Anza-Borrego: Plant Guide To Moonlight Canyon Trail,
Agua Caliente County Park

This is a working list, about which we make no guarantees at all until we officially release it. Use at your own risk! In particular, note that this trail guide is very incomplete for annuals and perennials, since the trail has not yet been surveyed after rainfall.

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


The guide has been updated from the 12/23/09 fieldwork, but nothing else on this page has been updated from that trip.

Agua Caliente County Park contains several hiking trails and a campground with two bathing pools fed by water heated by the Elsinore Fault. The County Park is leased from Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and operated by San Diego County. There is a day-use fee of $5 per car, payable at the entrance station.

The Park is located just off S2, 22 miles southeast of SR78 and 27 miles northwest of I-8 at Ocotillo. Day Use parking is immediately south of the glass-walled indoor bathing pool. The Moonlight Trail begins at Campsite 140, next to the Shuffleboard Court, located on the east side of the southernmost portion of the main campground road.

The Moonlight Trail itself is 1.6 miles long, with an additional 0.2 miles of walking in the campground to return to the Day Use Parking Area, and an elevation gain and loss of 350 feet.

Highlights of This Trail

Not updated from 12/23/09 trip.

The following histogram gives the number of trails in our database that contain each taxon on this trail. We had 100 trails in our database when this histogram was made; 6 of those trails, including this one, are in Anza-Borrego State Park. A number of "1" means the taxon has only been found only on this list, among all the trails in our database; numbers of "6" or smaller may indicate taxa found only in this area. Some of the other Anza-Borrego Trails are very incomplete.

Number of Trails
Containing A Taxon
Number Of Taxa
On This Trail
% of Taxa
On This Trail
Total Taxa75100%

We found 14 additional taxa not in the above table, since they have not been fully identified yet. The unidentified ones are marked with ?, sp or ssp in the id? column in the guide, and have no entries in the #all column.

The taxa found only on this plant trail guide, as of 1/12/07, out of all 100 plant trail guides from all of southern California, are:

FamilyScientific NameCommon Name
AsteraceaeIsocoma acradenia var. eremophilasolitary-leaved alkali goldenbush
ChenopodiaceaeSuaeda moquiniibush seepweed
SolanaceaeLycium fremontiiFremont box-thorn
ChenopodiaceaeAtriplex hymenelytradesert holly
PoaceaePhragmites australiscommon reed
Solanaceae~Lycium brevipes var. brevipes~desert-thorn

Fieldwork Dates and Summary of List Changes With Time

Not updated from 12/23/09 trip.

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"

We thank Kate Shapiro for help with the 1/8/07 fieldwork.

Botanical Trip Reports

The Plant Guide

The mileages have been obtained by a detailed GPS recording of the trail, and hence should be accurate to 0.01 miles.

The names mostly conform to the 2012 Second Edition Jepson Manual.

See also list of these species in family order.

Version for printing, without lines and other text on this page: html (7 pages) or pdf Clickbook booklet (2 double-sided pages). (See printing instructions for an explanation of these options)

