Plant Guide to Lightning Ridge Nature Trail

This is a working list, about which we make no guarantees at all until we officially release it. Use at your own risk!

Introduction and Explanation of Plant Trail Guides

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


A nature trail was created at Lightning Ridge because there is a great variety of species on a short trail. The trailhead, at Blue Ridge summit, is also the second-highest area on the Angeles Crest Highway, exceeded only by the area near Dawson Saddle. This may be one of the most species-rich trails in the area, perhaps because the trail is at the divide between the desert and coast side of the San Gabriel Mountains in the High Country and perhaps due to the profusion of annuals seen after a fire. The trail offers wonderful vistas of the desert with its dry lakes, distant peaks, and mountain canyons, some of which can be enjoyed from two very-well-placed benches.

The printed guide to the numbered landmark posts, some of which are missing, is sometimes available near the trailhead. This page summarizes the Trail Guide comments at posts that are still present.

Highlights of This Trail

Botanical highlights of this trail include:

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 79 trails in our database when this histogram was made; two trails, including this one, are in this immediate area of the San Gabriel Mountains, with another three trails ~five miles west at Vincent Gap. A number of "1" means the taxon has only been found on this trail among the trails in our database; numbers of "5" or smaller may indicate taxa found only in this general area of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Number of Trails
Containing A Taxon
Number Of Taxa
On This Trail
% of Taxa
On This Trail
Total Taxa70100%

We found 3 additional species not in the above table, since they have not been identified yet. The unidentified ones are marked with ? or sp in the id? column in the guide, and do not have any number given in the #all column.

The taxa unique to this trail are:

Common NameLatin Name
California dodderCuscuta californica var. breviflora
white tidy-tipsLayia glandulosa
clustered blazing starMentzelia congesta

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"

In addition to the visits above, Jane has made a number of visits to this trail previously without recording all the taxa.

The Plant Guide

Version for printing, without lines and other text on this page (4 pages)

