Spring wildflowers at California’s Anza-Borrego State Park

Last weekend, Vic and I camped in a group camp at Anza Borrego State Park in San Diego County with 23 other people from the Orange County Society for Conservation Biology. Seeing the peak bloom of desert wildflowers and searching for life-sized metal sculptures of prehistoric animals in Galleta Meadows made the trip extra enjoyable.

Everyone cooked and ate on their own. After dinner, we sat around the campfire. I gave a campfire Powerpoint presentation on my laptop about the extinct flora and fauna of the Anza-Borrego region from 1-6 million years ago.

Vic made coffee and I cooked huevos rancheros for breakfast, using eggs from our own chickens of course.

Not a bad-looking camp breakfast.

Mami (hope I got the spelling right) cooked a gourmet breakfast of potatoes, zucchini, onions and garlic with eggs scrambled into the veggies.

I wish I could incorporate the smell of this wonderful dish, but a photo will have to do. The eggs haven't been added yet.

Margaret gets some water at the spigot in camp.

Dave, Margaret, and Riley chat after breakfast.

By late morning, the tents were struck and cars packed. People headed their separate ways for a day of hiking and/or photography before heading home.

We camped at the Palm Canyon campground. The hike up Palm Canyon is straight ahead. We have taken that hike before, but didn't on this trip.

Beavertail cactus

Datura (Jimsonweed) and desert dandelion

White flower with green beetle

These tiny pink flowers were the size of a fingernail.

 I think that the pink flower is Purple Mat, one of the so-called “belly flowers.” You have to get down on your belly to really see these tiny things.

The desert wildflowers along Henderson Road in Borrego Springs can be spectacular. Unfortunately, an invasive mustard is crowding out the native wildflowers. The mustard grows taller and blooms earlier than the natives and will crowd them out in a few decades. This area has been handweeded of mustard to give the native flowers a chance.

The previous photo showed a weeded area. This photo shows the boundary between the weeded area on the right and the non-native mustard on the left.

Brown-eyed Primrose

Not sure what this yellow flower is, maybe desert sunflower.

I wish I knew my desert wildflowers, but I can only identify a few of them. This isn't one of them.

Yellow flower

 This yellow flower may be one of the blazing stars, of which there are several species.

A blue Phacelia.

 Many of the Phacelias have fuzzy stems that can irritate the skin or cause rashes, so be careful about handling them.

Creepy caterpillars can make beautiful butterflies. This is most likely the caterpillar of the White-lined Sphinx Moth, which isn't all that pretty in my opinion.

I think that this is also a White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillar, just a younger instar of the larva.

 
Check out this video of the caterpillar eating the plant stem. Sorry about the background noise. I was pretty close to the road.

Barrel cactus flower

Southern Mammoth sculpture in Galleta Meadows by Perris CA artist Ricardo Breceda. These sculptures of prehistoric wildlife of the region were commissioned by Dennis Avery, heir to the Avery Dennison label company fortune. The sculptures rest on his property in Borrego Springs.

During the Pliocene and Pleistocene Epochs, prehistoric animals such as this Giant Tortoise roamed the Anza-Borrego region. The region then was a moist woodland with braided streams and a coastal delta where the early Colorado River emptied into the Gulf of California.

Columbian mammoths, which also roamed the region, stood 12 ft tall at the shoulder.

Four species of horses/zebras lived here as well. Horses evolved in North America, migrating over the landbridge with Asia. They survived in Asia and Europe, but died out in North America when the climate changed dramatically at the end of the Ice Ages 12,000 years ago.

The Incredible Wind God Bird had a wingspan of 16 ft and was the largest flying bird in North America.

Juvenile Incredible Wind God Birds stayed with their parents for up to 12 years, learning to hunt. They may have had to take flight by either running or jumping off a cliff.

Borrego Springs is known for its Seely Red grapefruit. We bought a bag from a local produce stand before heading home.

We drove back through the quaint old mining town of Julian, where the daffodils were in spectacular bloom. Usually we stop in town, but not this trip.

No trip to this area is complete without an apple pie from the Julian Pie Company. But they’re not made in Julian. We bought a pie to take home from where they’re made in Santa Ysabel.

Many of the stores and restaurants in Julian sell apple pies, but pies from the Julian Pie Company are made in Santa Ysabel.

 Another great place to pick up a pie or turnover is Mom’s Bakery in Julian.

Don's Market in Santa Ysabel is a great place to get local produce, local grass-fed bison, and local wines from Menghini Winery. We also usually stop in at Dudley's Bakery next to the market to pick up some fresh bread.

I love driving through the southern California farmland as well as the wildlands. On our way home, we saw horses, cattle, goats, sheep, bison, and even camels from a local camel’s milk dairy. Amazing place, this southern California.

(To read more of Lou Murray’s environmental writing, see her weekly column, Natural Perspectives, in the Huntington Beach Independent at www.hbindependent.com /blogs_and_columns)

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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2 Responses to Spring wildflowers at California’s Anza-Borrego State Park

  1. Turling says:

    I always find it surprising how beautiful the desert can be if you just look closely. Yes, it’s does not have the lushness of forests, but it does have some beautiful plantlife.

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