r29 moth combseedPectocarya setosa30 / 9
0.00b30 *Mediterranean schismusSchismus barbatus99 / 3
0.00b31 Mojave prickly-pearOpuntia polyacantha var. erinacea30 / 9
0.00r32 short-winged deerweedAcmispon glaber var. brevialatus99 / 9
0.00l33 sugar bushRhus ovata50 / 9
0.00l34 Wallace's woolly daisyEriophyllum wallacei99 / 9
0.00l35 sand cressCalyptridium monandrum20 / 2
0.00l36 mountain red-root cryptanthaCryptantha micrantha var. lepida50 / 9
0.00b37 desert globemallowSphaeralcea ambigua var. rugosa99 / 9
0.00b38 California buckwheatEriogonum fasciculatum var. polifolium99 / 9
0.00r  Signpost: "Please stay on designated routes only"
0.00l39 Patagonia plantainPlantago patagonica20 / 2
0.00l40 popcorn flowerCryptantha intermedia var. intermedia99 / 9
0.01b41 Mohave yuccaYucca schidigera50 / 9
0.01l42 hairy-podded pepper-grassLepidium lasiocarpum ssp. lasiocarpum30 / 1
0.01l43 brittle spineflowerChorizanthe brevicornu var. brevicornu30 / 9
0.01r44 desert agaveAgave deserti30 / 9
0.01l45 desert woolly-starEriastrum eremicum ssp. eremicum99 / 9
0.01l46 spear-leaved mountain dandelionAgoseris retrorsa1 / 1
0.01r47 giant four o'clockMirabilis multiflora var. pubescens30 / 9
0.02r48 wire-lettuceStephanomeria pauciflora20 / 3
0.02r49 common phaceliaPhacelia distans50 / 9
0.02r50 desert chicoryRafinesquia neomexicana10 / 5
0.02l51 oak mistletoePhoradendron serotinum ssp. tomentosum3 / 3
0.02l  (fringed amaranth, Amaranthus fimbriatus; western bernardia, Bernardia incana; silver puffs, Uropappus lindleyi)
0.03r52 *downy bromeBromus tectorum99 / 9
0.03l53 odoraPorophyllum gracile20 / 9
0.03l54 San Felipe dogweedAdenophyllum porophylloides50 / 9
0.03l  (fluff grass, Dasyochloa pulchella; California juniper, Juniperus californica)
0.03r55 Parry's nolinaNolina parryi30 / 9
0.04r56 silver puffsUropappus lindleyi30 / 9
0.04r57 Fremont pincushionChaenactis fremontii99 / 9
0.05l  (lotebush, Ziziphus parryi var. parryi)
0.07l58 turpentine broomThamnosma montana40 / 9
0.09r  (pinyon pine, Pinus monophylla)
0.10c59 chiaSalvia columbariae50 / 9
0.10l60 Payson's wild cabbageCaulanthus simulans2 / 1
0.11r61 Fremont's goosefootChenopodium fremontii20 / 5
0.12l62 desert bitterbrushPurshia tridentata var. glandulosa10 / 5
0.12l63 Wright's buckwheatEriogonum wrightii var. membranaceum40 / 9
0.12l64 side-oats gramaBouteloua curtipendula30 / 9
0.12l65 pinyon pinePinus monophylla40 / 9
0.12l66 purple three-awnAristida purpurea10 / 9
0.12r67 squirreltailElymus elymoides1 / 1
0.13r68 basketbushRhus aromatica10 / 5
0.13b69 smoothleaf yerba santaEriodictyon trichocalyx var. lanatum20 / 5
0.13r70 desert almondPrunus fasciculata var. fasciculata10 / 4
0.13r71 fringed amaranthAmaranthus fimbriatus10 / 1
0.13r72 Palmer's amaranthAmaranthus palmeri20 / 1
0.13 73 sandhill amaranthAmaranthus torreyix / 1
0.13r74 *shortpod mustardHirschfeldia incana2 / 1
0.13r75 white-stemmed blazing starMentzelia albicaulis3 / 2
0.13r76 sacred daturaDatura wrightii1 / 1
0.13r77~Jones' prickly-nut cryptanthaCryptantha muricata var. jonesii20 / 3
0.13r  Cross small drainage, which briefly joins road
0.13r78 coyote tobaccoNicotiana attenuata1 / 1
0.13r79 white mugwortArtemisia ludoviciana ssp. albula10 / 5
0.13r80 scarlet buglerPenstemon centranthifolius20 / 5
0.13l81 birch-leaf mountain-mahoganyCercocarpus betuloides var. betuloides5 / 3
0.13l  Small drainage exits road
0.14r82 wavyleaf twinevineFunastrum crispum8 / 1