Mile#Sid?Common NameLatin Name#here#all
0.00b1 *downy bromeBromus tectorum99 / 921
0.00b2 mountain sagebrushArtemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana / 8
0.00b3 bitter cherryPrunus emarginata20 / 25
0.00l4 branching phaceliaPhacelia ramosissima var. latifolia10 / 925
0.00r5 leafy daisyErigeron foliosus var. foliosus10 / 934
0.00r6sspSan Bernardino rubber rabbitbrushChrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. bernardinus5 / 514
0.00r7 Parry's sand cressCalyptridium parryi var. parryi5 / 13
0.00 8 sulphur buckwheatEriogonum umbellatum var. munzii+ / 9
0.00 9 squirreltailElymus elymoides ssp. elymoides+20 / 34
0.00 10 Parish's snowberrySymphoricarpos rotundifolius var. parishii+10 / 510
0.00   Beginning of loop trail. Take the right (east) branch.
0.00l  Sign: "National Forest Nature Trail: Lightning Ridge"
0.00l11 purple nightshadeSolanum xanti99 / 912
0.01l12spgoosefootChenopodium sp. /  
0.01l13 Fremont's bush mallowMalacothamnus fremontii5 / 54
0.01b14~Fremont's goosefootChenopodium fremontii20 / 310
0.01l15 coyote tobaccoNicotiana attenuata / 3
0.01r16 alpine gooseberryRibes lasianthum+20 / 52
0.01l17 prickly cryptanthaCryptantha muricata20 / 212
0.01r18 *tumble-mustardSisymbrium altissimum30 / 48
0.01l19 splendid giliaGilia splendens ssp. splendens99 / 56
  20spgroundsmokeGayophytum sp.50 / 5 
0.02 21 poodle-dog bushTurricula parryi+30 / 94
0.02l22 mountain whitethornCeanothus cordulatus+30 / 914
0.02l23~Davidson's buckwheatEriogonum davidsonii5 / 518
0.02l24 Wright's buckwheatEriogonum wrightii var. subscaposum20 / 513
 r  First sulphur buckwheat, Eriogonum umbellatum var. munzii, in 2003.
0.02b25 Coulter pinePinus coulteri20 / 59
0.03l  Trail guide box, sometimes with trail guides. Signpost "1".
0.03l26 Mojave linanthusLinanthus breviculus+50 / 35
0.03l27 one-sided bluegrassPoa secunda ssp. secunda99 / 921
0.03l28 blue dicksDichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum5 / 132
0.04   "Buckwheat hill" on left, almost completely covered with prostrate buckwheats.
0.04l  Signpost "2".
0.04l29 popcorn flowerCryptantha intermedia / 21
0.04l30 California dodderCuscuta californica var. breviflora+ / 1
0.05l31 Martin's paintbrushCastilleja applegatei ssp. martinii20 / 514
0.05r32 white firAbies concolor / 20
 r  First Parish's snowberry, Symphoricarpos rotundifolius var. parishii, in 2003.
 l  First poodle-dog bush, Turricula parryi, in 2003
 l33 rock melicaMelica stricta20 / 23
0.08r  Signpost "3" (chaparral: ecological succession)
 r spFirst mature alpine gooseberry, Ribes lasianthum.
0.08l34 California black oakQuercus kelloggii / 11
0.08l  (blue elderberry, Sambucus mexicana)
0.09l35 San Gabriel beardtonguePenstemon labrosus / 6
0.09l36 spreading larkspurDelphinium patens ssp. montanum30 / 54
0.09b37 western wallflowerErysimum capitatum ssp. capitatum20 / 216
0.09l  (clustered blazing star, Mentzelia congesta)
0.10   Cross shallow drainage.
0.10l38 golden yarrowEriophyllum confertiflorum var. confertiflorum1 / 147
 l39 whisker-brushLinanthus ciliatus+ / 5
0.11b40 Jeffrey pinePinus jeffreyi / 21
0.11l41 blue wildryeElymus glaucus ssp. glaucus99 / 516
 l42spEriogonum nudum?
 r43 white tidy-tipsLayia glandulosa2 / 11
 b44 volcanic giliaGilia ochroleuca ssp. vivida99 / 94
 r45 canyon live oakQuercus chrysolepis1 / 120
0.12l46 California-asterLessingia filaginifolia var. filaginifolia / 42
 r sp(currant, Ribes sp.)
 b47 Davidson's phaceliaPhacelia davidsonii50 / 57
0.12b48 western morning-gloryCalystegia occidentalis ssp. fulcrata20 / 17
0.13b49 broad-leaved lotusLotus crassifolius var. crassifolius5 / 15
    Trail tread gone here (trail slopes sideways like the hillside)
0.13r50spimbricate phaceliaPhacelia imbricata ssp. patula20 / 214
0.13   Beautiful field of volcanic gilia, Gilia ochroleuca ssp. vivida.
0.14l51 clustered blazing starMentzelia congesta5 / 11
0.14  sspnaked buckwheatEriogonum nudum var. pauciflorum / 7
0.14l52 white catch-flySilene verecunda ssp. platyota10 / 28
0.14   Signpost "4" (a large dead and decomposing Jeffrey pine, home for insects)
0.15l53 Orcutt's bromeBromus orcuttianus50 / 56
0.15l54 Wright's collinsiaCollinsia torreyi var. wrightii50 / 14
0.15l55 goosefoot yellow violetViola purpurea ssp. quercetorum10 / 12
0.16   Enter black oak (Quercus kelloggii) forest.
0.16l56 miner's lettuceClaytonia perfoliata ssp. perfoliata10 / 114
0.16l57 white false-giliaAllophyllum integrifolium10 / 12
0.17b  First definite id for alpine gooseberry, Ribes lasianthum.
0.17l58 southern miner's lettuceClaytonia perfoliata ssp. mexicana10 / 116
0.17l59 Yosemite rockcressArabis repanda var. repanda10 / 13
0.17l60 mountain sweet-cicelyOsmorhiza chilensis10 / 25
0.17r  Signpost "5" (Large grove of young black oaks)
0.18   "Low bridge" under a fallen smallish tree.
0.18r61 spear-leaved mountain dandelionAgoseris retrorsa1 / 111
0.19l62?unk with 2 basal leaves - Calochortus sp.?
0.16l63 little spring beautyClaytonia exigua ssp. exigua / 4
0.19l  Signpost "6" (Rodents and Reptiles).
0.19   Views of dry lake and desert from this spot.
0.19   Switchback left.
0.20   Switchback right at a loop junction. The path continuing straight ahead is not part of this guide.
0.21l  Signpost "7" (Leaves and Needles).
0.21 64spwire-lettuceStephanomeria pauciflora var. pauciflora / 4
0.22   Trail turns 90 degrees left up stairs that then turn another 90 degrees left near the top.
0.25l  Signpost "8" (Weather: thunderstorms).
 r65 whispering bellsEmmenanthe penduliflora var. penduliflora / 9
0.26l  Signpost "9" in front of a wind- and snow-pruned Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi). Note how thick the trunk is, especially after you pass it.
0.27r  The "Rock Garden".
0.27r66 California fuchsiaEpilobium canum+10 / 112
0.27l  Signpost "10" (Lichen makes soil from rock)
0.28b  Lots of squirreltail, Elymus elymoides ssp. elymoides, and Orcutt's brome, Bromus orcuttianus
0.28r67 muillaMuilla maritima3 / 16
0.29b68 smoothleaf yerba santaEriodictyon trichocalyx var. trichocalyx10 / 28
0.29r69 silky lupineLupinus elatus2 / 25
0.29r  Bench without a back, with great views to east.
0.29r70 golden ear dropsDicentra chrysantha2 / 25
0.30l  Signpost "12" ("Flag" trees, showing the direction of the prevailing wind)
0.32r  Signpost "13" (the downed Jeffrey pine tree was formerly standing, and had been struck by lightning)
0.32   (another twiggy wreath to check the id for.)
0.33   Jct. PCT; go left back to parking lot.
0.35r71 California needlegrassAchnatherum occidentale ssp. californicum10 / 15
0.40r72 mountain sprayHolodiscus microphyllus var. microphyllus1 / 17
0.43l ~(plain mariposa lily, Calochortus invenustus)
0.43l73 wax currantRibes cereum var. cereum1 / 111
0.53   Loop Junction at beginning; turn right to parking lot.
0.54   Back at the parking lot trailhead.

