Flora of Upper Tubb Canyon / Big Spring, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Fig. 1. Google Earth View of Upper Tubb Canyon / Big Spring Area. The route surveyed on 17 January 2013 is shown in blue. It is probably only possible to do that loop immediately after a fire. Click on the picture for a larger version with landmarks labeled.



The Big Spring tributary of Upper Tubb Canyon must be one of the best-kept secrets of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We, and zillions of other people, have driven S22 starting down the Montezuma Grade without having any idea that the very dry landscape around S22 harbors not only a "Big Spring", but a creek with over a half-mile of year-round flowing water! We were simply dumbfounded to discover this the first time we looked at a Google Earth view of the area, and saw the extensive stretch of vegetation along it.

However, the water is normally guarded well by dense vegetation, steep slopes, and waterfalls. Schad (2010, p. 318) comments in describing a hike to Big Spring that:

the water gushes through tall thickets of seepwillow and thorny tangles of catclaw and mesquite - making it hard to reach the water with one's hide intact.

However, a lightning-caused fire burned the entire area in August 2012, which created a window of opportunity to explore the spring and the creek below it before the vegetation grows back and once again make access difficult. However, be warned that there are a number of waterfalls along the creek below Big Spring, so the trip below Big Spring is not for the faint of heart.

Fig. 2 shows a view of Big Spring from 17 January 2013, 5 months after the fire, and a similar view of Big Spring from 27 October 2020, 8 years after the fire. In 2013, it was easy to get into the creek, and walk up and down the creek itself. In 2020, the vegetation blocks easy access to the creek.

Fig. 2. Left: View of part of Big Spring on 17 January 2013. Right: A similar view on 27 October 2020. A number of the boulders on the far wall can easily be matched up in the two pix. The two pix were not taken from exactly the same vantage point, so the foreground is different. Click on the pictures for larger versions showing larger areas.

Checklist for Upper Tubb Canyon / Big Spring

This checklist is compiled from 4.0 days of fieldwork, from vouchers, and from iNat observations:

Vouchers were searched on 26 October 2020. There were 49 vouchers from this area, of which 41 were collected by Mary Jo Churchwell after the fire. She wisely concentrated on documenting the Big Spring area before it became inaccessible again.

iNaturalist observations were searched on 26 October 2020. There were 243 observations from this area, of which 84 were made by Carla Hoegen and Fred Melgert, and 59 were made by Terry Hunefeld.

This preliminary checklist is probably still incomplete for some winter / spring annuals and perennials. Three species that were not definitively determined are indicated in the checklist below by a qualifier in the column with header #Pls.


The family name is abbreviated to the first five characters in order to save space in the table rows.

An asterisk before the Common Name indicates a non-native taxon.

The column with label BW links to the photo gallery page for each species at Fred Melgert and Carla Hoegen's BorregoWildflowers site.

The column with label #V gives the number of vouchers from this area.

The column with label #iN gives the number of iNat observations from this area. An "n" in this column indicates the location was on the north side of S22, technically outside the boundary of this flora at S22. Some of those species might be observed on the south side of S22 in the future.

The column labeled #Pls gives a minimum estimate of the number of plants from the field surveys, up to a maximum of 99 plants, for species seen in the field surveys for which abundances were noted. A ~ before the number indicates that the species or subspecies determination is not certain, but instead was just our best guess from the observed plants.

Version for printing, without lines and other text on this page: html (5 pages) or pdf Clickbook booklet (2 double-sided pages). (See printing instructions for an explanation of these options)