0.14r83 narrow-leaved brickelliaBrickellia oblongifolia var. linifolia20 / 5
0.15l84 desert lotusAcmispon rigidus99 / 9
0.16b85 *foxtail barleyHordeum murinum10 / 2
0.16l86 Acton enceliaEncelia actoni10 / 4
0.17   T-jct. with road; turn right on it
0.17r87 thyme-leafed spurgeChamaesyce serpyllifolia ssp. serpyllifolia1 / 1
0.17r88 fivewing spiderlingBoerhavia triquetra var. intermedia3 / 2
0.17r89 needle gramaBouteloua aristidoides var. aristidoides1 / 1
0.19l  Jct. Cactus Spring Trail; turn left and take it
0.19r  Sign: "Cactus Spring Trail 5E01 (ahead); Sawmill Trail 5E03 (right)"
0.19r90 scale-budAnisocoma acaulis1 / 1
0.20r  Display board: "Cactus Springs Trail …"
0.22r  (bigberry manzanita, Arctostaphylos glauca)
0.22r91 fluff grassDasyochloa pulchella20 / 5
0.22r  Sign: "Bikes prohibited in Santa Rosa Wilderness"
0.24r  (narrowleaf bedstraw, Galium angustifolium ssp. angustifolium)
0.26r  Jct. small drainage that joins trail
0.27r92 desert monardellaMonardella nana40 / 9
0.28l93 bigberry manzanitaArctostaphylos glauca50 / 9
0.28l94 hollyleaf redberryRhamnus ilicifolia5 / 5
0.32   Y-jct; old road continues straight; take trail to right
0.32r  Sign: "Cactus Spring Trail 5E01; Horsethief Creek 2 1/4 mi; Cactus Spring 4 mi; Agua Alta Spring 10 mi" (gone in 2015)
0.33r  Wilderness Sign-In Box (for permit; gone in 2015)
0.33l95 California popcorn flowerPlagiobothrys collinus var. fulvescens5 / 1
0.33l96 six-weeks gramaBouteloua barbata var. barbata1 / 1
0.34l97 trailing four-o'clockMirabilis albida20 / 3
0.34r98~*tumble-mustardSisymbrium altissimum1 / 1
0.34l99 western bernardiaBernardia incana99 / 9
0.34b100 California juniperJuniperus californica20 / 9
0.34r101 white-bracted spineflowerChorizanthe xanti var. leucotheca30 / 3
0.34   Local low point on trail; elevation 4000 feet (1219 m)
0.35c102 Schott's calicoLoeseliastrum schottii50 / 9
0.36   Minor local high point on trail
0.37l103 white-margined oxythecaSidotheca emarginata50 / 9
0.37l  weird popcorn flower variant with almost entirely vegetative growth; probably C. intermedia
0.37l104 bajada lupineLupinus concinnus20 / 2
0.37r105 wing-nut cryptanthaCryptantha pterocarya10 / 2
0.38l  (bird's-foot fern, Pellaea mucronata var. mucronata)
0.38   Jct. small drainage that joins trail
0.40   Trails leaves small drainage; minor local low point on trail
0.40r106 bird's-foot fernPellaea mucronata var. mucronata5 / 5
0.40b  (beavertail cactus, Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris)
0.40r  (lace-pod, Thysanocarpus laciniatus)
0.40l107~San Bernardino suncupCamissoniopsis confusa5 / 2
0.40b108 Wright's buckwheatEriogonum wrightii var. nodosum20 / 5
0.41l109 golden-bowl mariposaCalochortus concolor50 / 9
0.42r  (white sage, Salvia apiana)
0.42   Minor local high point on trail
0.43b110 beavertail cactusOpuntia basilaris var. basilaris20 / 9
0.44r111 Palmer's milk-vetchAstragalus palmeri50 / 9
0.44r  Woodrat's nest
0.45l112 star giliaGilia stellata50 / 9
0.45r  (dense mistletoe, Phoradendron bolleanum, on juniper)
0.46r113 Gander's chollaCylindropuntia ganderi5 / 5
0.47r114 woolly Indian paintbrushCastilleja foliolosa30 / 5
0.47r115 little-leaved chaparral beardtongueKeckiella antirrhinoides var. microphylla30 / 7
0.48l  (desert apricot, Prunus fremontii)
  116 yellow tackstemCalycoseris parryix / 1
0.49   Trail rounds ridge and curves right 90°
0.50r117 white sageSalvia apiana50 / 9
0.50b118 desert apricotPrunus fremontii20 / 9
