Flora of the Meadows of Tahquitz Valley,
San Jacinto Mountains

Analysis and Numerology of Taxa Found in the Tahquitz Valley Meadows
Plant Checklist


The Meadows are one of the major delights of Tahquitz Valley, providing large open areas filled with plants, insects, birds and occasionally deer, and in summer providing a mass of greenery and flowers unrivaled almost anyplace else in Tahquitz Valley.

Meadows in general are areas with a high groundwater level, high enough so that water is essentially at the soil surface in places for at least several months per year. That high groundwater level prevents shrubs and trees from becoming established, and provides the perfect habitat for mostly-perennial herbaceous species that love to have their roots in water most of the growing season. Since these species transpire much less water than a shrub or a tree, this is a positive feedback loop that keeps the groundwater level high in the meadows.

In Tahquitz Valley, with one exception, the meadows are found in the flatter areas of the drainages below the ridges that ring the Valley. In and above the meadows, snow accumulates to great depths during the winter. The snow melt, both flowing above ground and in groundwater, converges on the areas of the meadows, where the water is concentrated enough that the groundwater level comes to the surface. The flatter areas where the meadows are formed allow the groundwater to flow slowly enough away from the meadows to keep the groundwater level high for at least several months. The slower-flowing water in the meadows forms part of another positive feedback loop, that allows soil to accumulate, making the area flatter.

The one exception is Reeds Meadow, which is found in a flatter area where the drainages from three other Tahquitz Valley Meadows converge, again resulting in a high groundwater level.

Unfortunately, these meadows are being rapidly destroyed by a period of rapid erosion that has occurred in the last 100 years due to heavy cattle grazing. This timescale is literally roughly 10,000 times greater than the natural time scale for the destruction of these meadows.

Meadows naturally are destroyed on a geologic time scale of typically millions of years as mountain ranges are uplifted and erosion destroys previously flattish surfaces. In particular, Tahquitz Valley itself is a fairly small remnant surface that is slowly being eroded away on all sides except its north side, due to relative uplift of San Jacinto Mountain in the last 2.6 million years. At the estimated knickpoint migration rate of 12 to 44 km / MY at its edges, Tahquitz Valley will be completely eroded in 0.3-1.0 million years (0.8 mi radius / 12-44 km / MY). The meadows will be gone long before that.

In a wet meadow, the soil is bound tightly by a very dense collection of roots from the perennial species, and shielded from intense rainfall by the dense above-ground vegetation. Heavy cattle grazing affects both; cattle eat the dense above-ground vegetation, exposing the soil, and their trampling destroys the binding of the soil. When heavy rains come in summer thunderstorms, the loose soil is then carried away. The additional soil in the runoff water enhances the erosion force, carving gullies. This creates a feedback loop that operates in a destructive manner. As the first tiny gully is formed, it gives more erosive power to the water runoff, which rapidly deepens the gully with every heavy rain. Within a time scale of decades, deep gullies are formed, which then begin to drain the high groundwater table of the meadow, destroying them as wet meadows. This gullification has happened in many environments throughout the west that have been subjected to heavy grazing, and has been well documented, often through historical photographs.

Little Tahquitz Meadow has already been completely destroyed by creek incision. Tahquitz Creek is incised by (six?) feet there now, which has completely drained the meadow. There is no wet meadow left above the banks of Tahquitz Creek. The former meadow area is still evident, but it is essentially a monoculture of wild tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus, and may soon revert to being a forest. The flora of Little Tahquitz Meadow very clearly shows what has happened; it is very depauperate compared to the other meadows (see analysis below). The only wet areas remaining are those within the banks of Tahquitz Creek little different from a number of areas along the Creek in areas where its bank is forested.

Reeds Meadow is a meadow that is in the process of being destroyed. Most of the area of Reeds Meadow is no longer a wet meadow. However, due to its special location at the convergence of the drainages from three other meadow areas, its total destruction has been delayed. The incised Tahquitz Creek is along only one edge of it, removing only one of its former sources of groundwater and providing only one edge to drain the meadow. As a result, the drying of Reeds Meadow has happened so recently that one can still observe two former meadow levels, one of which still has a few intact giant root mounds of the main meadow sedge, Carex senta. These giant root mounds will be gone within a decade or so.

Both Tahquitz Meadow and Skunk Cabbage Meadow have had smaller drying, but the creeks in those meadows are incised, and the groundwater level, and the soil surface itself, is significantly lower in portions of those meadows. The meadows themselves have lost several feet of soil on average, as can be immediately discovered by walking across the meadows. The Carex senta roots now are one to two feet above the surrounding soil surface. This makes for a hazardous walk across the meadow since the leaves cover both the root balls and the deep gaps between the plants, hiding the topography. Since these plants didn't originally have their roots two feet up in the air, the surrounding soil surface has been lost in the time since these plants were established. The days of these meadows are also numbered unless measures are taken to reverse the creek incision.

