Anza-Borrego Desert Wildflowers: Xylorhiza orcuttii

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Xylorhiza orcuttii: Location descriptions

Tom Chester is collecting GPS data about plants in the Anza-Borrego Desert State park for some time now.
In 2016 Keir Morse started mapping Xylorhiza orcuttii in Inspiration and Fonts Point washes.
Tom made a page that can be found here:

Tom Chester: Xylorhiza orcuttii page.

We Carla and Fred are mapping the rest of the X. orcuttii plants in the park. Most of the prime habitat is in area's that are not that attractive to botanist.
There are still some areas we haven't mapped that may contain a large number of X. orcuttii.

Germinating plants are NOT counted..
Plants first have to survive the summer, so plants have to be 10 cm high.

Obvious dead plants are NOT counted. They may be mentioned below, but are not part of the plant alive count.
Dead plants are those, without leaves or recent flowering.
That said, plants aren't always as dead as they appear to be, they can unexpectedly leave out.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Red rock loop

36 plants.
Several large plants in bloom.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Canyons north of Ella Wash

170 plants.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Arroyo Salado North Fork Mile 37.2

9 plants.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - North Palisades Wash

26 plants.

San Felipe Borrego Sink Loop

18 plants.
2 blooming.

Little Devil Wash

39 plants.
0 blooming.

Palm Spring Loop

37 plants.
0 blooming.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Diablo Dieguenos Loop

1 plant.

Dolomite Jojoba loop

6 plants.

Diablo Dieguenos loop 2

56 plants.
0 blooming.

Ella Wash Loop

95 plants.
0 blooming.

June Wash east loop

51 plants.

North Fork Arroyo Salado Loop

357 plants.

Bank Wash loop

134 plants.

Arroyo Salado North Fork

5 plants.

Unnamed Wash

26 plants.

San Felipe Fault Wash Loop

5 plants.

North Olla Wash

73 plants.

Coachwhip Wash

103 plants.

Military Wash South East

27 plants.

Thimble Palo Verde loop

80 plants.

Big Wash North loop

223 plants.

Military Wash South

49 plants.
Some plants added on a later date.
0 blooming.

June Wash

2 plants.
0 blooming.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - north_olla_wash

29 plants alive.
0 blooming.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - North Palm Wash Loop

The Area finally got rain after an October thunderstorm and December rain.
Plants look happy, exceptionally happy and big, almost unrecognizable in the shade.

127 plants alive.
4 blooming.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Ella Wash East Loop

The Area finally got rain after an October thunderstorm and December rain.
One plants just alive.

1 plants alive.
0 blooming.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - thule_eriogonum_loop

2 plants alive.
0 blooming.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Militairy Wash

After the October thunderstorm plants look happy and scattered all over, so we'll surely miss a lot of them.

86 plants alive.
2 blooming.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - June Wash - Viewpoint - Sandstone Canyon

This is such a nice loop, if it wasn't for one steep slippery drop.
Xylorhiza orcuttii are probably hidden in more side canyons and there are many of those.
Plants happy and some with buds.

8 plants alive. (39 found, we added only 8, disregarding the plants already counted in Sandstone Canyon.
0 blooming.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - june_wash-view-sandstone_canyon November/28/2018
Xylorhiza orcuttii - Big Wash Loop

This otherwise very dry area got rain a couple of weeks ago, the plants look good, green with some buds.
As this is the outer range of X orcuttii, we took the time to check them extra carefully.

147 plants alive.
2 blooming.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Mud Palisades

The Olla wash ends into hundreds of ever smaller washes, the plants also like to grow on sandstone making it very hard if not impossible to find the all.
Plants looked happy.

217 plants alive.
0 blooming.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - 17 Palms West Loop

A loop in sand and sand/mud stone washes.
Plants looked happy and green.

39 plants alive.
0 blooming.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Fish Creek South Fork Mile 9.2

A loop in sand and sand/mud stone washes.
Plants looked happy, with a good number of young plants.

388 plants alive.
37 blooming (many more bloomed recently).

