Most field trips are free and open to all, but read the trip outlines for parking/entrance fees or pass requirements and be sure they fit your physical abilities. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, appropriate trail shoes, a camera, a notepad and lots of enthusiasm. These are CA native plant field trips focused on the interpretation, identification and appreciation of our diverse flora and the ecosystems they support. We use botanical terms, discuss plant communities, plant ecology, invasive plants and especially native plant identification. Past trips are at the end of the list. Questions, leadership opportunities and suggestions should be sent to .
Joanne Schwartz, a mushroom expert and OC CNPS member, will lead a hunt for interesting mushrooms and fungus within the beautiful oak forests, chaparral and sage scrub habitats of the Oak Flat area. Joanne will explain the differences in the fungus parts and how they reproduce from spores spread by wind, animals, water and insects. Fungus are important t to the ecology of our local wildlands in many ways and without their decomposing and symbiotic characteristics the world would be a very different place. Joanne will demonstrate environmentally friendly methods and tools used to study fungi. Although principally a mushroom and fungus trip, we probably will not be able to avoid pointing out a few of the interesting native plants of the area as well.
Oak Flat (actually a series of several flats) is at the Western edge of The San Mateo Canyon Wilderness and accessed by a locked/private gate off Hwy 74. This seldom visited area is a spectacular oasis of grasslands surrounded by beautiful, mature live oak woodlands. A very picturesque area with access to the area granted for this group. Meet 8 AM in the parking lot at Bravo Burgers, 31722 Rancho Viejo Rd., San Juan Capistrano (just off Hwy 74 near I-5). Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water and lunch if desired. No water or restrooms. Leader: Ron Vanderhoff.
Joanne Schwartz is an amateur mycologist and local mushroom expert. She has collected and photographed fungi throughout the world and has participated in field studies in Peru and Bolivia as well as California’s redwood forests.
Important Note: Mushroom are particularly dependent upon winter rainfall for the best hunting. If rains do not cooperate, the date of this trip may be adjusted. Please check this website for any last minute updates.
Free and open to all. Physical Difficulty: Easy to moderate. Bring a hand lens. Approx. 3 hours.
Paul Wilson, professor of biology at California State University Northridge and a founding member of the CNPS Bryophyte Chapter will lead a fascinating exploration of the non-vascular plants of Orange County. The San Juan Loop Trail is a 2.3-mile path that loops around the back of a hill and past San Juan Falls, a 15-foot drop. It passes through a moist, cool and shaded canyon that should provide plenty of bryophytes for us to examine. We will search the fallen trees, the soil, the rock faces and other surfaces for these amazing plants.
Participants will also be provided with a colorful pictorial guide to many of the bryophytes of this trail and area.
Meet at 9 AM at the trailhead. The trailhead is off the Ortega Highway (SR 74), 19.5 miles from the San Diego Freeway and on the east side of the large parking area just across the road from the Candy Store. We recommend that you purchase the pass in advance from Big 5, Sport Chalet, REI, or most large sports retailers, since the Candy Store may not be open when we arrive. Trip Leader: Paul Wilson. This trip does require a USFS Adventure Pass! Details here.
Physical Difficulty: Moderate. Limited water or restrooms. Bring hat, sunscreen, camera, notepad and water. A magnifying glass is highly recommended. Trip time: approximately three hours. Plant intensity: Medium.
A Friday trip! Between Silverado Canyon and Black Star Canyon, Baker Canyon is a very special place, well insulated and protected from much of the outside world. A part of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmark, it is only accessible to the public through docent-led events like this. Enjoy views of the Santa Ana Mountains, as well the wildflowers and plants of oak-shaded Baker Canyon and the ridges above. The focus of this walk will be California Lilacs (Ceanothus). There are at least 3 species of Ceanothus in Baker Canyon. Other possible early-blooming plants that might be seen here include Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria biflora) and Palmer's Grapplinghook (Harpagonella palmeri). This will be a 3-4 mile loop hike with a gradual climb to a final elevation of 1370 ft. (elevation gain about 460 ft.), with beautiful views at the top. This event requires reservations made through the IRC website: http://letsgooutside.org/. Check the website 1-2 months prior to the event to book your reservation. There is a cap on the number of participants, first come-first serve. Leader: Diane Etchison.
