Flora of Little Surprise Canyon



This checklist is a start at a flora of Little Surprise Canyon, a very small canyon south of the Hellhole Canyon parking lot just west of Borrego Springs.

The flora has been made from only two full days of fieldwork in a single year, on 16 January 2008 and 1 April 2008, and a few hours of fieldwork on 2 March 2009. Fortunately, 1 April 2008 was in prime time, when most of the annuals and perennials were in bloom and could be reliably identified. Nonetheless, this flora is undoubtedly incomplete for three reasons. First, it takes significantly more days of fieldwork to expect a high degree of completeness. Second, some annuals are only seen in some years, and hence might have never germinated in early 2008. Third, there are no online vouchers from this canyon at all.

The name Surprise Canyon is ambiguous, since it is used for several locations. The main use is for a canyon in the Mountain Palm Springs drainage. It is also an alternate name for Flat Cat Canyon immediately north of Hellhole Canyon.

There is very little mention of Little Surprise Canyon online or in reference books. The name is given on the display board in the Hellhole Canyon parking lot. The Canyon is mentioned, as Surprise Canyon, in Lindsay 2001, Anza-Borrego A to Z. However, it is not mentioned in Schad (1998) or Lindsay and Lindsay (2002). Fortunately, the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association has a nice page on it, mentioning it as a nice wildflower location.

The name of Little Surprise Canyon comes from Mark Jorgensen: It is a surprise during good wildflower seasons and holds many species in its shady confines (quoted in Lindsay 2001).

The location of Little Surprise Canyon is shown in the following Google Map, which can interactively be zoomed or panned:

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In the Google map on the left, the Hellhole Canyon Parking lot is the dirt area in the upper part of the map just left of center. Little Surprise Canyon extends south from the parking lot. The west branch of Little Surprise Canyon extends south from the middle of the map. The east branch, which consists of two forks, extends from the center of the map to Highway S22 on the right of the map. Click on the plus or minus symbol at upper left to change the scale of the map.

The map on the right shows the survey path on 16 January 2008, much of which was resurveyed on 1 April 2008. East Canyon was surveyed on 26 February 2008, and no new species were found. Highway S22, Montezuma Valley Road, is offset slightly so that our survey route along the road can be seen.

There are no vouchers from this canyon that we know of. Hence the checklist consists entirely of our observations.

Although this canyon is small, it has considerable appeal. It is a beautiful little canyon, with steep (albeit short) walls rising quickly above you which makes it very scenic. It is indeed a good wildflower location, since there was good annual growth in 2008, which was a fairly-low-desert-rainfall year. The favorable environment is due to decent rainfall in this west-side desert location, good concentration of that rainfall along the bottom by the walls of the canyon without too much runoff, and an abundance of niches in which plants can grow.

See also Botanical Trip Report from 16 January 2008.

The following photograph shows the view from near the top of the west branch of Little Surprise Canyon looking north down into the west branch:

Toro Peak is the highest peak on the left in the farthest ridge, and is due north in this photograph. The intermediate ridge that is the highest-appearing feature on the left leads to Indian Head to the left of the pictured area. Borrego Palm Canyon, the Visitor Center, and the Campground are out of sight to the left in front of Indian Head. The closest prominent buildings are the Administrative Headquarters for Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Checklist for Little Surprise Canyon

The Checklist is sorted first by category - ferns, dicots and monocots - and then by family and scientific name. The Family and Scientific Name are from the Jepson Manual. An asterisk before the Common Name indicates a non-native taxon.

A rough estimate of the number of plants, and the number of locations for each species, is given in the last two columns. Maximum values are 99 plants, and 9 locations. The main intent of this column is to indicate the species for which we found very few plants or locations.