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Sandstone Canyon

This is one of the most scenic places where we ever found X. orcuttii and difficult to count as they sometimes live high up the sandstone walls.
Here the main competitor for space and just as happy looking, Solitary leaf alkali goldenbush, Isocoma acradenia eremophila.
Be aware that Isocoma acradenia eremophila can sometimes have spiny leaves, that slightly resemble those of X. orcuttii.
The (dried) flowers are off course the easy way to ID them.

332 plants alive.
30 blooming (about).

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Gravel pit

This is the most unusual place where we ever found X. orcuttii and the most dangerous to map them.

The area is very dry and most plants are hardly recognizable, but the X. orcuttii are doing just fine, leafed out and a lot in bloom.
The hills resemble the Agua Caliente area, white granitic rock with sand/mud (stone) but probably saltier and mixed with more sand/mud.
Other plants nearby: Desert holly, Atriplex hymenelytra and Solitary leaf alkali goldenbush, Isocoma acradenia eremophila.
And it helps that hardly any other plant manages to survive in these drainages / slopes.

There is a seep with Salt grass, Distichlis spicata about 150 yards to the east.
The seep suggest there might be an additional water source and salty.

We also found a couple of very fresh young plants 1-2 years old.

473 plants alive.
50 blooming (about).

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Diablo dropoff loop

Plants rather happy, most of the plants in the wash, but sometimes out of the wash in sand/mud stone.
We might have missed a lot of plants in the many small drainages.

500 plants alive.
22 blooming.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Tapiado Seco del Diablo loop

Plants rather happy, most of the plants in the wash, but sometimes out of the wash in sand/mud stone.
Prefer as always the more narrow wash, in this case the walls of the narrow wash are rather high, blocking a lot of sunlight.
In general the plants favour the shadow side of the washes.

198 plants alive.
10 blooming.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Traveller-Palm Peak

A hike up Aroyo Salado and a fork.
Plants were leafing out looking good, considering the fact that this area seemed to have missed the summer rain.

80 plants alive.
0 blooming.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - North Palisades Wash

A wide long wash north of the Mud Palisades.

18 plants alive.
0 blooming.
2 small plants

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Blackwood basin loop

The Blackwood basin wash is wide and easy to hike.
This time we explored one the west forks.

Plants are happy and many small plants.

195 plants alive.
30 blooming (approximately).
30 small plants (approximately)

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Layer Cake Wash Loop
Wow what a happy plants, blooming plants as soon as we entered the Layer cake wash.
The area is loose sand and some sort of sandstone.
Generally plants are confined to the wash, but not here, so that took us about 1 1/2 hours extra to explore the many plants growing outside the wash.

Weird enough plants seem happy enough to grow in a "solid" sandstone? slope of 45 degrees without hardly any water collecting area above them.
So this most likely means that the "solid" sandstone collects and stores a high amount of water. Or this area gets a fairly regular rainfall.

Two things affecting the count are the high number of small plants, that have survived the summer, but may not live that much longer, even as they seem to be fairly happy.
Next plants live very far outside of the wash, this makes the count very difficult.
Generally we explore every drainage and if we see plants continuing counting until there are no more plants in sight.
We might have and probably have missed hundreds of plants too far outside our hiking loop.

1244 plants alive.
222 blooming
150+ small plants.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Fish Creek Mountains Carrizo Wash
An unexpended find of one plants alive.
A 100% ID of the kind of Xylorhiza wasn't possible.

1 plants alive.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Grave wash - North Palm wash loop
All the plants in the washes were very green at this time making it more difficult to find the Xylorhiza.
A couple of patches with germinating plants < 1/2 year.
There sure will be a whole bunch of plants in other drainages and forks, this time we didn't go the extra mile, because of the > 90 degree heat.
This is also the most northern location we found so far.

In 2024 we added 32 more happy plants in a fork that we use as a shortcut.

440 plants alive.
158 blooming

Xylorhiza orcuttii - 1-5-17 Palm loop
A couple of good looking plants in drainages close to 17 palms.