0.51b119 desert bluebellsPhacelia campanularia ssp. campanularia99 / 9
0.51b  (San Jacinto beardtongue, Penstemon clevelandii var. connatus)
0.51r120 sweetbushBebbia juncea var. aspera20 / 3
0.52r121 Coulter's snapdragonAntirrhinum coulterianum2 / 1
0.52b122 catclawSenegalia greggii30 / 7
0.53r  Trail curves left to cross Deep Canyon drainage
0.53r123 strigose lotusAcmispon strigosus10 / 3
0.53l  (mountain California-fuchsia, Epilobium canum ssp. latifolium)
0.53l124 common monkeyflowerMimulus guttatus10 / 1
0.53l125~horseweedErigeron canadensis1 / 1
0.53   Cross Deep Canyon drainage; local low point; elevation 3880 feet (1183 m)
0.53b126 false monkeyflowerMimulus pilosus10 / 1
0.53l127 floriferous monkeyflowerMimulus floribundus10 / 1
0.53r128 lesser paintbrushCastilleja minor ssp. spiralis5 / 2
0.53r129~little spring beautyClaytonia exigua ssp. exigua10 / 2
0.53l130 *tocaloteCentaurea melitensis10 / 1
    The following species are found in the drainage off-trail, and could well appear on trail in some years. They are given in alphabetical order by scientific name.
0.53r131 *tumble pigweedAmaranthus albusx / 1
0.53l132 dwarf white milk-vetchAstragalus didymocarpus var. dispermusx / 1
0.53r133 canchalaguaZeltnera venustax / 1
0.53l134 spreading fleabaneErigeron divergensx / 1
0.53l135 common bedstrawGalium aparinex / 1
0.53l136 western marsh cudweedGnaphalium palustre5 / 3
0.53l137 few-flowered heterocodonHeterocodon rariflorumx / 1
0.53r138 toad rushJuncus bufonius var. bufoniusx / 1
0.53r139 iris-leaved rushJuncus xiphioidesx / 2
0.53l140 Spanish cloverAcmispon americanus var. americanusx / 1
0.53l141 dwarf lupineLupinus bicolorx / 1
0.53r142 scarlet monkeyflowerMimulus cardinalisx / 1
0.53r143~little redstem monkeyflowerMimulus rubellusx / 1
0.53l144 limestone phaceliaPhacelia affinisx / 1
0.53l145 Lemmon's phaceliaPhacelia lemmoniix / 1
0.53l146 branching phaceliaPhacelia ramosissimax / 1
0.53r147spdockRumex sp.x / 1
0.53r148 rigid hedge-nettleStachys rigida10 / 3
0.53r149 California brickellbushBrickellia californica4 / 4
0.53b150 deergrassMuhlenbergia rigens30 / 5
0.53r151 desert baccharisBaccharis sergiloides99 / 9
0.53r152 western false-indigoAmorpha fruticosa30 / 5
0.53b153 canyon dodderCuscuta subinclusa3 / 2
0.53b154 desert oliveForestiera pubescens10 / 2
0.53r155 southern Chinese housesCollinsia concolor10 / 1
0.53r156 sticky false-giliaAllophyllum glutinosum10 / 3
0.54r157 southern honeysuckleLonicera subspicata var. denudata20 / 9
0.54l ~(red willow, Salix laevigata)
0.55l158 interior live oakQuercus wislizeni var. frutescens2 / 2
0.55r159 California thistleCirsium occidentale var. californicum2 / 2
0.55l  Very old junked car, truck and water tank
0.55r160 hollyleaf cherryPrunus ilicifolia ssp. ilicifolia3 / 3
0.56   Enter marble area and the so-called "Dolomite Mine"
0.56l  (scarlet milk-vetch, Astragalus coccineus; rolled-leaf spurge, Chamaesyce revoluta; granite prickly phlox, Leptodactylon pungens; and dropseed, Sporobolus sp. on north side of mine)
0.57r161 San Jacinto beardtonguePenstemon clevelandii var. connatus40 / 9
0.60r  Jct. road
0.60r162 pancake prickly-pearOpuntia chlorotica10 / 4
0.61l163 lotebushZiziphus parryi var. parryi30 / 9
0.62b  These plants are either a hairier form of Eriodictyon trichocalyx var. lanatum, or possibly Eriodictyon crassifolium var. nigrescens
0.62l ~(perennial rock-cress, Arabis perennans)
0.62   Y-jct; stay right; old mine road is to left; local high point; elevation ~3940 feet (1200 m)