Version for printing, without lines and other text on this page: html (4 pages) or pdf Clickbook booklet (2 double-sided pages). (See printing instructions for an explanation of these options)

#FamilyScientific Name(*)Common Name# Plants
# Locations
1PteridaceaeCheilanthes parryiwoolly lipfern30/565
2AcanthaceaeCarlowrightia arizonicaArizona carlowrightia3/270
3AcanthaceaeJusticia californicachuparosa50/958
4AsteraceaeAdenophyllum porophylloidesSan Felipe dogweed1/180
5AsteraceaeAmbrosia dumosaburroweed50/98
6AsteraceaeBebbia juncea var. asperasweetbush20/963
7AsteraceaeCalycoseris wrightiiwhite tackstem20/99
8AsteraceaeChaenactis carphoclinia var. carphocliniapebble pincushion99/99
9AsteraceaeChaenactis fremontiiFremont pincushion99/98
10AsteraceaeEncelia farinosabrittlebush40/98
11AsteraceaeHymenoclea salsola var. salsolacheesebush20/58
12AsteraceaeMalacothrix glabratadesert dandelion20/58
13AsteraceaeMonoptilon bellioidesdesert star10/38
14AsteraceaePerityle emoryiEmory's rock-daisy50/958
15AsteraceaeRafinesquia neomexicanadesert chicory30/99
16AsteraceaeSenecio mohavensisMojave ragwort30/968
17AsteraceaeStephanomeria pauciflora var. pauciflorawire-lettuce5/38
18AsteraceaeTrichoptilium incisumyellow-head10/189
19AsteraceaeTrixis californica var. californicaCalifornia trixis5/385
20AsteraceaeUropappus lindleyisilver puffs2/173
21AsteraceaeViguiera parishiiParish's viguiera2/175
22BoraginaceaeAmsinckia menziesii var. menziesiismall-flowered fiddleneck10/18
23BoraginaceaeAmsinckia tessellata var. tessellatabristly fiddleneck99/99
24BoraginaceaeCryptantha angustifolianarrow-leaved cryptantha99/98
25BoraginaceaeCryptantha barbigerabearded cryptantha20/98
26BoraginaceaeCryptantha maritimaGuadalupe cryptantha99/957
27BoraginaceaeCryptantha pterocaryawing-nut cryptantha30/976
28BoraginaceaePectocarya heterocarpachuckwalla pectocarya20/18
29BoraginaceaePectocarya recurvatacurvenut combseed99/959
30BrassicaceaeBrassica tournefortii*Asian mustard99/913
31BrassicaceaeDescurainia pinnata ssp. glabrasmooth western tansy-mustard20/187
32BrassicaceaeGuillenia lasiophyllaCalifornia mustard10/12
33BrassicaceaeLepidium lasiocarpum var. lasiocarpumhairy-podded pepper-grass50/99
34BrassicaceaeLyrocarpa coulteri var. palmeriCoulter's lyrepod1/143
35BrassicaceaeSisymbrium irio*London rocket5/279
36CactaceaeEchinocereus engelmanniiEngelmann's hedgehog cactus1/134
37CactaceaeFerocactus cylindraceusCalifornia barrel cactus20/966
38CactaceaeMammillaria dioicaCalifornia fish-hook cactus5/545
39CactaceaeOpuntia basilaris var. basilarisbeavertail cactus5/527
40CactaceaeOpuntia bigeloviiteddy-bear cholla1/18
41CactaceaeOpuntia ganderiGander's cholla50/99
42CampanulaceaeNemacladus glanduliferus var. glanduliferusglandular nemacladus3/170
43ChenopodiaceaeChenopodium murale*nettle-leaved goosefoot2/192
44CrassulaceaeCrassula connatapygmy-weed99/18
45CucurbitaceaeCucurbita palmatacoyote melon1/167
46EuphorbiaceaeChamaesyce polycarpasmall-seeded spurge50/98
47EuphorbiaceaeDitaxis lanceolatanarrowleaf ditaxis20/962
48FabaceaeAcacia greggiicatclaw5/124
49FabaceaeLotus salsuginosus var. brevivexillusshort-bannered coastal lotus20/98
