Idyllwild Botany: Deer Springs — habitat for oaks, lilies and more …

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Dave Stith, the Town Crier’s volunteer botanist, has submitted reports on the spring flowering plants along two local trails — Deer Springs and Ramona in Garner Valley. The Deer Springs observations are below. The Garner Valley expedition report will appear next week.

From its trailhead at Highway 243 on Wednesday, April 23, I hiked the first 1.53 miles of Deer Springs Trail. Since Oracle, Black and Interior live oaks are in full bloom from Mountain Center to Idyllwild, I wanted to see how the bloom compared to the Deer Springs Trail where few Oracles grow.

While I was at it, I decided to record the other plants, including Lemon lily sitings.

Interior live oaks are nearing full bloom on the trail, although the higher I went the less mature the catkins became.

What surprised me was that among the many Interior live oaks with catkins, I only saw six Black oaks with catkins. Furthermore, the ones that did have catkins were sparsely flowered and not heavily laden as are the ones in Idyllwild. It would be interesting to redo the survey in a couple of weeks to see if the Black oaks catch up to the Interior live oaks.

I have no conclusions at this time, only more theories. At least we are starting to collect some data.

Two Oracle oaks were visible from the trail.

Among other flowering plants, pink-bracted manzanita (Arctostaphylos pringlei ssp. drupacea) is the most abundant taxon in bloom as it lines much of the trail. Bajada lupine (Lupinus concinnus) and Strigose lotus (Acmispon strigosus) are still at their peak and almost as abundant.

There are also many red-root cryptantha (Cryptantha micrantha) and Whiskerbrush (Leptosiphon ciliatus).

Chaparral whitethorn (Ceanothus leucodermis) is still at its peak, but its numbers do not reflect that fact because on the Deer Springs Trail they begin to reach the limits of their habitat.

Near the trailhead, Parish’s Jacumba milkvetch (Astragalus douglasii var. parishii) is at its showiest state unless you happen to be a fan as I am of the peculiar-looking papery bladders that are their fruit.

California rock-cress (Boechera californica) should be past its prime, but here the plants appear smaller with fewer flowers. I hesitate to say it is an effect of elevation because we have seen them as high as Tahquitz Peak.

I saw some Golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum var. confertiflorum) starting to bloom and the first of what is sure to be many Sticky cinquefoil (Drymocallis glandulosa var. reflexa).

Only a couple of Southern mountain lupines (Lupinus excubitus var. austromontanus) were in bloom, but there is the promise of more to follow. Parish’s tauschia (Tauschia parishii) is just beginning to bloom, and there are a few nice Sierra Nevada lotus (Acmispon nevadensis var. nevadensis).

Blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum) are scattered along the trail, but they do not appear to be all that showy. Along one small stretch are a few San Diego gilia (Gilia diegensis) with white flowers.

Snowplants (Sarcodes sanguinea) are beginning to pop up. I saw two, although they were not the most impressive specimens I have seen.

At my turn-around point at mile 1.53, Mountain pink currant (Ribes nevadense) is very close to blooming.

To my delight, the Lemon lily (Lilium parryi) is back. This little bugger is confounding. In some years I have scurried into the creek bed only to find no trace of it. Once again this year it is clearly visible from the trail.

One year it produced one flower and one fruit. On the next step down, it has three more little Lemon lily buddies. One of these has a substantial rosette indicating to me that it could bloom if it doesn’t dry out.

Further beyond is an area I affectionately call the Lemon Lily Crossing because a number of lilies are there. I am always happy and yet amazed to see them there.

In most years there doesn’t appear to be enough water to support them, and they are precariously close to the trail. I guess this is evidence that a shared ethics exists among most of the hikers on the trail.

This year I counted nine, but only two or three bloom each year. Perhaps there is just enough water to allow them to grow; but it is a rare year when they can produce a flower. Some may never bloom.

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