    The following species is vouchered from someplace between Dolomite Mine and Horsethief Creek (winter ann, cespitose, 4-16 inches high, shady places like next to rocks):
? 164 Bigelow's blue grassPoa bigeloviiV /
0.63r165 lace-podThysanocarpus laciniatus10 / 3
0.64   Cross small drainage and trail turns left 90°
0.68l166 Parish's needlegrassStipa parishii var. parishii50 / 9
0.73   Cross small drainage; local low point; elevation ~3900 feet (1190 m)
0.74l  Jct. (short?) road
0.75b167 San Jacinto buckwheatEriogonum apiculatum50 / 9
0.79r168 ashy silk tasselGarrya flavescens4 / 4
0.82l  Jct. mine road shaped like a "U" tangent to our trail
0.83r  Jct. road; sign: "Be prepared for hazardous conditions beyond this point"
0.83r169 narrowleaf bedstrawGalium angustifolium ssp. angustifolium10 / 9
0.84   Local high point on trail; elevation ~3930 feet (1198 m)
0.85   Minor local low point on trail
0.88   Second of two minor local high points on trail; begin steep downhill - watch your footing!
0.88b  (cane cholla, Cylindropuntia californica var. parkeri)
0.91l170 California spear-leaved brickelliaBrickellia atractyloides var. arguta3 / 3
0.91l  First of several specimens of desert scrub oak, Quercus cornelius-mulleri, with some much-larger leaves that are much-greener above
0.91r171 beady lipfernCheilanthes covillei20 / 9
0.92b172~perennial rock-cressBoechera perennans20 / 5
0.94r173 limestone phaceliaPhacelia cryptantha50 / 9
0.95   Cross small drainage
0.95l174 dense mistletoePhoradendron bolleanum1 / 1
0.96   Now on ridge between the two close drainages
0.97r175 granite prickly phloxLinanthus pungens20 / 9
0.99   Trail zigzags right then left
0.99r  First live San Jacinto beardtonguePenstemon clevelandii var. connatus /
0.99r  (Fremont cottonwood, Populus fremontii ssp. fremontii)
1.00   Cross drainage; local low point; elevation ~3840 feet (1170 m)
1.00b176 southern goldenrodSolidago confinis20 / 3
1.01r177 phlox-leaved bedstrawGalium andrewsii ssp. andrewsii30 / 5
1.03   Local high point on trail
1.04r  yellow-flowered woolly Indian paintbrushCastilleja foliolosa /
1.05r178 mountain California-fuchsiaEpilobium canum ssp. latifolium50 / 7
1.06r179 white-flowering currantRibes indecorum1 / 1
1.06r180 rigid hedge-nettleStachys ajugoides var. rigida10 / 2
1.06   Cross drainage; local low point; elevation ~3820 feet (1165 m)
1.06b181 arroyo willowSalix lasiolepis2 / 2
1.06r  adult California brickellbush, Brickellia californica
1.06l182 southern California silver-lotusAcmispon argophyllus var. argophyllus2 / 2
1.08l  Trap-door spider's door
1.09l183 small-flowered nemacladusNemacladus sigmoideus20 / 3
1.16l  (Bigelow's monkeyflower, Mimulus bigelovii var. bigelovii)
1.17l  Sign: "Santa Rosa Wilderness"
1.18   Local high point on trail; elevation ~3930 feet (1198 m)
1.21b184 rock buckwheatEriogonum saxatile30 / 7
1.29   Cross drainage
1.29r185 six-weeks three-awnAristida adscensionisx /
1.30l186 Hall's caulanthusCaulanthus hallii1 / 1
1.30l  (jojoba, Simmondsia chinensis)
1.34l187 jojobaSimmondsia chinensis10 / 4
1.37l188 Bigelow's desert four-o'clockMirabilis laevis var. retrorsax / 1
1.38r189 rolled-leaf spurgeChamaesyce revolutax / 2
1.39b190 thick-leaved ground cherryPhysalis crassifolia10 / 2
1.39   Enter big patch of prickly pear cactus on unusual steep planar slope perhaps caused by undercutting of slope by creek and landsliding
1.41l191 Parish's poppyEschscholzia parishii99 / 9