50FabaceaeLupinus arizonicusArizona lupine40/98
51FabaceaeLupinus sparsiflorusCoulter's lupine5/14
52FabaceaePsorothamnus schottiiindigo bush20/98
53FouquieriaceaeFouquieria splendens ssp. splendensocotillo50/99
54GeraniaceaeErodium cicutarium*redstem filaree99/98
55GeraniaceaeErodium texanumTexas filaree5/11
56HydrophyllaceaeEmmenanthe penduliflora var. penduliflorawhispering bells30/961
57HydrophyllaceaeNama demissum var. demissumpurple mat3/18
58HydrophyllaceaePhacelia cicutaria var. hispidacaterpillar phacelia10/375
59HydrophyllaceaePhacelia crenulata var. minutifloralittle-flowered heliotrope phacelia30/98
60HydrophyllaceaePhacelia distanscommon phacelia99/98
61HydrophyllaceaePhacelia pedicellatapedicellate phacelia10/182.5
62KrameriaceaeKrameria erectaPima rhatany15/560
63KrameriaceaeKrameria grayiwhite rhatany15/583
64LamiaceaeHyptis emoryidesert-lavender20/98
65LamiaceaeSalvia vaseyiVasey's sage2/175
66LoasaceaeMentzelia affinisyellow blazing star20/55
67LoasaceaeMentzelia involucratabracted blazing star20/98
68MalvaceaeHibiscus denudatusrock hibiscus10/571
69NyctaginaceaeMirabilis bigelovii var. retrorsawishbone plant5/564
70OnagraceaeCamissonia boothii ssp. condensataBooth's evening primrose20/99
71OnagraceaeCamissonia californicaCalifornia suncup99/98
72OnagraceaeCamissonia cardiophylla ssp. cardiophyllaheartleaf sun-cup20/378
73PapaveraceaeEschscholzia minutiflora ssp. minutiflorasmall-flowered poppy40/99
74PapaveraceaeEschscholzia parishiiParish's poppy99/958
75PlantaginaceaePlantago ovatadesert plantain99/99
76PolemoniaceaeEriastrum eremicum ssp. eremicumdesert woolly-star30/98
77PolemoniaceaeGilia stellatastar gilia50/959
78PolemoniaceaeLangloisia setosissima ssp. setosissimabristly langloisia99/957
79PolemoniaceaeLoeseliastrum matthewsiidesert calico20/17
80PolygonaceaeChorizanthe brevicornu var. brevicornubrittle spineflower40/98
81PolygonaceaeEriogonum inflatumdesert trumpet30/98
82PolygonaceaeEriogonum thomasiiThomas' buckwheat50/98
83PolygonaceaePterostegia drymarioidesthreadstem1/175
84ScrophulariaceaeMimulus bigelovii var. bigeloviiBigelow's monkeyflower5/274
85ScrophulariaceaeMohavea confertifloraghost flower10/277
86SimmondsiaceaeSimmondsia chinensisjojoba5/290
87SolanaceaeNicotiana obtusifoliadesert tobacco1/181
88SolanaceaePhysalis crassifoliathick-leaved ground cherry1/172
89SterculiaceaeAyenia compactaayenia2/186
90UrticaceaeParietaria hespera var. hesperapellitory30/965
91ZygophyllaceaeFagonia laevisCalifornia fagonia50/958
92ZygophyllaceaeLarrea tridentatacreosote bush99/99
93LiliaceaeAgave desertidesert agave10/251
94LiliaceaeDichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatumblue dicks1/159
95PoaceaeBromus madritensis ssp. rubens*red brome30/965
96PoaceaePleuraphis rigidabig galleta3/191
97PoaceaeSchismus barbatus*Mediterranean schismus99/98
98PoaceaeVulpia myuros?*rattail fescue?20/130

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Copyright © 2008-2011 by Tom Chester, Wayne Armstrong, Paula Knoll, Kate Shapiro and Michael Charters
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to us at this source:
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Last update: 24 February 2011