Backpacking in the San Gabriels

The San Gabriel Mountains are the middle of three sets of transverse ranges–the only  mountains in California that run East to West instead of North to South. They sit due north of Los Angeles and due south of Lancaster and the Western Mojave. Further to the east are the taller and more isolated San Bernardinos, a botanical hot spot that I explored extensively last year. But the San Garbiels are unique and beautiful in their own right, and it was high time I spent some time there. So I went on a three day backpack trip into the Pleasant View Ridge wilderness, and wow, it did not disappoint. The “pleasant view” to the South was somewhat blocked by clouds. That’s okay, I didn’t need to see LA anyway.

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But the pleasant view into the desert was clear. This picuture doesn’t fully capture it, but I could see the whole way across the Mojave up to the Southern Sierras.

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Okay, onto the flowers. First, three relatively common flowers that were photogenic enough to include:  Penstemon grinnellii (Grinnell’s Beardtongue, Plataginaceae)

Penstemon_grinnellii

Calochortus kennedyi (Desert Mariposa Lily, Liliaceae)

Calochortus_kennedyi

Dudleya cymosa pumila (Low Canyon Liveforever, Crassulaceae)

Dudleya_cymosa_pumila

Okay, all the rest of these plants are rare (or at least relatively range restricted). I found all of them on steep granitic scree slopes. Scree is a mass of loose rocks unstable enough that trees and shrubs have difficulty growing. This open environment allows small plants greater access to water and sunlight.  First, a couple plants that I’ve met and photographed once before. They are both amazing enought to deserve a second helping.  Fritillaria pinetorium (Pine Woods Fritillary, Liliaceae)

Fritillaria_pinetorum

Mimulus johnstonii (Johnston’s Monkeyflower, Phrymaceae)

Mimulus_johnstonii

Okay, now to my new discoveries. Allium monticola (San Bernadino Mountain Onion, Alliaceae). I’m not too sure who came up with this common name, because there are far more populations of this species in the San Gabriels than the San Bernadinos.

Allium_monticola_1

Caulanthus amplexicaulus (Clasping-leaved Jewelflower, Brassicaceae). I’m going to keep trying (and mostly failing) to photograph jewelflowers. Their small, weird flowers are some of my favorites, and this species has really cool, veiny leaves too.

Chaenactis santolinoides (Santolina Pincushion, Asteraceae)

Chaenactis_santolinodies

Phacelia austromontana (Southern Mountains Phacelia, Boraginaceae).  This picture is a bit confusing because there is another species of Phacelia (Phacelia longipes) in bud just to the left of the open flowers.

Phacelia_austromontana

Oreonana vestita (Wooly Mountainparsley, Apiaceae). This is a new genus for me (there are only two other species in it, both with narrow ranges in southern California Mountains). Each gray-green leaf is folded in on itself like a head of broccoli, and the fruits are hidden in between sterile flowers.

Hulsea vestita gabrielensis (San Gabriel Mountains Alpinegold, Asteraceae). An absolutely adorable plant with super fuzzy leaves!

Hulsea_vestita_gabrielensis_2

And finally, my favorite from the hike, Linanthus concinnus (San Gabriel Linanthus, Polemoniaceae).

Linanthus_concinnus_3

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Transverse Range Traverse

This past weekend I headed south again, looping through the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains. This was my third trip to the San Bernardinos this spring. I had some unfinished business in the Holcomb Valley, as some of my target plants had not yet begun to flower when I was last here in late May. Besides having just a ridiculous number of rare plants, this valley is also notable for being the site of the largest gold strike in Southern California.

On the way, I found two tall plants with cream-colored flowers.  Asclepias erosa (Desert Milkweed, Apocynaceae) was the only thing blooming on the Mohave Desert floor.

Asclepias_erosa

Caulanthus major (Slender Wild Cabbage, Brassicaceae) was lining the highway on the way up into the mountains

 

In the Holcomb Valley, the highlights included three of the smaller representatives of their respective genera. Abronia nana (Dwarf Sand Verbena, Nyctaginaceae) with its nice compact habit,

Abronia_nana

Trichostema micranthum (Smallflower Bluecurls, Lamiaceae), which smells just as strongly as its larger cousins, Vinegarweed and Turpentine Weed,

Trichostemma_micranthum

and Navarretia peninsularis (Baja Pincushionplant, Polemoniaceae). This later is in one of my favorite genera, with each species having differently shaped spiky bracts (modified leaves below each flower) and sepals.

 

Another target in the Holcomb Valley was Packera bernardina (San Bernardino Ragweed), a rare Aster with cool spoon-shaped leaves

Packera_bernardina

The San Bernardinos are quickly becoming my favorite mountains in Southern California. While I’m pretty much done exploring the Holcomb Valley for the year, I might try to squeeze a last trip to their highest elevations later this summer.

From the Holcomb Valley, I headed west into the San Gabriels, north of Los Angeles. Along the way, I stopped at a large population of the poorly-named Phacelia mohavensis (Mohave Phacelia, Boraginaceae). This beautiful species does not occur in the Mohave.

Phacelia_mohavensis_2

The drive through the San Gabriels along the Angeles Crest Highway is absolutely beautiful, but unfortunately, not currently open to through traffic. A large sinkhole apparently opened under the road, blocking access to some of the areas that I wanted to botanize. Nevertheless, I still found a few great plants here, including the large showy shrub, Keckiella ternata (Blue-stemmed Keckiella, Plantaginaceae),

 

Mimulus johnstonii (Johnston’s Monkeflower, Phrymaceae), one of the less common of the 16 or so species in this genus I found on this trip,

Mimulus_johnstonii_2

And a second uncommon Ragwort species, Packera ionophylla (Tehachapi Ragwort, Asteraceae). While the flowers look very similar to the Packera bernardina, this one has pinnately-lobed leaves.

Packera_ionophylla

That’s all for now. In a few days I’ll be heading up to Northern California, and I’m pretty sure there are a few rare plants up there, too.