miles#idCommon NameLatin Name#here#all
0.00   Begin plant guide at edge of campground road pavement; elevation ~1350 feet (411 m)
0.00r1 catclawSenegalia greggii30 / 990
0.00b2 solitary-leaved alkali goldenbushIsocoma acradenia var. eremophila50 / 518
0.00e3 seaside heliotropeHeliotropium curassavicum var. oculatum1 / 114
0.00r  Post "139 & 140"
0.00r4 desert mistletoePhoradendron californicum50 / 979
0.00l  (Shuffleboard court)
0.00l5 honey mesquiteProsopis glandulosa var. torreyana40 / 949
0.00r  (Fremont box-thorn, Lycium fremontii)
0.01r  (picnic table; common reed, Phragmites australis; arrow-weed, Pluchea sericea; California fan palm, Washingtonia filifera; Mexican rush, Juncus mexicanus)
0.01r6 saltgrassDistichlis spicata99 / 935
0.01b7 cattle saltbushAtriplex polycarpa30 / 434
0.02   Sign: "Begin Moonlight Canyon Trail"
0.02r  (screw-bean mesquite, Prosopis pubescens)
0.02b8 Fremont box-thornLycium fremontii50 / 67
0.02l9 bush seepweedSuaeda nigra3 / 113
0.03b10 arrow-weedPluchea sericea99 / 920
0.03r  (Water tank)
0.04l11 Mexican rushJuncus mexicanus10 / 252
0.05l  Sign: "Danger chlorine"
0.05b12 arrow-leafPleurocoronis pluriseta30 / 948
0.05b13 desert hollyAtriplex hymenelytra10 / 324
0.05l14 wire-lettuceStephanomeria pauciflora30 / 989
0.05r  (spiny rush, Juncus acutus ssp. leopoldii)
0.05l  (California barrel cactus, Ferocactus cylindraceus)
0.05l  (Mormon tea, Ephedra aspera)
0.05l  (teddy-bear cholla, Cylindropuntia bigelovii^)
0.05l15 brittlebushEncelia farinosa99 / 992
0.06r  (narrowleaf willow, Salix exigua var. exigua^)
0.06r  (red willow, Salix laevigata)
0.06l16 Gander's chollaCylindropuntia ganderi40 / 971
0.06r17 spiny rushJuncus acutus ssp. leopoldii5 / 35
0.06l  (burroweed, Ambrosia dumosa)
0.07l18 white-stemmed milkweedAsclepias albicans5 / 510
0.07l  (Emory's indigo-bush, Psorothamnus emoryi)
0.07l19 burroweedAmbrosia dumosa50 / 989
0.07   Trail descends, curves right and switchbacks left to cross drainage
0.07l  A big Juncus acutus ssp. leopoldii
0.08   Cross drainage
0.09r20 desert trumpetEriogonum inflatum50 / 976
0.11r  (white rhatany, Krameria bicolor^; jojoba, Simmondsia chinensis; indigo bush, Psorothamnus schottii; western tansy-mustard, Descurainia pinnata)
0.11r21 desert lotusAcmispon rigidus5 / 335
0.12   Cross drainage again
0.12r22 rambling milkweedFunastrum hirtellum10 / 928
0.12r23 Mormon teaEphedra aspera20 / 921
0.12r24 Coulter's lyrepodLyrocarpa coulteri20 / 922
0.12r25 chuparosaJusticia californica50 / 941
0.12   Trail ascends steeply
0.12l  (desert agave, Agave deserti var. deserti^)
0.13l26 Engelmann's hedgehog cactusEchinocereus engelmannii2 / 251
0.13l27sspapricot mallowSphaeralcea ambigua20 / 910
0.13l28sppincushion flowerChaenactis sp.30 / 9
0.13l29 white rhatanyKrameria bicolor20 / 972
0.13r  Jct. trail to wash; stay left
0.13l30 whispering bellsEmmenanthe penduliflora var. penduliflora1 / 152
0.14r31 jojobaSimmondsia chinensis30 / 953
0.14r  (sweetbush, Bebbia juncea var. aspera)
0.14l32 linear-leaved stillingiaStillingia linearifolia2 / 229
0.16l33 indigo bushPsorothamnus schottii20 / 974
0.16l34 Guadalupe cryptanthaCryptantha maritima30 / 549
0.16   End steep climb
0.17l35 Bigelow's desert four-o'clockMirabilis laevis var. retrorsa10 / 269
0.17r36 Wright's buckwheatEriogonum wrightii var. nodosum10 / 940
0.17l  (woolly lipfern, Cheilanthes parryi; brittle spineflower, Chorizanthe brevicornu var. brevicornu; little-flowered heliotrope phacelia, Phacelia crenulata var. minutiflora; hairy-podded pepper-grass, Lepidium lasiocarpum ssp. lasiocarpum^)
