Pinus coulteri

Black Mountain Rare Plant Survey

By Tom Oberbauer, Botanist and Past President, CNPS-San Diego

Time was drifting by and the summer of rare plant surveys was getting close to the end. The season for surveys and the project financing were almost past in 2015. Margie Mulligan and I were originally supposed to visit the top of Black Mountain, northeast of Sutherland Reservoir, but other commitments prevented her doing it. So, Jim Rocks was interested and Margie made arrangements for us to contact each other. The result was that Jim was going to be able to drive and I would meet him at his office in the Clairmont/Mission Bay area.

I drove there quite early one morning, arriving by 7:30 am. We loaded into his Honda Ridgeline 4X4 and drove out through Ramona and up Magnolia Avenue and then down into Pamo Valley. The vegetation was not completely toasted because of one interesting July rainstorm, the remnants of a tropical storm. It dropped quite a bit of rain in a number of places in San Diego County including 4 inches in Ramona where it flooded some streets.

The plant that appeared to benefit the most from the July rain was Salsola kali (Russian thistle). It was green and growing profusely in all of the open fields. However, the rain would have also assisted the native chaparral shrubs and oak trees during a very dry time of year. The road climbed gently up into the hills north east of Ramona and then dropped down into an oak and sycamore lined canyon, shaded by the larger trees but providing a view of a narrow valley as it lay before us.