1.48   Cross small side drainage
1.49   Cross main drainage
1.49   Cross main drainage again
1.49l192 bearded cryptanthaCryptantha barbigera var. barbigerax / x
1.50l193 cane bluestemBothriochloa barbinodis20 / 4
1.50r194 desert dudleyaDudleya saxosa ssp. aloides20 / 5
1.50   Cross main drainage again
1.50l ~(white desert-primrose, Oenothera caespitosa ssp. marginata)
1.51l195 narrowleaf willowSalix exigua var. exigua5 / 2
1.51l196 golden yarrowEriophyllum confertiflorum var. confertiflorum5 / 3
1.51l197 white everlastingPseudognaphalium microcephalumx / 1
1.52l198 annual malacothrixMalacothrix clevelandii10 / 2
1.52l199 eucryptaEucrypta chrysanthemifolia var. bipinnatifida20 / 5
1.52r200 slender everlastingPseudognaphalium thermale10 / 3
1.52r  Small drainage joins trail
1.53l201 blue dicksDichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum40 / 9
1.53r202~virgin's bowerClematis pauciflora2 / 2
1.54l  white blue dicksDichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum /
1.54l203 silky lotusAcmispon heermannii var. heermannii10 / 2
1.55l204 scarlet milk-vetchAstragalus coccineus20 / 5
1.60l  (short-leaved baccharis, Baccharis brachyphylla; needle-leaved rabbitbrush, Ericameria teretifolia)
1.60   Cross drainage to its left
1.63   Cross drainage to its right
1.67r205 desert noseburnTragia ramosa5 / 1
1.68b206 smooth scouring rushEquisetum laevigatum5 / 3
1.68r  Cross side drainage
1.70l207 narrowleaf monardellaMonardella linoides ssp. linoides5 / 3
1.71   Minor local high point on trail
1.73   Cross creek with water; local low point on trail; elevation ~3640 feet (1110 m)
1.73b208 Mexican rushJuncus mexicanus30 / 3
1.73b209 *rabbits-foot grassPolypogon monspeliensis1 / 1
1.73l210 Hooker's evening-primroseOenothera elata ssp. hirsutissima1 / 1
1.74r ~(southern cattail, Typha domingensis)
1.75r  (stream orchid, Epipactis gigantea)
1.75r211 velvet ashFraxinus velutina2 / 2
1.75r  (wild grape, Vitis girdiana)
1.80 212 starfish (Yuma) spurgeChamaesyce setilobax / 1
1.83r213 mountain grape-soda lupineLupinus excubitus var. austromontanus2 / 1
1.84   Local high point on trail; elevation ~3740 feet (1140 m)
1.93   Check mileage to drainage
1.93   Trail joins drainage
1.99l214 teddy-bear chollaCylindropuntia bigelovii1 / 1
2.06   Trail leaves drainage to left
2.08l  Check for Kallstroemia
2.09 215 Santa Rosa Mtns. linanthusLeptosiphon floribundus ssp. hallii20 / 2
2.11   Trail crosses drainage to right
2.13   Cross major drainage which joins Horsethief Creek just downstream; local low point; elevation ~3560 feet (1085 m); (check mileage: is this actually 2.20?)
2.13r  (green miner's lettuce, Claytonia parviflora ssp. viridis; Bigelow's linanthus, Linanthus bigelovii)
2.13 216 brackenPteridium aquilinum var. pubescensx / 1
2.15   Local high point
2.20l  (Old horse corral made from manzanita branches)
2.26l217 big galletaHilaria rigida3 / 3
2.26r218 California filagoLogfia filaginoides5 / 1
2.26l219 spearleafMatelea parvifolia21 / 1
2.27   Trail turns left 90°
2.27l220 desert fish-hook cactusMammillaria tetrancistra3 / 2
2.27r221 Parish's goldeneyeBahiopsis parishii20 / 5
2.28l222 *Bermuda grassCynodon dactylon5 / 1
2.28   Switchback right
2.29r223 Latimer's woodland-giliaSaltugilia latimerix / 1
2.29r224 fairy bowties, threadstemPterostegia drymarioides1 / 1
2.30   Switchback left
2.31l  mature California spear-leaved brickelliaBrickellia arguta var. arguta /