0.17l sp(fish-hook cactus, Mammillaria dioica?)
0.17l  (California fagonia, Fagonia laevis)
0.18r37 creosote bushLarrea tridentata50 / 997
0.18l38 woolly lipfernCheilanthes parryi20 / 954
0.19r39 brittle spineflowerChorizanthe brevicornu var. brevicornu1 / 158
0.19r40 San Felipe dogweedAdenophyllum porophylloides10 / 958
0.19b41 Mojave ragwortSenecio mohavensis20 / 540
0.19l42 rock hibiscusHibiscus denudatus10 / 952
0.19l43 desert agaveAgave deserti var. deserti30 / 558
0.19r44 narrowleaf ditaxisDitaxis lanceolata5 / 563
0.20b45 hairy-podded pepper-grassLepidium lasiocarpum ssp. lasiocarpum99 / 970
0.21l46 ocotilloFouquieria splendens ssp. splendens99 / 984
0.21l  (Arizona chalk dudleya, Dudleya arizonica)
0.21l  (beavertail cactus, Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris)
0.22l47 little-flowered heliotrope phaceliaPhacelia crenulata var. minutiflora1 / 125
0.23r48 desert-lavenderHyptis emoryi20 / 979
0.25l49~star giliaGilia stellata1 / 129
0.25r50 yellow-headTrichoptilium incisum10 / 225
0.26l  (intermediate larkspur, Delphinium parishii ssp. subglobosum; California suncup, Eulobus californicus)
0.27r51 Pima rhatanyKrameria erecta1 / 139
0.25b52 desert plantainPlantago ovata99 / 963
0.28r53 intermediate larkspurDelphinium parishii ssp. subglobosum20 / 431
0.28r54 California barrel cactusFerocactus cylindraceus50 / 9
0.29l55 big galletaHilaria rigida5 / 373
0.29l  (small-seeded spurge, Chamaesyce polycarpa)
0.30r56 California fagoniaFagonia laevis20 / 939
0.32l57 desert spike-mossSelaginella eremophila10 / 931
0.34r58 sweetbushBebbia juncea var. aspera30 / 992
0.34r  (California trixis, Trixis californica var. californica)
0.34   Switchback left
0.34r  (star-flowered bedstraw, Galium stellatum^)
0.35l59spannual phaceliaPhacelia sp.10 / 3
0.36r  Trail turns right; jct. shortcut trail (do not take!); stay left
0.37   Switchback right
0.39l60 star-flowered bedstrawGalium stellatum5 / 239
0.44b61 teddy-bear chollaCylindropuntia bigelovii99 / 955
0.44r62 California trixisTrixis californica var. californica5 / 554
0.45l63 beavertail cactusOpuntia basilaris var. basilaris3 / 383
0.48l64 California suncupEulobus californicus50 / 395
0.48   Saddle; highest point on trail, elevation ~1650 feet (503 m)
0.55l65spann upright lotusLotus sp.10 / 1
0.58r66?Thomas' buckwheatEriogonum thomasii2 / 249
 r  Wash in (fxx)
 r  (Parish's viguiera, Bahiopsis parishii)
 l67 bracted blazing starMentzelia involucrata1 / 140
 r68 *red bromeBromus madritensis ssp. rubens1 / 1123
 r  (wedge-leaved draba, Draba cuneifolia)
0.61l69?unk low shrub with capsule fruit?1 / 1
0.62l70 Newberry's velvet mallowHorsfordia newberryi5 / 322
0.65   Join wash from side canyon to Moonlight Canyon
 b71 *Mediterranean schismusSchismus barbatus2 / 194
0.67r72 Parish's viguieraBahiopsis parishii10 / 357
0.67r  (fluff grass, Dasyochloa pulchella^)
 r73 California buckwheatEriogonum fasciculatum var. polifolium2 / 284
0.68l  (spearleaf, Matelea parvifolia)
0.68l74 small-seeded spurgeChamaesyce polycarpa30 / 989
0.70l75sspCalifornia cloak fernNotholaena californica1 / 121
0.71r76 boundary goldenbushEricameria brachylepis1 / 128
0.71   Join Moonlight Canyon wash; the following two species are found up canyon
  77 desert apricotPrunus fremontii5 / 130
  78 six-weeks three-awnAristida adscensionis1 / 140
0.71l79 *rabbits-foot grassPolypogon monspeliensis1 / 1
0.72l80 common phaceliaPhacelia distans1 / 176
0.75l81 purple three-awnAristida purpurea10 / 335
0.80r  (fish-hook cactus, Mammillaria tetrancistra)
0.84r82~desert woolly-starEriastrum eremicum ssp. eremicum10 / 244