Free and open to all, but RSVP is required (see above). Physical Difficulty: Moderate. Bring hat, sunscreen, camera, wildflower book/notepad, water and hiking shoes/boots. No water or restrooms. Plant intensity: Moderate. Trip time: approximately3.5 hrs.
Our first field trip to this very exciting area, filled with botanical highlights. We will be led by Neil Uelman, a naturalist with the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy. We will begin the trip by exploring the Forrestal Canyon area, home of the only mainland colony of the very rare Catalina Island Crossosoma, a beautiful large shrub. Many other plants of the area will also be pointed out and discussed, as well as the areas other unique natural features. After exploring this area we will drive a few miles to our second stop at the Douglas Trail in another protected portion of the peninsula. We will walk the nice trail here and discuss more plants and natural history and complete the official portion of the field trip.
There is much more to see in the area and we encourage attendees to stay for the afternoon and do more exploration. For those interested, a few of us may take a walk down the Palos Verdes bluffs to the beach to view Dudleya virens and other coastal bluff specialties. Finally, we may even make a stop to see the small colony of Lycium brevipes var. hassei that is overlooking the Pacific Ocean which was thought to be extinct, but was “re-discovered” just a few years ago.
The Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy preserves undeveloped land throughout the peninsula. The conservancy’s mission is to create and manage large blocks of natural open space where native plants and animals can thrive. Meeting detail and directions will be posted soon. Leaders: Neil Uelman, Kent Henry.
Physical Difficulty: Moderate, approximately three to four miles on trail. Bring hat, sunscreen, camera, wildflower book/notepad, water and hiking shoes/boots. Limited water or restrooms. Plant Intensity medium to high. Time: 3-4 hours.
Casper’s Wilderness Park is the Jewel of the Orange County Park system, including 8,000 acres and a wide array of habitats. This walk will head up the Loskorn Trail to the East Ridge Trail, then back again by way of the Starr Rise and Bell Canyon trails for a distance of 3.5 miles. Warning: the Loskorn Trail is steep and narrow with steep drop-offs in places. There will be an optional side trip up the Quail Run Trail to look for Palmer's Grapplinghook (Harpagonella palmeri) on the West Ridge Trail.
Possible wildflowers at this time of year include Clematis pauciflora (Ropevine), Dodecatheon clevelandii (Padre's Shooting Star), Harpagonella palmeri (Palmer's Grapplinghook), Lasthena gracilis (Slender Goldfields), Paeonia californica (California Peony), Caulanthus heteropyllus (San Diego Jewel Flower), Camissoniopsis strigulosa (Sandysoil Suncup), Pseudognaphalium leucocephalum (Sonora Everlasting), and lots of Lupines. Near the top of the Loskorn trail there should be a variety of ferns, bryophytes and Dudleyas. At this time of year open areas may be covered with Calandrinia ciliata (Red Maids). When these flowers open after noon, they form a carpet of red.
Meet at 8 am at the end of Caspers Park road near the windmill. Directions: From 5 freeway, exit Ortega Highway, and go east 8 miles. The entrance to Casper’s is prominently marked on the left. There is a day use fee of $5 per car or free with an OC Parks Pass (more info here). Maps and directions are available at the entrance kiosk as well. Wear sturdy shoes, a hat and sunscreen. Bring hiking poles if you use them and plenty of water. Restrooms and water at the trailhead, but not on the trail. Leader: Diane Etchison.
Physical Difficulty: Moderate, approximately three and a half miles on trails. Bring hat, sunscreen, water and hiking shoes. Portapotty at the staging area. Plant Intensity: Moderate. Time: About 3 hours.