Due primarily to its location 1,000 feet above the other meadows, Wellman Cienega is the most intact meadow, with creek incision still below the bottom of the meadow. But the creek incision is inexorably working its way upstream. It remains to be seen how much damage will be caused to Wellman Cienega when the new equilibrium creek profile is reached.

Similar erosion was poised to destroy Round Valley Meadow, in an older remnant surface above and to the north of Tahquitz Valley. Fortunately, the State Park took action in 2010 to preserve the Meadow. Similar actions are needed in the Forest Service-managed Tahquitz Valley.

See also pages on some of the individual meadows:

For a shorter print version that just includes the number of plants for Tahquitz Meadow, see html (4 pages) or pdf Clickbook booklet (1 double-sided page). (See printing instructions for an explanation of these options).

Analysis and Numerology of Taxa Found in the Tahquitz Valley Meadows

Note the following major caveat that applies to all the analysis in this section. The checklists for every one of these meadows are incomplete, due to insufficient surveys, and that there is considerable unevenness in the checklists for different meadows. Hence this analysis must be considered preliminary.

This analysis was done on checklist as of 2012, which used the 1993 first edition Jepson Manual names. The checklist below has been updated, and so no longer exactly corresponds to this analysis.

With that caveats in mind, Table 1 gives a summary of the number of taxa found in each Meadow.

Table 1. Preliminary Number of Taxa Found in Each Meadow

vouchered, not observed67000

The column heading abbreviations are defined below.

The number of native taxa is expected to correlate with the size of the meadow and its elevation. The parameters for each meadow are given in Table 2, in descending order of meadow size, along with the total number of taxa known from each meadow. In Table 2, for a few meadows we have combined species and subspecies into a single taxon for two species where we expect only one is present.

Table 2. Area, Elevation and Perimeter Length for Tahquitz Valley Meadows

MeadowArea (acres)# Native TaxaPerimeter (miles)Elevation range (feet)Elevation range (m)
Skunk Cabbage15.5981.37900-79402410-2420
Wellman Cienega10.5790.78960-94202730-2870
Little Tahquitz7.5510.57960-80802425-2460

Figure 1 plots the number of taxa vs. meadow area, both from just our surveys and with the inclusion of vouchered species that we have not observed. We also fit a power law to the data for Tahquitz Meadow, Skunk Cabbage Meadow, and Reeds Meadow, without vouchers, since that is a more uniform data set. We excluded Little Tahquitz Meadow from the fit since the plot shows that it is very depauperate for species. We excluded Wellman Cienega from the fit since it is roughly 1,000 feet higher in elevation, and a number of species are not found at such high elevation. The best-fit exponent for the area was a very low 0.09, reflecting the uniformity of habitat for those three meadows.

Figure 1. Number of Native Taxa in each Meadow vs. Area of Meadow

Figure 1 shows the expected trend for each meadow except for Little Tahquitz Meadow, whose flora is significantly more depauperate since that meadow has essentially been drained by incision of Tahquitz Creek through it. There is essentially no wet meadow remaining outside of the incised creek. One prominent example of a missing species is that Little Tahquitz Meadow is the only meadow that does not have any Veratrum californicum, a strong component of all the other wet meadows, and of boggy areas throughout the high elevations of San Jacinto Mountain. The former wet meadow of Little Tahquitz Meadow outside of the incised creek is now a very dry meadow dominated by Artemisia dracunculus. (We note that V. californicum is missing in most of the area of Tahquitz Meadow, too, reflecting the impact of grazing on it as well.)

The incision of Tahquitz Creek is historically recent (see Hamilton 1983, p. 102-104, for discussion of the impact caused by grazing, and further references). The boggy areas in Little Tahquitz Meadow are confined to the Creek channel, and its flora is now little different from other portions of Tahquitz Creek. The same process is occurring in Reeds Meadow, but it has retained more wet area due to high groundwater along the Candy's Creek area, which is coming in roughly perpendicular to Tahquitz Creek.

Reeds Meadow still retains evidence of the recent Tahquitz Creek incision, with two prominent terraces above the current level of the banks of Tahquitz Creek, some of which still retain root clumps of the formerly wide-spread large Carex senta plants. If not for the high groundwater delivered by the Candy's Creek drainage, and the Creek itself, Reeds Meadow would be as depauperate as Little Tahquitz Meadow.

