Report on the Lily Springs Area Survey

By Jane Strong

San Gabriel Mountains sunflower (Hulsea vestita ssp. gabrielensis) Photo: Graham Bothwell

In doing the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt for the second year in the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County, I’m struck by how things change and how things stay the same.

Take road conditions, for example. Last year, 2010, it was a detour around the burn area adding more miles and more driving time required to reach the study area. This year, it was two washouts closing the road miles before the usual starting point necessitating an 18-mile journey, with 4 miles by shoeshoe journey. However, another road opened up on the south side of the mountains in late March. Now only a 4-mile trek up-and-over the main ridge along a narrow, windy, poorly maintained trail was needed to get there. Poor road conditions are always with us, but the reasons for them change.

But the flowers don’t wait for the snow and ice to melt or the road to open to bloom. The new routes led to new discoveries! We recorded eight rare species not seen last year.

The most thrilling new find is the stunning pine fritillary (Fritillaria pinetorum), CA Rare Plant Rank 4.3 found along the trail from Crystal Lake. More mountain finds: kennedy’s buckwheat (Eriogonum kennedyi var. alpigenum), 1B.3, abram’s alumroot (Heuchera abramsii), 4.3, and gray mondardella (Monardella cinerea), 4.3.

We explored new territory in the Station burn area and found the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains sunflower (Hulsea vestita ssp. gabrielensis), CA Rare Plant Rank 4.3, thriving in the newly exposed ground along Santa Clara Divide Road. Last year we found  red-rayed hulsea (Hulsea heterochroma), not so rare, in the 2002 Curve Fire area. So two burn areas of different ages have two different species of Hulsea as fire followers. Fires are always with us, but the fire following species change.

Jane Strong has taken on the role of organizing the Lily Springs Area Survey and Rare Plant Treasure Hunt for the CNPS San Gabriel Mountains Chapter since the program begain in 2010. 

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