#FamilScientific Name
Link goes to the Jepson eflora
(*)Common Name
Link goes to Calphotos
1PteriCheilanthes covilleibeady lipfernBW2115
2PteriCheilanthes viscidasticky lipfernBW1
3PteriPellaea mucronata var. mucronatabird's-foot fernBW14
4PteriPentagramma triangularis ssp. triangularisgoldback fernBW2
5CupreJuniperus californicaCalifornia juniperBW115
6EphedEphedra asperaMormon teaBW125
7SauruAnemopsis californicayerba mansaBW1199
8AcantJusticia californicachuparosaBW1999
9AdoxaSambucus nigra ssp. caeruleablue elderberryBW1120
10AmaraAmaranthus fimbriatusfringed amaranthBW1299
11AnacaRhus ovatasugar bushBW299
12ApiacApium graveolens*celeryBW199
13ApiacBerula erectacutleaf water-parsnipBW99
14ApocyFunastrum cynanchoides var. hartwegiiclimbing milkweedBW1175
15ApocyMatelea parvifoliaspearleafBW4
16AsterAdenophyllum porophylloidesSan Felipe dogweedBW399
17AsterAmbrosia acanthicarpabur-ragweedBWn
18AsterAmbrosia salsola var. salsolacheesebushBW199
19AsterArtemisia ludoviciana ssp. incomptamountain mugwortBW199
20AsterBaccharis salicifolia ssp. salicifoliamule fatBW1520
21AsterBahiopsis parishiiParish's goldeneyeBW599
22AsterBebbia juncea var. asperasweetbushBW1499
23AsterBrickellia californicaCalifornia brickellbushBW3
24AsterBrickellia frutescensshrubby brickelliaBW60
25AsterChaenactis fremontiiFremont pincushionBW199
26AsterChaenactis glabriuscula var. glabriusculayellow pincushionBW1
27AsterCirsium vulgare*bull thistleBW26
28AsterEncelia actoniActon enceliaBW199
29AsterEncelia farinosa var. farinosabrittlebushBW1999
30AsterEricameria brachylepisboundary goldenbushBW2225
31AsterErigeron canadensishorseweedBW~3
32AsterEriophyllum wallacei var. wallaceiWallace's woolly daisyBW175
33AsterGutierrezia sarothraematchweedBW130
34AsterLasthenia gracilisgoldfieldsBW1199
35AsterMalacothrix glabratadesert dandelionBW10
36AsterMonoptilon bellioidesdesert starBW3
37AsterPectis papposa var. papposachinch-weedBW199
38AsterPerityle emoryiEmory's rock-daisyBW199
39AsterPluchea sericeaarrow-weedBW1399
40AsterPorophyllum gracileodoraBW50
41AsterPseudognaphalium luteoalbum*common cudweedBW120
42AsterRafinesquia neomexicanadesert chicoryBW1
43AsterSenecio flaccidus var. monoensisMono ragwortBW9
44AsterSolidago velutina ssp. californicagoldenrodBW1
45AsterSonchus oleraceus*sow thistleBW12
46AsterStephanomeria exigua ssp. exiguaslender wreathplantBW1n2
47AsterStephanomeria pauciflorawire-lettuceBW80
48AsterTrixis californica var. californicaCalifornia trixisBW1399
49BoragAmsinckia intermediacommon fiddleneckBW430
50BoragCryptantha barbigera var. barbigerabearded cryptanthaBW115
51BoragCryptantha pterocaryawing-nut cryptanthaBW15
52BoragEmmenanthe penduliflora var. penduliflorawhispering bellsBW99
53BoragPectocarya recurvatacurvenut combseedBW2
54BoragPhacelia cicutaria var. hispidacaterpillar phaceliaBW1
55BoragPhacelia distanscommon phaceliaBW1430
56BoragPhacelia minorwild canterbury bellsBW26
57BoragPholisma arenariumsand plantBW11
58BoragPholistoma membranaceumwhite fiesta flowerBW475
59BoragPlagiobothrys jonesiiJones' popcorn flowerBW1
60BrassBrassica tournefortii*Sahara mustardBW130
61BrassCaulanthus lasiophyllusCalifornia mustardBW1
62BrassDescurainia pinnatawestern tansy-mustardBW1
63BrassDraba cuneifoliawedge-leaved drabaBW1
64BrassHirschfeldia incana*shortpod mustardBW8
