California Native Plant Society

Native Plants - Photo Gallery

Boggy Meadow of Big Bear Lake Area

By Ann Dittmer and Cindy Barrett

Tucked four miles on a myriad of dirt roads dissecting the mountains south of Big Bear Lake (San Bernardino Mountains, southern California) hides a discreet meadow where stream orchids, lemon lilies, ferns, and white flowered bog orchids commingle in an incredible show of nature's beauty. After my diligent plant buddy, Cindy, dutifully gushed stories of discovering this slice of botanical heaven, I was determined to witness and capture these beauties on film. It would take three years of trial forays into the field before our timing fell on peak bloom. Previous attempts swung between the extremes of too early (yielding tantalizing, nodding green buds) or too late (missing the bloom altogether). But, a visit to the site on July 15, 2000 paid off.

Photographer's note: All photos were taken with a Nikon 8008 using a 60mm 2.8 Nikkor micro lens and Fugichrome Provia (100) film. No flash, shades, or reflective devices were used--only natural lighting. Scans of the slides were done using a Polaroid SprintScan 35 Plus.

Veratrum californicum

Under the tall, airy canopy of Jeffrey pine forest, a groundwater seep provides the ideal microenviron- ment for a plethora of orchid, fern and lily species to thrive. Such boggy conditions support plentiful drifts of corn lilies, a.k.a. false hellebores (Veratrum californicum). The large, parallel ribbed leaves add splendid texture to many a meadow throughout California.

Plantanthera leucostachys

Staying in the saturated soils of the spring, one finds the
brilliant white spikes of the white flowered bog orchid (Plantanthera
flourishing.  While white flowers measure only 1/2" in
length, the spikes range from 1 to 3 feet in height.

Epipactis gigantea
Epipactis gigantea

Moving just beyond the wettest portion of the meadow, an incredible assembly of stream orchids (Epipactis gigantea) lay just a few feet from trailside.  The understated earthen tones of this flower could be easily overlooked by the avid hiker intent on reaching the summit rather than the flora underfoot.

Lilium parryi
Lilium paryii

No more than 20 feet away, a massive population of rare lemon lilies (Lilium parryi) flourish, clearly oblivious to the knowledge of their species' reduced numbers owing to overcollection and loss of habitat. Here, in this sanctuary, their numbers thrive. Throughout the elongate meadow are plants taller than my 5'6" height, each supporting 1 to 17 brilliant yellow trumpets. As we walk along the footpath, the large trumpets hung so gracefully as to be nearly mistaken for butterflies dancing in the dappled sunlit oasis. Shockingly intense lemon-vanilla fragrance fills the air in drifts.

Pteridium aquilinum

In many places, the lemon lilies intermingle with robust, four foot tall colonies of bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum).

With such stellar and showy competition it would be easy to overlook the diminutive but fascinating musk monkeyflower (Mimulus moschatus), growing no more than 6 inches tall--a dwarf beneath the towering ferns and lilies. With leaves cold and slimy to the touch, and smelling a bit stronger than one might perhaps wish for such a small plant, the little yellow flowers stand out and add a perky touch to its resume.

About the Authors

ANN DITTMER received her MA in Geography from California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and currently teaches geography at CSUN. Having been informally interested in plants and propagation since the young and tender age of seven, her scientific botanical knowledge has yet to fully mature. Her background in photography has lead to the accumulation of a large collection of plant slides--and ever more books to help identify them all. Contact Ann at or visit her webpage at

CINDY BARRETT received her BA in Biology from CSUN and currently works in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at CSUN. Keeper of the Jepson Manual, she enthusiastically shares her botanical expertise with novice Ann Dittmer. Commonly, Cindy and Ann can be found scouring the local mountains of southern California for new plants to add to their list of "sightings".

Photos and text © 2000 Ann Dittmer and Cindy Barrett. All rights reserved.




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