California Native Plant Society
San Gabriel Mountains Chapter

Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area

The Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area is a county park in the city of Irwindale, maintained by the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation. While the 70-acre lake provides a popular centerpiece for water sports, there is ample quiet area devoted to the native vegetation, complete with a visitor center and an interpretive trail.

The area is distinct because of the alluvial sage scrub, essentially a variation of coastal sage scrub benefiting from the added moisture beneath the river wash. Because of this good water supply, plants such as the yucca are typically larger than the same species in chaparral areas of the nearby mountains. For a good introduction to alluvial sage scrub, see: The natural history of Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area

On the occasion when these photographs were taken (March 2009), the area was at its peak of spring flowers following substantial rain in early February, although overall it was a below-average rainfall season.

Click on the thumbnails to see higher-resolution images, 720 x 480 pixels.

Alluvial sage scrub Alluvial sage scrub Common fiddleneck Common fiddleneck Blue dicks

Alluvial sage scrub at Santa Fe Dam

Common fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii var. intermedia)

Fiddleneck, popcorn flower, sun cups, and other flowers

Blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum)

wishbone bush
Purple nightshade
Alluvial scrub

Wishbone bush (Mirabilis californica)

Lemonadeberry (Rhus integrifolia). Fruit are covered in sticky fluid that tastes like lemonade.

Purple nightshade (Solanum xanti)

Alluvial sage scrub

Biological soil crust
Biological soil crust
Ground pink
Prickly pear and sun cups

Examples of biological soil crust, which supports a multitude of botanical and other organisms

Left: Ground pink (Linanthus dianthiflorus) & pygmy weed (Crassula connata).
Right: Brittlebush (Encelia californica)

Prickly pear and sun cups

Fire evax
Fire evax
Golden currant
Prickly pear
Prickly pear and alluvial sage scrub

Fire evax, stemless dwarf cudweed (Hesperevax acaulis var. ambusticola), discovered here in 2009 by Jane Strong, a first in Los Angeles County

Golden currant (Ribes aureum var. gracillimum)

Prickly pear (Opuntia X vaseyi) grows extensively here

Valley cholla Valley cholla and alluvial sage scrub Expanse of small plants Ground pink and others Lanceleaf liveforever

Valley cholla (Cylindropuntia californica)

Many small plants, including sun cup (Camissonia bistorta), ground pink (Linanthus dianthiflorus), and pygmy weed (Crassula connata).

Lanceleaf liveforever (Dudleya lanceolata)

Expanse Array of small plants Ground pink and others Animal burrows California croton California croton

More small plants including ground pink (Linanthus dianthiflorus) and pygmy weed (Crassula connata)

Burrows built by a small animal

California croton (Croton californicus)

Sun cup Sun cup Sun cup Small evening primrose Small evening primrose

Sun cup (Camissonia bistorta), blooming in profusion

Small evening primrose (Camissonia micrantha)

Two camissonias Two camissonias Common phacelia Pygmy weed Pygmy weed

The two species of Camissonia occur together, one much larger than the other

Common phacelia (Phacelia distans)

Two Pygmy weed species. Left: Mostly Crassula connata . Right: Crassula colligata var. lamprosperma. They often form a ground cover.

Interpretive trail Interpretive trail      

Interpretive trail

Walkers on the trail


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Thanks to Jane Strong for assistance in identification of plants and flowers.
Images copyright © 2009 Graham Bothwell.