Field Notes from the Coast: August

By Juergen Schrenk, Chapter Member

When the temperatures in the inland valleys and our local mountains soared into the 90s, we, like many San Diegans, fled to the coast. We began with a walk into the Tijuana Estuary from the Visitor Center on Caspian Way, just south of Imperial Beach Blvd. The trail first led through planted Baja Bush Snapdragon (Galvezia juncea) in full bloom, not a local plant but a near-native from adjacent Baja California, and then headed into the preserve with its original vegetation. The most conspicuous flower there was San Diego Goldenbush (Isocoma menziesii var. menziesii ), but the humble Salt Heliotrope (Heliotropium curassavicum var. oculatum) was also blooming, as usual ignoring its CalFlora-assigned flowering period of May and June. A surprise, however, was that Coast Cholla (Cylindropuntia prolifera) still sported a few flowers, which we are accustomed to seeing in June or earlier.

We continued to Imperial Beach and walked from the southern end of Seacoast Dr. along the shore towards the mouth of the Tijuana River. The high trail on the dam had the last Beach Evening Primroses (Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia), and upon a closer look the mats of Beach-bur (Ambrosia chamissonis) still revealed a few fresh inflorescences. On the beach, bees were busy visiting Red Sand Verbena (Abronia maritima) which blooms virtually year-round along the foot of the dunes. Back at the car we finally discovered the botanical highlight of the day, the uncommon Salt-marsh Bird’s Beak (Chloropyron maritimum, right), fairly close to the sidewalk but out of reach. All of which confirms one more time that in our area with its range of options from seashore to mountains to desert you never have to go without wildflowers, whatever the season and the temperature might be.

All photos by Juergen Schrenk