Plant Communities of the San Gabriel Mountains

Coastal Sage Scrub (Soft Chaparral)

Special Feature: Fern Walls
Hanging gardens of ferns, mosses and dudleyas are found on vertical walls along some of the trails at lower elevations of the Front Range. The rock face, of decomposed granite, is usually orangeish in color, cool to the touch and crumbles readily when brushed by the hand. Frequently there is a large overhanging canyon oak. These fern walls are best in spring and early summer when there is sufficient moisture from fog and drizzle to uncurl the fern fronds and when the mosses are reproducing, i.e., "blooming". They are still recognizeable in November but the ferns are all curled up like a dry, tight brown fist. The most surprisingly located one is just below the Pinecrest gate on the Mt. Wilson Toll Road, which is, unfortunately, heavily littered with dog feces at this spot. Others in more pleasant locations are in Las Flores Canyon at the beginning of the Sam Merrill Trail and further up that trail under some large oaks, Brown Mountain Fire Road after the first big bend on the north side, and Sawpit Fire Road where it crosses Vassar Canyon.

Two exquisite examples can be found near the tunnels on Mt. Baldy Road although they are of different rock and species composition. Many of the waterfalls locally have fern walls as well. Bailey Canyon is a good one with large maidenfair ferns.

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Copyright © 2000 by Jane Strong
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Updated January 25, 2000