65BrassLepidium lasiocarpum ssp. lasiocarpumhairy-podded pepper-grassBW2
66BrassNasturtium officinalewater cressBW199
67BrassSisymbrium irio*London rocketBW1
68BrassSisymbrium orientale*Oriental mustardBW99
69BrassThysanocarpus curvipes ssp. eradiatusfringe-podBW1
70CactaCylindropuntia bigeloviiteddy-bear chollaBW150
71CactaCylindropuntia ganderiGander's chollaBW499
72CactaEchinocereus engelmanniiEngelmann's hedgehog cactusBW11075
73CactaFerocactus cylindraceusCalifornia barrel cactusBW450
74CactaMammillaria dioicaCalifornia fish-hook cactusBW415
75CactaMammillaria tetrancistradesert fish-hook cactusBW3
76CactaOpuntia basilaris var. basilarisbeavertail cactusBW399
77ChenoChenopodium fremontiiFremont's goosefootBW6
78ChenoChenopodium murale*nettle-leaved goosefootBW140
79CrassDudleya saxosa ssp. aloidesdesert dudleyaBW110
80CucurCucurbita palmatacoyote melonBW115
81CucurMarah macrocarpawild-cucumberBW5
82EuphoBernardia incanawestern bernardiaBW1
83EuphoChamaesyce melanadeniared-gland spurgeBW899
84EuphoChamaesyce micromeraSonoran spurgeBW99
85EuphoChamaesyce serpyllifolia ssp. serpyllifoliathyme-leafed spurgeBW1
86EuphoChamaesyce setilobastarfish (Yuma) spurgeBW199
87EuphoDitaxis lanceolatanarrowleaf ditaxisBW99
88EuphoDitaxis neomexicanaNew Mexico ditaxisBW1299
89EuphoEuphorbia erianthabeetle spurgeBW2
90EuphoStillingia linearifolialinear-leaved stillingiaBW499
91FabacAcmispon glaber var. brevialatusshort-winged deerweedBW125
92FabacAcmispon rigidusdesert lotusBW35
93FabacAcmispon strigosusstrigose lotusBW2
94FabacLupinus bicolordwarf lupineBWn
95FabacLupinus concinnusbajada lupineBW3
96FabacLupinus sparsiflorusCoulter's lupineBW430
97FabacMelilotus indicus*sourcloverBW~50
98FabacProsopis glandulosa var. torreyanahoney mesquiteBW130
99FabacSenegalia greggiicatclawBW1499
100FouquFouquieria splendens ssp. splendensocotilloBW10
101GeranErodium cicutarium*redstem filareeBW599
102GrossRibes indecorumwhite-flowering currantBW120
103KrameKrameria erectaPima rhatanyBW1199
104LamiaHyptis emoryidesert-lavenderBW165
105LamiaSalvia apianawhite sageBW134
106LamiaSalvia columbariaechiaBW38
107LamiaScutellaria mexicanaMexican bladder sageBW15
108LoasaMentzelia albicauliswhite-stemmed blazing starBW20
109LoasaMentzelia veatchianaVeatch's blazing starBW2
110MalvaAyenia compactaayeniaBW40
111MalvaHibiscus denudatusrock hibiscusBW5
112MalvaMalacothamnus enigmaticusenigmatic bush mallowBW160
113MalvaSphaeralcea ambigua var. ambiguaapricot mallowBW2
114MalvaSphaeralcea ambigua var. rugosadesert globemallowBW799
115MolluMollugo cerviana*carpet-weedBW2
116MontiCalyptridium monandrumsand cressBW10
117NyctaBoerhavia coccineascarlet spiderlingBW78
118NyctaBoerhavia triquetra var. intermediafivewing spiderlingBW99
119NyctaMirabilis laevis var. retrorsaBigelow's desert four-o'clockBW499
120OnagrCamissonia strigulosastrigose suncupBW14
121OnagrCamissoniopsis confusaSan Bernardino suncupBW~5
122OnagrCamissoniopsis pallida ssp. pallidapale suncupBW20
123OnagrEpilobium canum ssp. latifoliummountain California-fuchsiaBW199
124OnagrEulobus californicusCalifornia suncupBW1399
125PapavArgemone munitaprickly poppyBW199
126PapavEschscholzia minutiflora ssp. minutiflorasmall-flowered poppyBW110
127PapavEschscholzia parishiiParish's poppyBW21
128PhrymMimulus guttatuscommon monkeyflowerBW1
129PlantCollinsia concolorsouthern Chinese housesBW1