The Orange County Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, and the Irvine Ranch Conservancy invite you to join them from 10am-2pm as they celebrate Orange County native wildflowers at the Conservancy’s native seed farm. This event is a great way to learn more about OC CNPS, IRC, and the work each organization is doing to conserve, protect, and restore native wildflowers in Orange County. The 8-acre native seed farm currently grows 45 local plant species, each providing seed used to support ecological restoration locally. Expect many of them to be in full bloom for this event, which will be opened by brief presentations from OC CNPS and Conservancy staff, followed by a picnic lunch. After lunch, guests are invited to stroll the grounds at their own pace, or join a guided walking tour, on which they’ll learn about some of the amazing local flora being grown on the farm. OC CNPS will also be presenting on various local engagement opportunities, including information about field trips and their upcoming native garden tour. If you enjoy native wildflowers, good people, and outdoor fun, this event is for you! Parking is limited and carpooling is recommended. Please RSVP at www.letsgooutside.org.
A wonderful trip into one of the most scenic and remote parts of Chino Hills State Park. With assistance from Robin Huber, a volunteer at the park, our group will venture into the rugged Water Canyon Natural Reserve. As we make our way up into the canyon, climbing over fallen branches and navigating around trees and cacti, you will feel miles away from any kind of civilization. The sounds – which include woodpeckers, squirrels and more – are just as much of the attraction here as the plants, which will be thoroughly discussed, with identification tips as well.
The steep-walled canyon, located in the southeast arm of the park, winds through a riparian woodland lush with willow, sycamore, oak, and protected native walnut trees. The hiking-only trail follows the north grassland slope near the shady canyon bottom, heading upstream through the narrow, pristine canyon.
This trip is will be strictly limited to the first 20 people. RSVP details will be posted here approximately 30 days prior to the trip. Directions to the 8 AM meeting location will be sent to the RSVP’s. Leaders: Ron Vanderhoff and Robin Huber.
Free and open to all, but RSVP required and space is limited. State Parks does have a small entry fee per vehicle (details here.). Physical Difficulty: Moderate to moderate-strenuous, with some rocky and boulder strewn areas. Expect 3.5 to 4 miles. No water or restrooms. Plant Intensity: Moderate to high. Time: Approx. 3 hours or more depending on the group.
Physical Difficulty: Moderate, approximately three to four miles on trail. Bring hat, sunscreen, camera, wildflower book/notepad, water and hiking shoes/boots. Limited water or restrooms. Plant Intensity: moderate to high. Time: About 3 hours.
Details are still pending, but we are working to arrange a special two-part docent led walk of this unique natural area. The first half involves an easy two mile walk up Whitewater Trail to a location known as Red Dome, then back. All along the way we will observe and discuss the large variety of native plants of the area. The habitat blends the species from the lower Sonoran Desert region with those from the higher elevation Mojave Desert, with a few chaparral plants thrown in. region. This portion likely be led by CNPS plant experts. The second half will be near the Conservancy Headquarters, including the former trout ponds and the sensitive riparian natural areas in the area. This second portion would likely be hosted by Wildlands Conservancy Staff. Probably about four hours. Following the trip attendees are free to explore more of the area on their own or drive a short distance to other interesting botanical hotspots in the area, such as Big Morongo Preserve, Palm Canyon, Tahquitz Canyon or Andreas Canyon.
More information about The Wildlands Conservancy and the Whitewater Preserve can be found here.
Stay tuned for more details on this trip.
The Irvine Ranch Conservancy will be offering its ninth annual CNPS tour of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks on Sunday, April 8th with hosts Jutta Burger and Ron Vanderhoff and long-time IRC volunteers. We will be taking a “post-fire recovery” drive, probably up Weir Canyon and Blind Canyons (or possibly Gypsum Canyon). Participants will learn about fire cycles and succession in our Mediterranean climate, will enjoy the spring wildflower bloom that is encouraged by fire, and will be able to observe the effects of too frequent fire on vegetation. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about specific plant species and insects and will have an opportunity to study tracks of our four-legged friends along the way. A simple lunch will be provided.