21 plants alive.
2 blooming

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Fish Creek Wash North fork - Mollusk Wash
A high percentage (> 50%) of small plants in the probably 1-3 year range. We expect that most of these plants will be wiped out at the next flood or extreme drought.
Germination is very strong after the 2-5 Inch rain at the end of 2016 and early 2017. We did no exact count, but we estimate germination in the hundreds. (0-2 pair of true leaves)
This must be a very good habitat for them to germinate. We found plenty of large plants, so this population is doing well.
One of the dangers come from cars and motorcycles travelling the wash road.
For example we didn't find any larger plants except one temporarily sheltered by a sand boulder, east of the fork North fork and Mollusk Wash
553 plants alive.
10 plants dead (*note).
9 blooming

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Palm Spring - Arroyo Hueso Loop
Scattered healthy plants along the route we took, missing a much as 100+ plants (or not) in the area, hiding in smaller drainages.

37 plants alive.
2 blooming

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Borrego Mountain Wash loop
Main population found in a sand/mud drainage, with > 50% smaller plants.

83 plants alive. 50% small 2-4 year estimate age.
> 20 dead plants (*note).
0 blooming

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Rainbow wash Loop
Surprised to see a couple of plants along this loop.
That means there may be more, hidden in the many drainage close to this route, we expect at most a couple of plants.

3 plants alive.
0 blooming

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Domelands wind caves Loop
Plants living in the rocky canyon, in rock and sand.
One plant close to bloom.
30 plants alive.
0 blooming

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Sweeney Jojoba wash Sin Nombre loop
To our surprise we found a couple of plants in a drainage down from the S2.

There may be others our there in drainages from the S2.

8 plants alive.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - joshua canyon
To our surprise we found no plants on this route.

0 plants alive.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Fonts Point wash loop
Part of the route is the same as the Thimble Trail loop, we disregarded plants already counted. In that part we found the only blooming plant.
Many of the plants live in the smaller drainages with only a few different species present, one of them X. orcuttii.
At least half of the plants we counted are in a terrible shape, still we found many plants leafing out.
Again plants in a spot protected from sunlight most of the day, are by far the happiest.

175 plant alive. (barely)
0 blooming
> 50 dead plants, probably far more. (*note).

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Camel Head wash east loop
Finding our first plants in the Camel Head wash itself was a good sign.
The plants are obviously struggling, as are most other plants without any summer rain and little overall rain. It's good to see mud from the > 1 Inch rain event a week ago.
Many plants showed recent bloom (< 1 year) and a surprising number of tiny plants > 20 with brown leaves.
187 plant alive.
0 blooming
? dead plants. (*note).

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Gert Wash Loop Fork
We explored forks close to the car, starting at the same location as the hike above.
Plants are in bad shape, barely alive.

45 plants alive.
0 blooming
> 30 dead plants. (*note).

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Third wash loop
A hike up a wash next to Third wash and looping back down Third wash.
Plants looked bleak, but the rain triggered a bloom in a couple of plants. We've seen plants in bud before, probably waiting for the right moment to start the bloom.
In a smaller unnamed wash we found most of the dead and worst looking plants. One small plant was about to bloom with one flower.
The route goes into mudhills, nasty after rain. Here most plant life is gone.
Some parts are sandstone with mud and gravel more suitable for plant life. Resulting in scattered groups of X. orcuttii.
The return Third wash is much wider and more alive, here we found most plants and all the blooming plants.

68 plants alive.
2 blooming
> 20 dead plants. (*note).

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Inspiration point to below Fonts point
A hike down from Inspiration point to below Fonts point.
The plants where struggling and some barely alive, they did get more than 1 inch of rain 2 days ago.
Plants along the descent from Inspiration point up to the road where not counted as we did that the day before.

46 plant alive.
0 blooming
> 20 dead plants. (*note).

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Inspiration Point Wash loop
A loop in Inspiration point wash, an area we knew Xylorhiza were present.
Still the amount of plants was higher than expected, the plants where struggling, but the more than 1 inch of recent rain, will certainly help.
As always most of the plants in the smaller drainages, but surprisingly also just below Inspiration point, what made counting more challenging.

98 plant alive.
0 blooming
20 dead plants. (*note).

