Friday, May 4, 2012

Treks on the Santa Rosa Plateau: Chinese Houses along N. Granite Loop Trail & Some Cool Fire Followers

4/29/12 Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla), North Granite Loop trail. 
There were several nice patches of Chinese Houses along the N. Granite Loop trail near the picnic area. This portion of the trail is well shaded by Coast Live oaks.

We ventured out to the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve last Sunday, taking advantage of the liberal sunshine and warmer temps of spring. Although the SRP is less than a 10-minute drive from the house, I haven't been out here since my surgery last November, so this was a real treat. Nothing crazy, just a 1 hour leisurely hike around the visitor center and on the Granite Loop Trail. Compared to last year, our rainfall totals here this past season have been dismal -  we haven't yet visited the vernal pools, but I'm sure they're bone dry. It never ceases to amaze me, though, how there's always stuff in bloom on the Plateau, regardless of whether it's been a wet or dry year.

4/29/12 Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla), North Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla). North Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Picnic area, N. Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Blue/Spreading Larkspur (Delphinium patens). This solitary larkspur was growing under the shade of Coast Live oaks off N. Granite Loop trail. Per the field guide "Plants of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve," there are two species of Larkspur on the Plateau: D. parryi ssp. parryi, 1-2', blooming from June-July, and D. patens, a bit smaller at 8"-16", blooming March-May in shadier habitats. 

4/29/12 Windmill Pink (Silene gallica). A charming-looking little wildflower but, alas, not a native. It hails originally from Eurasia and N. Africa, but has naturalized in California and other temperate regions of the world.
N. Granite Loop trail.

 4/29/12 Goldfields (Lasthenia californica). North Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Winecup Clarkia (Clarkia purpurea ssp. quadrivulnera). North Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Pomona Locoweed (Astragalus pomonensis). North Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Bush Monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiucus). Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Bunny on the Granite Loop trail, totally oblivious to our presence.

4/29/12 Granite Loop trail.

4/19/12 Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 A beautiful Engelmann Oak (Quercus engelmannii) along the Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Engelmann Oak (Quercus engelmannii). Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 A very sparse showing of Purple Owl's Clover this year (Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta). Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Cutleaf Geranium (Geranium dissectum). Like Windmill Pink, this one's a non-native from Europe that has naturalized in disturbed, open sites. Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Southern Honeysuckle (Lonicera subspicata var. denudata), leafing out after a deciduous winter. Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Parish's Purple Nightshade (Solanum parishii). Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens). This native bunchgrass grows in profusion here on the plateau. I've planted several (purchased from native plant sales) along our driveway - they're quite attractive, dramatic and sculptural in form. A fab substitute for the dastardly, invasive non-native pampas grass. Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens), Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Seasonal creeks are totally dry this year. Granite Loop trail.

4/29/12 Chick Lupine (Lupinus microcarpus var. microcarpus). Granite Loop trail.


4/29/12 Phainopepla or Silky Flycatcher (Phainopepla nitens). A crested, berry-eating bird. This one's a male (males are glossy black while females are on the gray side). He was perched on a tree just outside the visitor center. Not a great shot, but at least I got it - he flew off pronto before I could zoom in and focus.

4/29/12 Gil, under the canopy of a Coast Live oak. Interpretive trail at the visitor center.

4/29/12 San Diego Pea (Lathyrus vestitus var. alefeldii), twining through charred chaparral scrub, remnants of the 9/1/10 'Clinton' Fire that originated from behind the visitor center and burned about 80 acres off Clinton Keith Rd. That was a scary day for us .
Anyhoo, I'm amazed by all the regrowth and new growth (including fire followers) in the burn area. 

4/29/12 San Diego Pea (Lathyrus vestitus var. alefeldii). Clinton Fire burn area behind visitor center.

4/29/12 Canterbury Bells (Phacelia minor). Clinton Fire burn area behind visitor center.

5/3/12 Golden Ear-Drops (Dicentra chrysantha). Clinton Fire burn area off of Clinton Keith Rd. before the La Cresta turnoff. I've ever seen these before, but they can apparently be abundant after burns. Golden Ear-drops are in the poppy family (Papaveraceae) and are toxic to livestock. The trail to this section of the reserve is closed, so I snapped this photo as we were heading down Clinton Keith Rd. into Murrieta (drive-by photography). I'll keep trying to get some better shots over the next few days to add to this post.



