San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Field Guide

February Wildflower Report

Desert Sunflower, Imperial County, photo by Judy Gibson, February 21, 1998

22 February, 1998-- Get thee to the desert!

We told you in our January report that if the rains continued, this was going to be a very good year. Well, the rains have continued, and the early ground-covering purple Sand Verbena has been joined by dozens of other species now coming into their regular annual bloom -- like the Desert Sunflower (Geraea canescens) shown here. If you haven't been to the desert this year, it's time to go for the first time. You'll want to return!

The best-known mass display near San Diego is at the end of DiGiorgio Road northeast of Borrego Springs. However, this is far from being the only place to see wildflowers this year. You can get away from the tourist hordes by visiting the Elephant Trees trail off of Split Mountain Road, near Ocotillo Wells (on Highway 78 almost to the Imperial County line). Here you'll see the flowers in a more natural setting, among the creosote bushes of the desert floor. And similar displays are to be found in many other places.

Desert flower tip: Don't just drive around, looking for the "perfect" spot. Stop often and get out of the car! Walk around and look in a variety of terrains. You'll see many more species this way. And watch where you're stepping; be alert for cactus and rattlesnakes! Flower season should continue until the hot weather arrives, usually near the end of March.

Another impressive urban display can be found in Palm Springs and Palm Desert, where every vacant lot bears masses of Sand Verbena and white Dune Evening Primrose. -- Judy Gibson

13 February, 1998, San Diego -- Plants in bloom along the rim loop trail in Mission Trails Park. (Tierrasanta entrance off Corte Playa Catalina.) We went in search of Chocolate Lilies; and were not disappointed! -- Dick Schwenkmeyer, Mary Clark, Annette Winner, Bertha McKinley, and Dale Clark

Chocolate Lily, Mission Trails Park, SD County, 13 February 98, by Dale Clark Allium praecox - Wild Onion
Brassica nigra - Black Mustard (7-8 feet high near the entrance but not too widely dispersed, non-native)
Calystegia macrostegia - Morning Glory
Ceanothus tomentosus - Woolyleaf Ceanothus (across the canyon)
Castilleja foliolosa - Indian Paintbrush
Dichelostemma capitatum - Blue Dicks
Dodecatheon clevelandii - Shooting Stars (fading already)
Encelia californica - Bush Sunflower
Eriogonum fasciculatum - California Buckwheat
Fritillaria biflora - Chocolate Lily (peaking, look beneath Laurel Sumac shrubs and in clearings between them)
Gnaphalium californicum - California Everlasting
Lathyrus vestitus var. alefeldii - Chaparral Pea
Linanthus dianthiflorus - Ground Pink, Fringed Gilia (just starting)
Lupinus sp. - Lupine
Lotus scoparius - Deerweed
Marah macrocarpus - Wild Cucumber
Mimulus aurantiacus - Monkeyflower
Mirabilis californica - Wishbone Bush, Four O'Clocks
Phacelia parryi - Parry's Phacelia (along the road near the trail head)
Sanicula crassicaulis - Pacific Snakeroot
Silene gallica - Windmill Pinks, Catchfly
Viola pedunculata - Violet
Xylococcus bicolor - Mission Manzanita (just starting)
Vigiuera laciniata - San Diego Vigiuera, San Diego Sunflower

Also making their seasonal appearance:
Chlorogalum parviflorum - Soap Plant (plentiful, not yet blooming)
Pellaea mucronata - Birdsfoot Fern
Selaginella sp. (carpeting the ground)
and various mushrooms

8 February 1998, Anza-Borrego Desert. There is an unusually good show of Desert Lilies along with carpets of Sand Verbena along the US - Mexican Border south of Ocotillo. The Desert Lilies are up to 3 feet high, with as many as a dozen blooms on a plant. Expect peak show now to next week, or beyond if more rain. You need 4-wheel drive for the last part of the trip. Take Hwy 98 toward Calexico, 8-10 miles south. When the road swings to the east there will be a mountain with a cross on top. Across the street on the south side is a jeep road which goes to the border. The flowers are along this road. -- Dick Schwenkmeyer

[Editor's note, March 8--Actual driving distance on 98 is more like 11.5 miles; the "mountain" with the cross on it is the only hill of any sort on the left side of the road for miles, so it's not hard to see.]

6 February 1998, San Diego (Mission Trails Park). Shooting Stars and Chocolate Lilies are already reaching their peak bloom on coastal mesas near San Diego. -- Reported by Dick Schwenkmeyer

28 January 1998, San Diego. Blooming on the Guy Fleming Trail in Torrey Pines State Reserve -- Bertha McKinley and Dale Clark

Abronia umbellata - Sand Verbena
Agave shawii - Shaw's Agave (just finishing bloom)
Antirrhinum nuttalianum - Wild Snapdragon
Camissonia cheiranthifolia - Suncup
Cardamine californica - Milkmaids
Castilleja affinis - Indian Paintbrush
Castilleja foliolosa - Indian Paintbrush
Ceanothus verrucosus - Wartystem Ceanothus
Cneoridium dumosum - Spicebush, Bushrue
Coreopsis maritima - Sea Dahlia
Cryptantha sp. - Popcorn Flower
Dendromecon rigida - Bush Poppy
Encelia californica - Bush Sunflower
Eriogonum fasciculatum - California Buckwheat
Eschscholzia californica - California Poppy
Hemizonia fasciculata - Golden Tarweed
Isomeris arborea - Bladderpod
Lomatium lucidum - Biscuit Root
Lotus scoparius - Deerweed
Mammilaria dioica - Fish-hook Cactus
Marah macrocarpus - Wild Cucumber
Mirabilis californica - Wishbone Bush, Four O'Clocks
Rhus integrifolia - Lemonadeberry
Salvia mellifera - Black Sage
Solanum xantii - Nightshade

No shooting stars yet!

Wildflower reports wanted from southern California and the Baja California peninsula.
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Chocolate Lily - Dale Clark 1998; Desert Sunflowers - Judy Gibson 1998