Dr. Jutta Burger, Senior Field Ecologist from the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, will once again offer CNPS a special trip through the natural areas of The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. CNPS members will visit some of OC’s most important and best protected natural resources. This is a driving tour, on conservancy vehicles, along uneven dirt roads.
This is an all-day trip. Portable restroom availability at beginning and end only. CNPS members only! RSVP details will be posted on this site approximately 30 days before the event and attendance is strictly limited to the first 20 registrants.
Physical Difficulty: Easy, but includes lots of bouncing around on rough dirt roads. Short to moderate walking distances. Includes lunch. Plant Intensity: Moderate to high, especially wildflowers. Time: Approx. 6-7 hours.
Starr Ranch Sanctuary is a 4,000 acre preserve nestled in the foothills between Casper’s Park, the Cleveland National Forest and the developments of Dove Canyon and Coto de Caza, and operated by the National Audubon Society. For this very special visit we will board sanctuary vehicles and travel with ranch staff to various areas of the property in search of interesting plants of the grassland, coastal sage scrub, chaparral and oak woodland plant communities within the sanctuary. This trip is limited to 15 CNPS members.
Starr Ranch Sanctuary offers volunteer, educational and research opportunities for all age and experience levels. The natural resources here are well preserved and protected. Sandy DeSimone lovingly handles all the land management, research and education on the property, while Pete DeSimone manages the property. Their innovative approaches to wildlands management are extraordinary and will be explained and demonstrated during the visit. For more information about the ranch visit www.starrranch.org/ and for a complete plant list of the property visit www.starrranch.org/flora.html.
Limited restroom and water availability. Picnic tables are available, so bring a picnic lunch to enjoy following the tour.
This trip does require advance registration, please visit www.occnps.org for registration instructions approximately 30 days prior to the event. Once registered, a confirmation, including driving directions, a release form and other details will be returned to the first 15 RSVP’s who are CNPS members.
Physical Difficulty: Moderate, but includes bouncing around on uneven roads. Plant Intensity: moderate to high. Time: About 3+ hours.
This is a two part trip to the southernmost border defining Orange County and San Diego County. The main portion will be a visit to the mouth of San Mateo Creek. We will walk under the freeway and along the path used by some of the world’s best surfers and to the famous trestles area, talking about the plants and rare habiitat as we go. When we get to the beach we will take a peek at the freshwater estuary and explore the dune plants and a few of the plants of the coastal strand. We will look for a few plants of the southernmost colony of Acmispon junceus in the U.S., growing some 30+ miles from its nearest neighbor (watch out for the trains). Then can either walk back the way we came or if the group feels a bit more adventurous, we will walk South along the upper beach looking at more plants and then, after a half mile or so, cut through the vegetation along one of the surfer paths. We would then walk back to our cars via the old El Camino Real, which gives a really good overview of this entire area.
For those that have had their fill we will bid adieu. For the rest we will get in our cars and make a short drive to the east end of Christianitos Road and park a bit before the entry gate to USMC Camp Pendleton. Here, we will be within the scar from this summer’s ‘Christianitos’ wildfire. There should be lots of annual wildflowers and will be quite a different experience than the coastal portion.
David Pryor, the well-known retired Senior Biologist for CA State Parks, will co-lead this trip. He will discuss the natural history of the area, provide insights about its plants and biology and share many of his personal experiences (and maybe even a couple of surfer stories). Leaders: Dave Pryor and Ron Vanderhoff.
Meet 9 AM at the corner of Christianitos Road and El Camino Real, San Clemente. Free parking is available on both Christianitos Road and El Camino Real, but is often taken by surfers. Pay parking is available in the State Parks parking lot, adjacent to the Car’s Jr. Bring comfortable shoes, water, camera, hat, notepad and enthusiasm.
Physical Difficulty: Moderate. The total trip is about 2 to 4 miles, depending on the groups desires. Come for all or a half-trip. Rustic porta-potties (usually) at Trestles. Plant Intensity: Medium to high. Time: Approx. 3+ hours.