130PlantKeckiella antirrhinoides var. microphyllalittle-leaved chaparral beardtongueBW15
131PlantVeronica catenata*chain speedwell1
132PolemEriastrum eremicum ssp. eremicumdesert woolly-starBW99
133PolemGilia diegensiscoastal giliaBW1
134PolemLinanthus dichotomus ssp. pattersoniievening-snowBW1
135PolygEriogonum elongatum var. elongatumlong-stemmed buckwheatBWn
136PolygEriogonum fasciculatum var. polifoliumCalifornia buckwheatBW499
137PolygEriogonum gracile var. gracileslender buckwheatBW2
138PolygEriogonum gracile var. incultumslender buckwheatBWn50
139PolygEriogonum wrightii var. nodosumWright's buckwheatBW1220
140PortuPortulaca oleracea*common purslaneBW99
141RanunDelphinium parishii ssp. subglobosumintermediate larkspurBW1
142RhamnZiziphus parryi var. parryilotebushBW520
143RosacPrunus fremontiidesert apricotBW1199
144RosacPrunus ilicifolia ssp. ilicifoliahollyleaf cherryBW2
145RubiaGalium angustifolium ssp. borregoenseBorrego bedstrawBW2
146RubiaGalium stellatumstar-flowered bedstrawBW2
147RutacThamnosma montanaturpentine broomBW1
148SalicSalix exigua var. exiguanarrowleaf willowBW199
149SalicSalix gooddingiiblack willowBW1
150SalicSalix laevigatared willowBW130
151SimmoSimmondsia chinensisjojobaBW499
152SolanDatura wrightiisacred daturaBW99
153SolanLycium andersoniiAnderson's boxthornBW460
154SolanNicotiana obtusifoliadesert tobaccoBW685
155SolanPhysalis crassifoliathick-leaved ground cherryBW199
156SolanSolanum douglasiiwhite nightshadeBW15
157SolanSolanum parishiiParish's purple nightshadeBW120
158TamarTamarix ramosissima*saltcedarBW15
159UrticParietaria hespera var. hesperapellitoryBW99
160UrticUrtica dioica ssp. holosericeastinging nettleBW25
161ViscaPhoradendron californicumdesert mistletoeBW750
162ZygopLarrea tridentatacreosote bushBW110
163AgavaAgave deserti var. desertidesert agaveBW550
164AgavaYucca schidigeraMohave yuccaBW68
165AraceLemna minutaduckweed99
166ArecaPhoenix dactylifera*date palmBW12
167ArecaWashingtonia filiferaCalifornia fan palmBW22
168CyperEleocharis parishiiParish's spikerushBW99
169JuncaJuncus mexicanusMexican rushBW99
170JuncaJuncus xiphioidesiris-leaved rushBW99
171PoaceAristida adscensionissix-weeks three-awnBW18
172PoaceAristida purpureapurple three-awnBW2
173PoaceAvena barbata*slender wild oatsBW399
174PoaceBouteloua aristidoides var. aristidoidesneedle gramaBW25
175PoaceBouteloua barbata var. barbatasix-weeks gramaBW99
176PoaceBromus madritensis ssp. rubens*red bromeBW199
177PoaceDistichlis spicatasaltgrassBW299
178PoaceMelica frutescenstall melicaBW15
179PoaceMelica imperfectacoast-range melicBW1
180PoaceMuhlenbergia microspermalittleseed muhlyBW1
181PoaceSchismus barbatus*Mediterranean schismusBW25
182PoaceStipa speciosadesert needlegrassBW1
183ThemiDichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatumblue dicksBW712
184ThemiMuilla maritimamuillaBW12
185TyphaTypha domingensissouthern cattailBW99

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Copyright © 2013-2020 by Tom Chester, Kate Harper, Vince Balch, Adrienne Ballwey, Mary Jo Churchwell, Mike Crouse, Don Rideout, Walt Fidler, and Karin Vickars (authors in alphabetical order after first two authors)
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to us at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last update: 30 October 2020