Another rough idea of the completeness for each survey can be gleaned by considering the number of species found in only a single meadow out of these five; the number found in exactly two of the meadows; up to those found in all five meadows. The actual numbers are given in Table 3, and the numbers converted to percentages are plotted in Figure 2. We have excluded vouchers from these numbers, and combined the subspecies of Epilobium ciliatum, which are difficult to separate, so that the list of species in each meadow is comparable. In addition, it is not always certain from which meadow a species was vouchered.

Table 3. Number of Observed Native Species Found in N Total Meadows


The 29 species found in all five meadows can be easily found in the Checklist by scanning for species with entries in all five columns, and combining the subspecies of Epilobium ciliatum, which are difficult to separate.

Figure 2. Percent of Species vs. # of Meadows in which they occur

Once again, Little Tahquitz Meadow stands out as being different from the other four meadows. It is the only one with no species unique to it. Over half the species found in it are common ones that are found in the other four meadows. All other meadows have about one-third of their species being such common species.

It is also a bit surprising that Wellman Cienega, does not appear different in Figure 2 than Skunk Cabbage Meadow and Tahquitz Meadow, despite being at significantly higher elevation, over 1000 feet (300 m) higher.

Table 4 gives the breakdown for the number of species found in N total meadows, for the entire meadow checklist, considering just the 134 native species we've observed from any meadow. (The total checklist contains 151 taxa, the 134 native species we've observed; eight vouchered native species we haven't observed; seven non-native species; and the two other entries for Epilobum ciliatum).

Table 4. Number of Observed Native Species Found in N Total Meadows from All Meadows

# Total Meadows# Species% Species
13022 %
22519 %
32821 %
42216 %
52922 %
total134100 %

This is a pretty even distribution, as expected since the habitat is much the same in all these meadows. (Compare to the usual declining power law with a strong peak at being found in just one location.)

Plant Checklist

The following gives some basic information about this checklist.


An asterisk before the common name indicates a non-native species.

The checklist gives the minimum number of plants observed in each meadow, or in their immediate vicinity, up to a maximum of 99 plants, with the following exceptions:

The column heading abbreviations are:

Fam: The first three letters of the 2012 second edition Jepson Manual Family name. See Plant Family Abbreviations.

SCM: Skunk Cabbage Meadow

TQM: Tahquitz Meadow

WLM: Wellman Cienega (both portions)

RM: Reeds Meadow

LTM: Little Tahquitz Meadow

Notes on some non-observed vouchered species:

Version for printing, without other text on this page: html (6 pages) or pdf Clickbook booklet (2 double-sided pages). (See printing instructions for an explanation of these options)