More details to come, but this will be an overnight trip to the back country of Santa Catalina Island, hosted by the Catalina Island Conservancy. We will likely leave Newport Beach early on the 28th on the Catalina Flyer boat and return on the PM boat on thhe 29th. While on the island, we will be transported around the land on Conservancy vehicles and hosted by their expert staff, with various stops to see and explore the native flora.
Overnight accomidations will be at the permanent tent camp the Conservancy's Blackjack Campground which is at the high point of the Island with spectacular views.
This will be a great trip and will fill quickly. Stay tuned for more details.
More information about the Catalina Island Conservancy can be found here.
Fossil Reef is a unique 17 million year old preserved portion of a submerged tropical reef. 48 species of fossil marine vertebrates have been recorded here. Extending for six miles across the Saddleback Valley, this unusual limestone deposit is submerged everywhere, except for a few spot, such as here and on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, San Clemente Island, Santa Catalina Island, and in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. These exposures represent an ancient ocean floor, as it existed 17 million years ago. The marine muds associated with these rocks contain plankton fossils, shark teeth, fish bones, marine mammal bones, and seaweed imprints – and even a large baleen whale that was uncovered nearby in 1981. The Fossil Reef area was recently included as part of Aliso-Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. Aliso Creek also meanders through the area and both the wetlands of the creek and the upland areas are part of a significant restoration project. More information is available here.
Botanically, this unique geology and limestone soil supports Orange County’s only small colony of Astragalus pomonensis, while the adjoining riparian portions of Aliso Creek support additional plants and a fragile ecosystem. We will search for plants in the unique area and see what we can turn up.
Josie Bennett is the Restoration Manager for Laguna Canyon Foundation and a native plant expert. She has extensive experience with the natural history of Orange County, especially its plants, plant communities, insects, amphibians, reptiles and birds. Prior to joining the LCF, Josie worked at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and the CA State Parks. Meet 9 AM on the street in front of Aliso Viejo Middle School, which is adjacent to Aliso Viejo Community Park. The school address is 111 Park Avenue, Aliso Viejo. From there we will walk a short distance to the field trip/reef area. Leaders: Josie Bennett and Ron Vanderhoff.
Free and open to all. Physical difficulty: Easy, with relatively short walking distances and easy terrain. Plant Intensity: Light. Time: Approx. 2+ hours.
This is a probable trip, but will depend upon interest and vehicle availability. From the end of Silverado Canyon Road we would drive up Maple Springs Truck Trail to Main Divide Road. From there we will drive toward Modjeska Peak and hike about a half mile to the summit. Then, we will return to the cars and drive on to the top of Santiago Peak. Stops will be made at important botanical sites along the way. This is a unique trip, but not for the meek. The roads are rocky, with lots of ruts and require careful driving. Four-wheel drive is not required, but only high clearance SUV’s or trucks should consider this. There are many plant specialties in Orange County that are only found at these higher altitudes and we will hope to find many of these. Leader: Ron Vanderhoff.
The upper portions of Santiago and Modjeska Peak hold many botanical highlights - many species not seen anywhere else in Orange County.
If you are interested in participating, have the appropriate vehicle and have a sense of adventure please send an email to Ron Vanderhoff (). If there is enough interest I will send details and we will do it. No water or restrooms. Physical Difficulty: Moderate, but quite difficult roads. Plant Intensity: High. Time: Most of the day.
A great walk with great views along a portion of the Southern Ridge of Aliso Canyon. Experience a unique but rapidly diminishing coastal chaparral plant community with lots of specialties like Comarostaphylos (summer holly), Ceanothus megacarpus (big pod manzanita), Adenostoma fasciculatum var. obtusifoloium (San Diego Chamise) and a rare population of Verbesina dissita (big-leaf crown beard). We will begin at Moulton Meadows Park and proceed south along the ridge trail towards Temple hill.