2.31   Switchback right
2.32   Switchback left and trail curves right
2.33l225 Fremont cottonwoodPopulus fremontii ssp. fremontii2 / 2
2.33b226 *tall fescueFestuca arundinacea5 / 1
2.33   Cross Horsethief Creek; elevation ~3480 feet (1060 m)
2.34   Trail turns right 90°
2.35l227 wild tarragonArtemisia dracunculus10 / 1
2.35   Y-jct; Trail is left branch; Trail to right goes to a shady rest spot; go right
2.36l228 honey mesquiteProsopis glandulosa var. torreyana10 / 4
2.37r229 wild grapeVitis girdiana1 / 1
2.37r230~creeping wild ryeElymus triticoides10 / 1
2.37l231 Torrey's scrub oakQuercus acutidens5 / 1
    The following four species are along Horsethief Creek in this area:
2.37 232 white alderAlnus rhombifoliax / 1
2.37 233~western columbineAquilegia formosax / 1
2.37 234 blue-eyed grassSisyrinchium bellum20 / 3
2.37 235 *saltcedarTamarix ramosissima50 / 9
    The following species is vouchered from “Cactus Springs Trail near Horsethief Creek”
- 236 slim tridensTridens muticus var. muticusV /
2.37   Return to Y-jct
2.39   Y-jct; go right
2.42   Switchback left
2.43   Switchback right
2.44l237 Mexican bladder sageScutellaria mexicana5 / 3
2.45   Switchback left
2.46l  (desert mistletoe, Phoradendron californicum)
2.47r238 star-flowered bedstrawGalium stellatum1 / 1
2.49l239 pale suncupCamissoniopsis pallida ssp. pallida20 / 5
2.50l240 California marinaMarina orcuttii var. orcuttii99 / 4
2.51   Switchback right
2.53   Trail turns right 30 degrees
2.53l241 gravel cryptanthaCryptantha decipiens5 / 1
2.55   Switchback left
2.55   Switchback right
2.60   Saddle
2.62   Smaller saddle
2.66   Saddle
2.71   Trail is now less steep on ridge
2.71r242 papillate dodderCuscuta californica var. papillosa3 / 1
2.74   Saddle; local high point; trail now descends to eventually join wash
2.79   Saddle
2.83l ~(Ziegler's aster, Dieteria canescens var. ziegleri)
2.86   Join wash
2.88l  (Ericameria teretifolia high on cliff)
3.06   Y-jct in wash; stay right
3.07 243 slender wreathplantStephanomeria exigua ssp. exigua20 / 9
3.15l244 long-leaved rushJuncus macrophyllus5 / 2
3.25r245 Fendler's ivy-leaf tomatilloPhysalis hederifolia var. fendleri6 / 1
3.48   Y-jct in wash; stay right
3.51   Rejoin other branch of wash
3.56   Leave entrenched wash near here
3.64r246~California evening-primroseOenothera californica ssp. avita10 / 2
3.74l247 spotted buckwheatEriogonum maculatum30 / 3
3.89l248 five-needled thymophyllaThymophylla pentachaeta var. belenidium99 / 1
3.95l  Hillside of California marina, Marina orcuttii var. orcuttii
3.96l  Hillside of California marina, Marina orcuttii var. orcuttii
3.97r  Sign: "Trail"
4.05l  Sign: "Trail"
4.09   Local high point
4.14l  Sign: "Trail"; local high point
4.36r249 southern mountain woolly-starEriastrum densifolium ssp. austromontanum30 / 3
4.42r  Sign: "Trail"
4.45r  Y-jct; stay right; Sign: "Trail"
4.51l  Sign: "Trail"
4.63   Jct. wash with Cactus Spring; go left to the Spring
4.66l250 scratchgrassMuhlenbergia asperifolia10 / 1
4.66l251 California loosestrifeLythrum californicum1 / 1
4.66   Cactus Spring; return to trail
4.69   Jct. trail; go left
4.77l  Sign: "Trail"
4.90r  Trail parallels creek for a short distance; next species is in Creek to right
4.93r252 desert-willowChilopsis linearis ssp. arcuata20 / 1
4.93   End Plant Guide; the following are approximate mileages to points farther along the trail
5.32   Cross creek
8.81   Saddle between Deep Canyon and Martinez Canyon