#FamScientific Name
Link goes to Jepson eFlora
(*)Common Name
Link goes to Calphotos
# Plants
1DenPteridium aquilinum var. pubescensbracken999959999
2WooCystopteris fragilisbrittle bladder fern10510  
3PinAbies concolorwhite fir999999991
4PinPinus contorta ssp. murrayanalodgepole pine11 199
5PinPinus jeffreyiJeffrey pine999950994
6PinPinus lambertianasugar pine1 2  
7AdoSambucus nigra ssp. caeruleablue elderberry1    
8ApiOsmorhiza berteroimountain sweet-cicely   1 
9ApiOxypolis occidentaliswestern cow-bane    99
10ApiPerideridia parishiiParish's yampah6099  99
11ApiSphenosciadium capitellatumranger's buttons501099515
12AstAchillea millefoliumyarrow9999999999
13AstAgoseris retrorsaspear-leaved mountain dandelion 1   
14AstAntennaria rosearosy everlasting, pussytoes11  10 
15AstArtemisia dracunculuswild tarragon99999999 
16AstArtemisia ludoviciana ssp. incomptamountain mugwort45505010 
17AstCirsium scariosumelk thistle 3   
18AstEricameria nauseosa var. bernardinaSan Bernardino rubber rabbitbrush20 12 20
19AstGnaphalium palustrewestern marsh cudweed 50   
20AstHelenium bigeloviiBigelow's sneezeweed V  20
21AstLactuca serriola*prickly lettuce x   
22AstLessingia glandulifera var. glanduliferasticky lessingia nr   
23AstOreostemma alpigenum var. andersoniialpine aster1099  99
24AstPseudognaphalium stramineumcotton-batting plant 1   
25AstPseudognaphalium thermaleslender everlasting 3   
26AstSolidago velutina ssp. californicagoldenrod9999 8020
27AstSonchus asper ssp. asper*prickly sow thistle 5   
28AstStephanomeria virgatatwiggy wreath plant nr   
29AstSymphyotrichum spathulatum var. spathulatumwestern mountain aster3099 99 
30AstTaraxacum officinale*common dandelion26   
31AstTragopogon dubius*yellow salsify 1   
32BorPhacelia mutabilischangeable phacelia9950999970
33BraErysimum capitatum var. capitatumwestern wallflower20151450 
34BraSisymbrium altissimum*tumble-mustard nr   
35CapSymphoricarpos rotundifolius var. parishiiParish's snowberry9910995040
36CarSagina saginoidespearlwort10  8011
37CarSilene parishiiParish's campion 4   
38CarSilene verecundawhite catch-fly67  20
39CarStellaria calycanthanorthern starwort5015   
40CheChenopodium atrovirensforest goosefootV13551
41CheChenopodium fremontiiFremont's goosefoot 1  10
42EriArctostaphylos patulagreen-leaf manzanita1   2
43EriChimaphila menziesiilittle prince's pine 1   
44EriPterospora andromedeapinedrops1  1 
45EriPyrola pictawhite-veined wintergreen 12   
46EriRhododendron occidentalewestern azalea3   2
47EriSarcodes sanguineasnow-plant 5   
48FabAcmispon nevadensis var. nevadensisSierra Nevada lotus13 13
49FabHosackia oblongifolia var. oblongifoliastreambank lotus599 30 
50FabLupinus hyacinthinusSan Jacinto lupine30999930 
51FabLupinus latifolius var. parishiiParish's lupine    4
52FabLupinus polyphyllus var. burkeibigleaf lupine1070 45 
53FabTrifolium longipes var. atrorubensmountain cloverV20   
54FabTrifolium microcephalumsmall-head field clover 20   
55FabTrifolium monanthum ssp. grantianummountain carpet clover9999999999
56FabTrifolium wormskioldiicows clover3025   
57FagChrysolepis sempervirensbush chinquapin  10 99
58FagQuercus chrysolepiscanyon live oak1    
59GerGeranium californicumCalifornia geranium550501099
60GroRibes cereum var. cereumwax currant103202015
61GroRibes roezlii var. roezliiSierra gooseberry1   41
62HypHypericum anagalloidestinker's penny9999999999
63LamMonardella australis ssp. australissouthern mountain-monardellaV1  70
64LamStachys rigidarigid hedge-nettle 99 9930
65MonCalyptridium monospermumpussy paws99 9999 
66MonMontia chamissoitoad lily3099 30 
67OnaEpilobium canum ssp. latifoliummountain California-fuchsia    45
68OnaEpilobium ciliatumwillowherb    60
69OnaEpilobium ciliatum ssp. ciliatumwillowherb35    
70OnaEpilobium ciliatum ssp. glandulosumglandular willowherb35997099 
71OnaEpilobium densiflorumspike primrose V   
72OnaEpilobium glaberrimum ssp. glaberrimumglaucus willowherb   740
73OnaEpilobium oregonenseslimstem willowweed599  4
74OnaGayophytum diffusum ssp. parviflorumgroundsmoke8099 9999
75OnaGayophytum oligospermumpinegrove groundsmoke99209999 
76OroCastilleja applegatei ssp. martiniiMartin's paintbrush    3
77OroCastilleja miniata ssp. miniatagiant red paintbrush115  28
78OroPedicularis semibarbatapine lousewort31   
79PhrMimulus breweriBrewer's monkeyflower 99  2
80PhrMimulus cardinalisscarlet monkeyflower    3
81PhrMimulus floribundusfloriferous monkeyflower    5
82PhrMimulus moschatusmusk monkeyflower9999 5099
83PhrMimulus primuloides var. primuloidesprimrose monkeyflower8099999999