Xylorhiza orcuttii - June - Arroyo Hueso and Tapiado Loop
A loop in area we knew Xylorhiza were present.
In the June wash itself no plants, but we found some surprisingly close in small drainages. In this area Xylorhiza are present in the numerous small drainages.

84 plants alive.
0 blooming
2 dead plants. (*note).

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Gert wash loop 2
We planned a new route up to Gert wash that visits a couple of potential drainages.
Most plants looked rather good with so little rain, most with (smaller) green leaves.
A couple of plants in bloom, that where out of direct sunlight most of the day.

125 plants alive. (including 10 very small plants)
3 blooming
10 dead plants. (*note).

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Fish Creek, Coral wash
No plants found in Coral wash.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - View of badlands wash loop
A loop starting on a wash road called "View of badlands wash".
Most of the plants are in smaller washes beyond the end of the "road".
Most plants showed signs of recent bloom (< 1 year).

138 plants alive. including 10 very small plants.
0 blooming
10 dead plants. (*note).

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Sin Nombre main canyon

In the narrow rocky part of the canyon.
Very unusual to see them growing out of solid rock.
An unusual high number of very small plants > 75%.

36 plants alive, many very small plants.
0 blooming

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Arroyo Salado loop2
We hiked the loop counter clockwise.
This is close to the densest population.

Impossible to determine if a plant is still alive, we found plants with good recent bloom and some with a couple of leaves.
So we estimate that half the population is still alive.

20 plants alive.
20 plants alive or dead. (*note).

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Arroyo salado road.

This was done while driving and stepping our of the car occasionally.

30 plants alive.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - 17 palms loop

We hiked this loop counter clockwise.
The wash to the west is borderline badlands, here we found the highest number of dead plants.

Parts of all the washes are rather wide with an inner flow channel.
Most of the plants further out of the flow channel where struggling some barely alive.

A note dead, doesn't' always means truly dead in Anza Borrego, because on closer inspection I moved some from the dead to the live population after detecting a couple of hardly visible leaves.
This is at the end of the bloom period, so bloom numbers would be much higher as we could see fresh fruit on many plants.

1141 plants alive.
548 blooming
212 dead that could be determined, probably many more.
40 young plants.

01/03/2018 The last rain in the areas seems to be the 2017 spring rain.
The rain caused a massive germination, so there are hundreds of small plants, most of them won't survive.
Most of the plants seem to be fine, with some green leaves.

9 blooming

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Ant hill loop

14 plants alive.
3 blooming
2 dead. (*note).

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Arroyo Salado Loop

This is one reason this hike took us over 5 hours to complete, the couple of extra miles going left and right to count them.

Unusual high number of plants on both side of the wash, most of the time they tend to be on one side of the wash.
Unusual even as the wash became wider, the population was still there and in good numbers.

I expect good ground water in this area as we also found mesquite in the washes.
Another observation, the plants appeared as soon as the wash reached the more sandy layer below the more rocky mesa. In this case water wasn't the reason but soil composition.

808 plants alive, in good health, big plants and young plants.
417 blooming
69 dead

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Sin Nombre Slot Loop 2

We know there are some in Sin Nombre, but not on this hike.

0 plants found.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Palm wash drainage

A short loop in a small drainage, probably the happiest looking plant in area, so green and a couple of small plants.

20 plants alive, most extremely good looking.
6 blooming
dead not possible to determine.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Thimble trail loop
Plants are struggling here, the best plants lived where there is shade most of the day.
We hiked counter clockwise, on our return route / wash we found 1 barely alive plant.

On the complete loop:
152 plants alive, some barely.
17 blooming
16 dead.
An extra >50 dead but no positive ID, but most likely Xylorhiza.


Xylorhiza orcuttii - Gert Wash Loop

A loop that explores a couple of the forks of the Gert wash.
Most plants where found in the narrow washes.
At least 3/4 of the plants where struggling.
Most of the healthy plants where found in the narrow wash that runs south/west from the San Diego/Imperial line (from 32.906543,-116.105348).
From this point on the plants looked increasingly dryer and dead plants showed up, so only the lower part gets enough water for them survive.