Comments On Specific Species

Gutierrezia sarothrae. See Gutierrezia californica and G. sarothrae.

Opuntia phaeacantha. We are not clear whether the common prickly pear here with large pads is O. phaeacantha or O. vaseyi, or something else. The plants appear different in gestalt from the O. vaseyi at the Santa Rosa Plateau, and online vouchers for this area are all of O. phaeacantha.

Not a single flower out of hundreds observed on this trail has the white filaments of O. phaeacantha. The filaments are mostly pure yellow, but some filaments are green, yellow and green, or reddish-salmon. This wide range of colors is typical of O. vaseyi. Also, an examination of the glochids on 11/12/06 found that they were absent from the areoles on the pad surfaces on the single plant surveyed, similar to some of the O. vaseyi plants at the Santa Rosa Plateau.

Furthermore, the fruit inside color is purplish/red, typical of O. vaseyi, and not the green color of O. phaeacantha. The spines are flattened at the base, again typical of O. vaseyi, and not O. phaeacantha. The pads in general are too narrow to be those of O. engelmannii, and the plants don't have the more-erect habit of O. engelmannii.

We have just gone with the voucher flow and called these plants O. phaeacantha until we get a better understanding of these plants.

Eriogonum davidsonii. We have not observed blooms on the plants at the trailhead, but have a positive determination from blooms and leaves at mile 0.78. The plants at the trailhead look like they are the same species, but only the inflorescence will tell.

Eriodictyon trichocalyx var. lanatum. Nearly all the plants on the trail fit this taxon well, except for the plants on the dolomite at the Dolomite Mine.

Those plants at one location at the Dolomite Mine have a very hairy upper leaf surface, more like that of E. crassifolium. However, all those botanists familiar with E. crassifolium var. crassifolium say that these plants are not that taxon. Possibly these plants are E. crassifolium var. nigrescens; or possibly they are hybrids between E. crassifolium and Eriodictyon trichocalyx var. lanatum. This taxon is close to E. crassifolium var. nigrescens, and the plants here in fact key to that taxon using most keys. However, the upper leaf surface is glabrous to hairy, which matches the Jepson Manual description for E. trichocalyx var. lanatum and not E. crassifolium var. nigrescens.

Monardella nana ssp. arida, Galium andrewsii ssp. andrewsii. These two species are intimately associated on this trail. Except for a small number of occurrences of Monardella nana, if you see one of these species, you'll find the other within a few feet.

Lupinus concinnus. The specimens on this trail look very different from most plants of L. concinnus we have seen. When a specimen looks so strikingly different from the low desert version that one cannot even recognize them as L. concinnus at times, it sure seems like there ought to be some split into at least subspecies. The problem, according to the Jepson Manual treatment, is that the named varieties are "+- indistinct" and they "need study".

Zabriskie had two taxa in his Flora of Deep Canyon that are now combined as L. concinnus:

Most of the specimens on the trail have the appressed hairs of ssp. pallidus, but the flower colors are pink to blue to purple, which is a mix of both subspecies. Hence it appears that the Jepson Manual treatment got it right.

Quercus acutidens = "Q. not-engelmannii.

Quercus wislizeni var. frutescens. This specimen has an arborescent form, with three main trunks.

Artemisia dracunculus. These specimens have a number of deeply-lobed leaves, extending well up the stem. We have seen this in specimens at Volcan Mountain as well.

We thank Jordan Zylstra for the correct determinations of Sarcostemma crispum+ and Leptodactylon pungens plants on this trail. We thank Bruce Watts for discovering the Amaranthus palmeri on this trail. We thank Ted Caragozian, Kate Harper and Jim Roberts for their help with the 14 February 2014 survey.

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Copyright © 2006-2017 by Tom Chester, James Dillane, Dave Stith, Kirk Anderson, Keir Morse, Kay Madore, Erik Blume and Anne Kelly.
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Updated 30 March 2017