84PhrMimulus suksdorfiiSuksdorf's monkeyflower    1
85PhrMimulus tilingiilarger mountain monkeyflower9999999999
86PlaKeckiella rothrockii var. jacintensisSan Jacinto Mts. keckiella5099   
87PlaPenstemon grinnellii var. grinnelliiGrinnell's beardtongue V   
88PlaPenstemon labrosusSan Gabriel beardtongue5599  
89PlaPenstemon rostriflorusbeaked penstemon5    
90PlaVeronica serpyllifolia ssp. humifusathyme-leaved speedwell9940999910
91PolAllophyllum divaricatumpurple false-gilia991 205
92PolAllophyllum gilioides ssp. violaceumdense false-giliaV    
93PolSaltugilia splendens ssp. splendenssplendid gilia50    
94PolBistorta bistortoideswestern bistort550 10 
95PolEriogonum apiculatumSan Jacinto buckwheat50x99  
96PolEriogonum davidsoniiDavidson's buckwheat x   
97PolEriogonum nudum var. pauciflorumnaked buckwheat1010 5 
98PolPolygonum douglasiiDouglas' knotweed20999999 
99PolRumex acetosella*common sheep sorrel   99 
100PolRumex salicifoliuswillow-leaved dock    99
101PriDodecatheon alpinumalpine shooting star8599 5099
102RanAquilegia formosawestern columbine10 5020 
103RanRanunculus alismifolius var. alismellusslender buttercup V 4 
104RanThalictrum fendleri var. fendleriFendler's meadow-rue   525
105RhaCeanothus cordulatusmountain whitethorn310  1
106RosDrymocallis glandulosa var. viscidasticky cinquefoilV    
107RosDrymocallis lactea var. lacteaNevada cinquefoil9950709980
108RosHolodiscus discolor var. microphyllusmountain spray    17
109RosHorkelia clevelandii var. clevelandiiCleveland's horkelia306099 99
110RosPotentilla gracilis var. fastigiataslender cinquefoil1070 15 
111RosPrunus emarginatabitter cherry99  9915
112SalSalix lemmoniiLemmon's willow 10   
113SalSalix luteayellow willow30  20 
114SalSalix scoulerianaScouler's willow301011 
115UrtUrtica dioica ssp. holosericeastinging nettle    30
116VioViola macloskeyismall white violet 993099 
117AmaNarcissus hybrid*garden trumpet daffodil 10   
118CypCarex abruptaabrupt-beak sedge9999 9930
119CypCarex fractafragile sheath sedge993052099
120CypCarex heteroneuravari-nerved sedge3099105030
121CypCarex hoodiiHood's sedge   55 
122CypCarex nebrascensisNebraska sedge80   99
123CypCarex rossiiRoss' sedge25 5 
124CypCarex sentaswamp sedge9999999999
125CypCarex subfuscabrown sedge530599 
126CypEleocharis acicularis var. acicularisneedle spikerush 10   
127IriSisyrinchium bellumblue-eyed grass1010  99
128JunJuncus duraniiDuran's rush  2 1
129JunJuncus effusus ssp. austrocalifornicusSonoran rush 4   
130JunJuncus longistylislong-styled rush   2050
131JunJuncus macrandruslong-anthered rush9999999999
132JunJuncus mexicanusMexican rush9999 99 
133JunLuzula comosahairy wood rush9920999999
134LilCalochortus invenustusplain mariposa lily99  302
135LilLilium parryilemon lily248132410
136MelVeratrum californicum var. californicumCalifornia corn lily7099 9999
137OrcCorallorhiza maculataspotted coralroot62 2 
138OrcMalaxis monophyllos var. brachypodaadder's-mouth V   
139OrcPlatanthera dilatata var. leucostachyswhite bog orchid 3 952
140OrcSpiranthes romanzoffianahooded ladies-tresses V   
141PoaAgrostis exarataspike bentgrass2  5 
142PoaAgrostis idahoensisIdaho bentgrass9999999999
143PoaAgrostis scabrarough bentgrass5099155 
144PoaBromus carinatus var. carinatusCalifornia brome2020209970
145PoaBromus halliiHall's bromeV    
146PoaBromus richardsoniifringed brome110 15 
147PoaDactylis glomerata*orchard-grass 3   
148PoaDeschampsia elongataslender hairgrass9999999950
149PoaDigitaria sanguinalis*crabgrassV    
150PoaElymus elymoidessquirreltail205 40 
151PoaElymus glaucus ssp. glaucusblue wildrye9999999970
152PoaElymus hispidus*intermediate wheatgrass9999   
153PoaElymus trachycaulus ssp. trachycaulusslender wheatgrass9999999920
154PoaFestuca myuros*rattail fescue 5   
155PoaGlyceria elatatall mannagrass99992099 
156PoaMuhlenbergia andinafoxtail muhly 2  30
157PoaMuhlenbergia filiformispullup muhly99    
158PoaMuhlenbergia richardsonismat muhly5099309999
159PoaPhleum alpinummountain timothy203  45
160PoaPoa pratensis ssp. agassizensisKentucky blue grass9999999957
161PoaStipa occidentalis var. occidentaliswestern needlegrass5  1 
162RusMaianthemum stellatumlittle false-solomon's-seal5588 804


Hamilton, Michael P. 1983. A floristic basis for the management of rare plants and their communities in the San Jacinto Mountains, California. Dissertation Thesis. Cornell University. 189 pp.

Voucher data provided by the participants of the Consortium of California Herbaria (ucjeps.berkeley.edu/consortium/).

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