17 hardy CNPS member and several guests assembled for a full day in the higher reaches of the Santa Ana Mountains. We took seven trucks, SUV's and 4WD's and headed up Silverado Canyon. Just as the road turned from pavement to dirt, we stopped for our first plant session and discussed a few of the lower elevation plants and plant communities. We observed a small colony of Piperia elongata, discussed one of OC's only colonies of Aralia californica - CA snakeyard, and pointed out plants like Keckiella cordifolia, Polygala conuta var. fishae. A bit further up bumpy Maple Springs Road we passed one of the only Chrysothamnus nauseosus - Rubber rabbitbush, then stopped in an old burn area and got terrific views of the uncommon rayless arnica - Arnica discoidea and Rupertia physodes - California Tea, both in full bloom.
As the group slowly climbed the road we got to the intersection of North Main Divide Road. During our drive on this road toward Modjeska Peak we were not able to stop due to the lack of pullouts, but we saw window views of several of OC's more native desirable plants, including many blooming Dudleya cymosa, Penstemon grinellii (Grinell's penstemon), Minuartia douglasii (Douglas sandwort), Viola sheltonii (Shelton's violet), Monardella macrantha var. hallii (Hall's monardella) and Hosackia crassifolia (buck lotus). Arriving at the base of Modjeska Peak we strapped on our daypacks, loaded some water and headed off on foot to the summit, about a mile away. Along the way, and after passing several colorful Ceanothus integerrinnus, Bob Allen showed us the exact location where a few years earlier he had become the 14th person to see the rare and newly described Santa Ana Mountains Phacelia - Phacelia keckii. On the summit and nearby we were rewarded with a treasure chest of high elevation Santa Ana Mountain specialties: several blooming Calochortus invenustus (shy mariposa lily), silvery-white Eriogonum saxitile (rock buckwheat), Phacelia davidsoniana, Allophyllum glutinosum, Orabanche fascicularis and Silene verucunda.
After descending Modjeska Peak and breaking for a picnic lunch and conversation we loaded back up and continued the drive to the summit of Santiago Peak, the highest point in Orange County and The Santa Ana Mountains. On the drive up to the summit the group passed blooming Argemone minute - prickly poppy and Erysimum capitatum - Western wallflower. The summit of Santiago Peak was equally rewarding and included more Calochortus invenustus as well as Eriogonum nudum, blooming Allium monticola, Silene rhomboidea, Clematis ligusticifolia and many Monardella macrantha var. hallii. Perhaps the highlight of the day was a small colony of rare Eriogonum wrightii ssp. subspacosum - Wright's buckwheat, a plant that has been scarcely documented from the Santa Ana Mountains.
We all posed for some group photos and to enjoy the views. A wonderful trip, filled with seldom seen plants, great adventure, wonderful scenery and great people.