Comments On Specific Species

Eriogonum umbellatum var. munzii, Elymus elymoides ssp. elymoides, Symphoricarpos rotundifolius var. parishii, Turricula parryi, Ceanothus cordulatus, and Phacelia imbricata ssp. patula. The first examples of each of these taxa, found in 2002, are dead in 2003. Examples of each of these are found later on the trail in 2003, some of which are noted in the guide.

Ribes lasianthum. The first certain id for this taxon was at mile 0.17; earlier plants were too young to bloom or hadn't bloomed yet. The earlier plants looked the same, but may of course turn out to be different taxa.

Linanthus ciliatus and Linanthus breviculus. The Linanthus on the trail appear to be intergrades between these two species, but fall into two clearly separable groups:

Each population is found in separate groups along the trail. We have vouchered one example of each set, our vouchers #201 and #202.

Cuscuta californica var. breviflora. This dodder was growing on sulphur buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum).

Epilobium canum. These plants, like many of the ones we see at high elevations of the San Gabriel Mountains, seem to be hybrids between the two subspecies. See Comments on the Jepson Manual and A Flora of Southern California by Munz: Epilobium canum.

We thank Michael Charters for finding the Emmenanthe penduliflora var. penduliflora on 7/10/03.

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Copyright © 2002-2004 by Jane Strong and Tom Chester.
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: Jane Strong | Tom Chester
Updated 2 October 2004.