Meet 9 AM Moulton Meadows Park in south Laguna Beach. Take South Coast Hwy to Nyes Pl., turning left on Balboa Ave until you reach the park. Street parking is free. Bring comfortable shoes, water, camera, hat, notepad and enthusiasm. The new book Wildflowers of Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains is a great field guide for this trip, bring it along.
Physical Difficulty: Moderate, but steep, rocky sections. The total trip is only about 2.5 miles, but these are two or three areas that are steep, uneven, rocky and easy to slip - more of a rut than a trail. If you have trouble going up or down 200 meter inclines you will have trouble. Plant Intensity: Medium. Time: Approx. 3 hours.
The Big Bear area has a wealth of interesting plants that are unique to high elevations. This is a great area to visit in the summer after wildflowers in Orange County have faded from the heat. Pebble Plain is part of the Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve. The area was once a glacier lake (Pleistocene era 10,000 years ago). It consists of unique soils composed of quartzite pebbles that were deposited over eons and prevented conifers from taking seed. Pebble Plain is home to 17 protected plant species and 4 rare kinds of butterflies, 3 of which are found nowhere else in the world.
We will also visit Cushenbury Canyon (Cactus Flats), about 10 miles from Baldwin Lake. The rocky carbonate soils of this area support some uncommon species. Cushenbury carbonate flora includes the federally endangered Cushenbury Milk Vetch (Astragalus albens), Cushenbury Oxytheca (Acanthoscyphus parishii var goodmaniana), Cushenbury Buckwheat (Eriogonium ovalifolium var vineum), San Bernardino Mountains Bladderpod (Physaria kingii ssp bernardina), and Parish's Daisy (Erigeron parishii). Meet at the intersection of forest road 3N03 and Highway 18, about half-way up Cushenbury grade. There is a large turnout on the east side and a sign that says "Cactus Flats". High clearance vehicles will be more comfortable on the road, but passenger cars are possible.
Leader: Diane Etchison. Meet at 6:30 at the Caltrans Park-and-Ride Lot at 2555 Tustin Avenue, Orange (SE corner of Lincoln Ave. and Tustin Ave.). Do not be late - we will be leaving promptly at 6:30 AM.). Or meet at the Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve parking area just off Hwy 18 at the north end of Baldwin Lake (a few miles west of the junction with Baldwin Lake Road). It may be hard to find. There is a single small (closed) nature center just off Hwy 18. Bring hat, sunscreen, water and hiking shoes. The drive time is approximately 2.5 hours one-way.
Physical Difficulty: Moderate. Bring hat, sunscreen, water and hiking shoes. Plant Intensity: moderate to high.
Enjoy the relaxing calmness and fall color of the beautiful and biologically rich Harding Canyon creek trail. An interesting mix of coast sage, chaparral and Riparian woodland highlight this species-rich walk. A short walk up the Harding Truck trail leads to the canyon which should be mostly dry this time of the year. A nice diversity of trees can be found including California ash (Fraxinus dipetala), Arizona ash (Fraxinus velutina), California bay (Umbellularia californica), and Big-leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum). There will also be a chance to see a few uncommon shrubs such as Nevin's brickllebuch (Brickellia nevinii) and Fish's milkwort (Polygala cornuta var. fishiae).
Meet 9:00 am at the parking lot just right of the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, obeying the signs of appropriate parking in the area. Take E. Santiago Canyon Road from either the N or S and turn onto Modjeska Canyon Road leading directly to the parking lot. Leaders: Jonathan Frank and Ron Vanderoff.
Physical Difficulty: Moderate. Bring hat, sunscreen, camera, wildflower book/notepad, water and hiking shoes/boots. Limited water or restrooms. Plant Intensity moderate. Time: About 2 .5 hours.
Congratulations to Marlee Antill, James Bailey, Rebecca Crow, Hailey Laskey, and Wilnelia Ricart, winners of our 2018 CNPS Conservation Conference Student Travel Grant! We look forward to seeing them at the Conference next February.