All in all this appears to be a place where the plant are trying to keep alive. On the trip we encountered only one smaller plant, so germination is mostly absent.

103 Plants alive
6 blooming and 11 dead

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Palm Wash South Fork

We checked out the upper part of the fork.
Wash is wide, plants are where small drainages meet the main wash.
This time we tried the first fork North and that was a good guess.
One surprise was a rocky drainage to the south, seems to be a small collection area, but here they are.
Down a similar drainage with zero plants.

33 Plants alive.
5 blooming
2 dead.


Xylorhiza orcuttii - Blackwood basin loop

The Blackwood basin wash is wide and easy to hike.
This time we took a small fork and found a good number of plants.

Back the same fork, scrambling up to the mesa, to find a parallel fork.
Gradually a rocky wash formed, so I had a bad feeling, this isn't a good habitat.

But a big surprise, most of the plants we found, where in this rocky wash, I can't dig but the underlying layer appears to be sand / sandstone.
A good thing about the rocks, it probably prevents them from washing down in a flood.

Such healthy plants and so many small plants, amazing.

316 plants alive.
50 blooming
10 dead
100 small plants.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Fonts bowl loop

Most of the plants in the cluster, where on a bank, in between two streams, that's also the location for all the dead plants.
The dead plants where rather large.
All the dead plants where growing in an isolated sandy area (island), between two streams, this may not be enough to hold water.
So eventually this whole cluster may die off.

Picture The plant on this picture is actually one plant.

8 plants alive
2 blooming
9 dead.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Fish creek - Loop wash first fork

When I planned this new hike the feeling about the return hike was good of finding some. We found them in the wash to the west (Blackwood basin wash) in large numbers (we will revisit the BWB wash almost certainly soon and count them).
And indeed
138 plants alive
22 blooming
5 dead.

Many small young plants > 20 (we included them in the count) , that could die after a flash flood in the middle of the wash, but they are sure tough.
Example of the small plants in the 10 cm range:

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Fish creek - loop wash

We hiked most of the road, a short stretch by car.

29 good looking plants total, got plenty of rain
15 in bloom a real high percentage.

Every number equals one plant, numbers may not be sequential

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Fish creek - lower - up to north fork

Fish creek by car, we checked in an out.

13 good looking plants total, got plenty of rain, up to the North fork.
4 in bloom.

Every number equals one plant, numbers may not be sequential.

The most popular in the park, probably without many noticing it.
An amazing one popping our of the anticline, blooming.

We did a partial hike Thimble trail loop

And found 78, way more that we expected and we hiked this one a couple of times, so memory fools you.
We will check the whole loop another time, we expect this to be the densest part or the loop

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Carrizo South Fork fingers

We counted 3 and 3 maybe, this time we really had trouble with a positive ID, probably because they where struggling to stay alive.
No flowering and only one plant with a more recent dried out flower.

Gert wash was our goal where we expect a whole bunch of them, we will try again someday.

3 plants alive

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Diablo Dieguenos Loop

A whole bunch of them, about 330 on our last trip.
These plants where way bigger and very healthy looking, far better than on our last hike, in Sin Nombre.

We didn't count about 7 obviously no longer alive and plants further than 10 meters from our loop. I wouldn't be surprised if there are a hundred more in the smaller forks.
Most of them live in full sunlight, but the smaller narrow wash up to "point" fall, they are in the shade most of the day and still looking very happy.
A lot of plants with multiple flowers.

330 plants alive
7 dead.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Sin Nombre Carrizo East Loop

Another 50, in a less visited area.
A good thing they had leaves, because there are a couple of look a likes.
We didn't count about 5 that didn't have leaves and looked dead.

50 plants alive.
5 dead.

Xylorhiza orcuttii - Dieguenos Loop

I was interested in how many Xylorhiza orcuttii we would find on our hike today, so I started to log them.
So fresh looking that counting them was fairly easy.

149 plants alive.
1/3 blooming.

* Dead plants are very hard to positively ID as there are a number of lookalikes in the same area. Only plants with a good ID where counted.