4/29/12 Compare this shot to the one taken on 8/7/11:
 Not dramatic, but the area does seem to have gotten a little more lush. Time will tell...

4/29/12 Interesting factoids.


4/29/12 Mountain Lion display in the visitor center. That's a radio-transmitter collar on the stand.


4/29/12 Mahonia 'Golden Abundance.' Visitor center.

4/29/12 Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis). Visitor center.

4/29/12 Ceanothus 'Dark Star.' Visitor center.

4/29/12 New monument at the SRP visitor center.

4/29/12 Lovely Cal poppies and golden yarrow blooming at the entrance to the SRP visitor center.

Love these mission-styled lights in the parking area at the SRP visitor center.


  1. The first time I visited Santa Rosa Plateau they didn't have that fancy Visitor Center. Just a couple of old building of a old homestead I believe and one of them being an old Adobe.

    A couple more plants I'd try for sure at your place. Engleman Oak (Quercus engelmannii) and the Southern Honey Suckle. This particular Oak to me is one of the most pictureque and self pruning oak trees I've ever seen. The place place to view their picturequesness(if that's even a word - LOL ) was always taking a drive up thru the switched back & forth Hwy 76 grade going up from Rincon Indian Reservation up to La Jolla Indian Reservation on the southern face of Palomar mountain. My gut tells me that area may have been destroyed somewhat in one of those catastrophic fires which happened during that 2008 era of hideous fires.

    Unlike the other native oaks which quite often are nothing more than a mass of thick leaves (which is kool BTW), the Engleman Oak allows you to see it's interior siloutte with trunks and interior branches.

    The other plant, Southern Honeysuckle is also very heavily abundant up in the Anza area. It could be found everywhere on my property. I had a chain link fence along my dirt road and at the base of it transplants some 30 seedlings of it along that fence for a living olivegreen screen. Especially beautiful were the abundant tiny little creamy yellow-white flower clusters which brought around the Hummers. Who said Hummers are only attracted to reds. They always liked my whites and blues in the garden too. I think the red is for customers buying Feeders.

    Nice pictures and stories. I can always almost feel the spring temps and humidity and smell all the chaparral ecosystem aromatic fragrances.


    1. Kevin, there have been a lot of "upgrades" to the SRP in the last few years: the parking lot has been revamped, monument and gate at the entrance, and a new amphitheatre, native plant garden, and lots of new signage. In fact, I'm pretty sure (although no one will confirm it) that the 2010 'Clinton' fire was caused by sparks from a backhoe or some other heavy equipment working on the renovation behind the visitor center. How ironic is that? Anyways, the reserve is truly an amazing place - it's why we moved out here in the first place and it's attracting more and more visitors each year. And, as long as people are enjoying their time here, but stay on the trails and respect the environment, I'm good with that.

      The Englemann Oaks are indeed quite majestic. There's actually one growing right on our property line with one of our neighbors, but he's fenced it in on his side of the fence. Hmmm...Anyways, the tree is still quite visible from the house and is a fav landing pad for a lot of birds, especially raptors. Engelmann oaks are available for sale in tubes at the SRP visitor center's fall native plant sale, so I may pick some up come November, although we won't see them get very big in our lifetime.

      I did plant Southern Honeysuckle under one of our sycamores a couple years ago and thought it had died when it failed to reappear last spring. But, lo and behold, it's come back to life this year - you just never know about those deciduous plants.

      Btw, the aroma of chaparral is, IMHO, intoxicating, and probably most pronounced here in the springtime.

  2. Those Chinese Houses are amazing, have never seen them so thick. Interesting trail!

    1. TM, I, too, was amazed by the lush patch of Chinese Houses we saw on this trail, especially considering that we had a dryish winter.

  3. The spread of Collinsia is pretty wonderful. Local patches around here seem to be much more sparse. I also like that your granite loop has some serious granite along the way--The boulders give the landscape so much character.

    1. James, there is indeed some serious granite along that trail! That part of the trail is very picturesque but quite exposed and can get hot in the summer months, but luckily it's just under a mile looping back to the visitor center, so not all that difficult or long.

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    1. Karin, the SRP is an amazing place - I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

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