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

Wildflowers: Desert
Mountain Springs Grade, Imperial County and Starfish Cove, San Diego County
March 25-26, 2000

Photo of Mountain Springs area by Brad Hollingsworth

Mountain Springs Grade is part of the Jacumba Natural Wilderness Area, east of San Diego, just across the Imperial County line. It is about two-thirds of the way down the escarpment along Interstate 8, just south of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and west-southwest of Ocotillo. There's a parking area on Mountain Springs Road, just south of the interstate exit, but no trail. The region is known for its large granite boulders and is dominated by Opuntia wolfii; among other plants like Acacia greggii, Ambrosia dumosa, Fouquieria splendens, and Simmondsia chinensis; Mammillaria dioica, Echinocereus engelmannii, Encelia farinosa, and Prunus fremontii are also quite common.

Starfish Cove is on the eastern side of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, in San Diego County just west of the Imperial County line, south of Ocotillo Wells and north of Split Mountain. To get there take Highway 78 east of Borrego Springs; go south on Split Mountain Road, and park at the Elephant Trees Discovery Area Trailhead. From there it is approximately four miles of hiking into Starfish Cove. The area is dominated by Fouquiera splendens, Psorothamnus shottii, Hymenoclea salsola, Opuntia echinocarpa, Ferocactus cylindraceus, Ambrosia dumosa, Larrea tridentata, and Acacia greggii; other species such as: Bursera microphylla, Opuntia wolfii, O. basilaris, Mammillaria dioica, Hyptis emoryi, and Bebbia juncea are also quite common.

Though flowering plants are sparse this year, those listed below showed at least some sign of blooming. Most were seen on a California Native Plant Society field trip led by Dr. Jon Rebman, botany curator at the museum.

Adenophyllum porophylloides   (some)
Agave deserti   (bolting)
Ambrosia dumosa — Burro Weed   (some in washes)
Arabis perennans — Rock-Cress
Brickellia frutescens — Brickellbush
Chamaesyce melanadenia — Prostrate Spurge
Cheilanthes viscida — Viscid Lace Fern   (present)
Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum— Blue Dicks   (a few)
Echinocereus engelmannii — Hedgehog Cactus   (budding)
Encelia farinosa Torrey & A. Gray — Brittlebush, Incienso   (some)
Ephedra nevadensis — Ephedra, Mormon Tea
Eriogonum fasciculatum var. polifolium — California Buckwheat
Eriogonum inflatum var. deflatum — Desert Trumpet   (a few)
Erodium cicutarium* — Storksbill, Filaree
Ferocactus cylindraceus var. lecontei! — California Barrel Cactus
Fouquieria splendens ssp. splendens — Ocotillo
Gutierrezia californica — California Matchweed
Krameria grayi   (a few)
Lycium andersonii— Box Thorn
Mammillaria dioica — Nipple Cactus, Fish-Hook Cactus   (blooming "crazily" with double rows of blossoms)
Matelea parvifolia — Spearleaf, Talayote   (buds)
Mimulus aurantiacus — Monkeyflower
Mirabilis bigelovii var. retrorsa — Four O'Clock
Opuntia wolfii—Wolf's Cholla   (buds)
Pellaea mucronata var. mucronata — Bird's Foot Fern   (present)
Penstemon clevelandii var. clevelandii — Beardtongue   (buds)
Phoradendron californicum — Desert Mistletoe   (fruits)
Physalis crassifolia — Ground Cherry
Pleuraphis rigida — Big Galleta   (just starting)
Porophyllum gracile — Odora   (a few)
Prunus fremontii — Desert Apricot
Rhus ovata — Sugar Bush   (buds)
Simmondsia chinensis — Jojoba, Goat-Nut Pig-Nut
Stillingia linearifolia
Tamarix ramosissima* — Tamarisk   (always blooming)
Thamnosma montana — Turpentine-Broom
Viguiera parishii   (just one)
Yucca schidigera — Mohave Yucca

* Introduced species

List submitted by Jon Rebman and Michael Simpson
Photo of Mountain Springs by Brad Hollingsworth