1.01r83 thick-leaved ground cherryPhysalis crassifolia1 / 153
1.04   Enter spring area
1.04r84 mountain California-fuchsiaEpilobium canum ssp. latifolium20 / 293
1.06l85 *athelTamarix aphylla5 / 25
1.06l86 black willowSalix gooddingii30 / 116
1.07b87 common reedPhragmites australis50 / 28
1.07b88~southern cattailTypha domingensis10 / 218
1.08r  (stream orchid, Epipactis gigantea)
1.09r89 slender-lobed four o'clockMirabilis tenuiloba5 / 112
1.09l90 screw-bean mesquiteProsopis pubescens5 / 35
1.10l91 ghost flowerMohavea confertiflora1 / 123
1.10l92 *Bermuda grassCynodon dactylon2 / 146
1.11r  (desert baccharis, Baccharis sergiloides)
1.11b93 narrowleaf willowSalix exigua var. exigua1 / 114
1.12r  (southwestern bushy bluestem, Andropogon glomeratus var. scabriglumis; deergrass, Muhlenbergia rigens; Emory's rock-daisy, Perityle emoryi)
1.13r  (Asian mustard, Brassica tournefortii)
1.17l94 Bigelow's monkeyflowerMimulus bigelovii var. bigelovii10 / 126
1.24   Trail turns left
1.25r95 smoke treePsorothamnus spinosus20 / 343
1.25l96 cheesebushAmbrosia salsola var. salsola40 / 379
1.28   Trail turns right 90°
1.36   Trail turns left 90° to return to campground; lowest elevation on trail, ~1310 feet (399 m)
1.39l97 pencil chollaCylindropuntia ramosissima20 / 226
1.49l98 desert teaEphedra californica / 25
1.51b99spdodderCuscuta sp.2 / 1
1.60   End trail and plant guide at different part of campground
1.78   Day use parking
    Species planted in Campground
    *golden wattleAcacia pycnantha / 0
    *Mexican palo verdeParkinsonia aculeata / 2
    blue palo verdeParkinsonia florida / 16
    Other species seen in Moonlight Canyon, but not located
    California mustardCaulanthus lasiophyllus / 21
    Nevada cryptanthaCryptantha nevadensis var. nevadensis / 5
    small-flowered poppyEschscholzia minutiflora ssp. minutiflora / 46
    Parish's poppyEschscholzia parishii / 40
    beetle spurgeEuphorbia eriantha / 20
    Arizona lupineLupinus arizonicus / 48
    California loosestrifeLythrum californicum / 10
    white-stemmed blazing starMentzelia albicaulis / 16
    Arizona pholistomaPholistoma auritum var. arizonicum / 1
    Species found in the area just outside the campground
    Parish's spikerushEleocharis parishii / 4
    catchfly prairie-gentianEustoma exaltatum ssp. exaltatum / 2
    American tuleSchoenoplectus americanus / 12
    Species found from mouth of Moonlight Canyon to Airstrip:
    desert-willowChilopsis linearis ssp. arcuata / 35
    brown-eyed primroseChylismia claviformis ssp. peirsonii / 54
    California crotonCroton californicus / 28
    narrow-leaved cryptanthaCryptantha angustifolia / 53
    desert dicoriaDicoria canescens / 15
    Booth's evening primroseEremothera boothii ssp. condensata / 49
    blackbanded rabbitbrushEricameria paniculata / 14
    toad rushJuncus bufonius / 2
    *tree tobaccoNicotiana glauca / 26
    desert tobaccoNicotiana obtusifolia / 55
    dune primroseOenothera deltoides ssp. deltoides / 12
    ironwoodOlneya tesota / 15
    desert needlePalafoxia arida var. arida / 47
    Thurber's sandpaper-plantPetalonyx thurberi ssp. thurberi / 36
    *rabbits-foot grassPolypogon monspeliensis / 46
    odoraPorophyllum gracile / 25
    turtlebackPsathyrotes ramosissima / 12
    Emory's indigo-bushPsorothamnus emoryi / 34
    chiaSalvia columbariae / 90
    plicate coldeniaTiquilia plicata / 17

Comments On Specific Species

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Copyright © 2007-2012 by Tom Chester and James Dillane
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Last update: 1 March 2012.