Wildflowers off 2N10 Big Bear Lake
Wild Roses are found in the Big Bear areaCalifornia Wild Rose

CALIFORNIA WILD ROSE (Rosa, various species)

The California wild rose is a sprawling shrub with the characteristic leaf pattern found on any common garden variety of rose. The leaf pattern consists of 5 to 7 oval, toothed, leaflets on a single stem. The wild rose leaflets are anywhere from ¾” to 1½” long. Unlike most cultivated roses, the wild rose always contains simple flowers each consisting of five petals, pink in color with a yellow center ringed slightly by white. One can see the wild rose bloom in late spring and summer followed by the typical “rose hips” fruit. Three varieties can be found in Southern California differing slightly as to the size and orientation of the thorns. The California rose (Rosa californica) is the most common variety found primarily in moist areas such as along stream beds. In addition to appreciating its delicate flower, any close observer of the California wild rose will have the pleasure of enjoying its delightful fragrance.

The Corn Lily is found in moist area in the forest in Big Bear Corn Lily

CORN LILY (Veratrum californicum)

Found in the mountain meadows in large clusters the Corn Lily makes a spectacular display. Corn lilies get their name from their huge leaves, resembling those on cornstalks. It grows between 4’ to 8’ high with large, broad leaves (8” –12”long) which angle upward. Flowers form a dense cluster of small, whitish or greenish petals, which bloom, June-August. The California Corn Lily is extremely poisonous.

Fireweed makes a spectacular display in the forest south of Big BearFireweed.

FIREWEED (Epilobium angustifolium)

Fireweed is a spectacular plant due to its brilliant pink floral spires blooming at the tops of tall, majestic, leafy stems. It often grows in spectacular dense patches, and, though attractive, is aggressive in a moist garden, spreading from persistent underground stems. Usually deep pink but occasionally white, the fireweed flowers consist of 4 sepals with 4 petals ½” to ¾ “ in length. The leaves are 4” to 6” long with veins joined in loops near the leave’s edge. The fireweed fruit is a pod 2” to 3” long, slender in shape and stands out rigidly from the stem. It flowers between June and September and is most often found in disturbed soil in cool areas. Fireweed can be observed in the lowlands and well into the mountains, frequently appearing along highways and in burned areas, therefore, its common name.

Indian Paintbrush on the trail to the Champion Lodgepole PineIndian Paintbrush.

INDIAN PAINTBRUSH (Castilleja miniata)

The Indian paintbrush appears to have spikes of vivid red flowers, however, they are actually leaf-like bracts that enfold its true small, inconspicuous greenish flowers. The leaves on the lower portion of each stalk are usually quite narrow, whereas, the colorful bracts are often divided into three narrow lobes. There are at least four species of Indian paintbrush indigenous to our mountains. They are generally similar in appearance, usually varying in size from 1’ to 2’ tall and found in small clusters generally in dry areas, either brushy or rocky. The exception to this is the giant red Indian paintbrush, which is a larger variety reaching up to 3’ tall. This plant prefers moist soils and can be found in large stands in wet meadows.

The tall Lemon Lily is found in moist areas of the forestLemon Lily

LEMON LILY (Lilium Parryi)

Found along wet banks of streams, moist meadows, and springs, the lemon lily is restricted to wet areas. It ranges from 2’ to 5’ in height, and can be located anywhere from 4,000’ to 9,000’ in elevation. The single stem has alternating lance-shaped leaves 3” to 6” long. The single, sometimes two per plant, lemon yellow flower may be up to 2” or more across and has a delicate fragrance. It is literally a rare beauty, because it is a most uncommon plant. Count yourself blessed if you come across one. Another lily more common to our mountains is the leopard lily with its distinctive whorls of leaves and more abundant flowers.

The beautiful Lupine is found all over the Big Bear areaLupine

LUPINE (Lupinus, many species)

The Lupine is a most distinctive flower, highly varied, and coming in many sizes. From the miniature, ground hugging variety to the type that is large and bushy growing up to 5’ tall, the leaves of all lupines are unique, usually with anywhere from 5 to 9 leaflets spreading out like fingers in all directions from the stem. The one exception is the many-leafed lupine which may have up to 17 leaflets. The flowers are also distinctive: consisting of a long spike or raceme in shades of purple, or white, and occasionally yellow. With the exception of the ground hugging mat lupine, these plants are quite showy and easily observed. Legend has it that the name, lupine, is derived from the Latin word lupus, meaning wolf. It was once believed that wolves caused tremendous devastation to the landscape. Therefore, because lupines are quick to come in on disturbed soils, the alleged destructive connection with the wolf was made. Of the more than eleven varieties or species of lupine found in our mountains, most are located at elevations above 4,000’. The common roadside lupine, usually seen below 6,000’ elevation, is typically 1’ to 2’ tall with either white or bluish-purple flowers.

The Penstemon is found all over the mountains Pineneedle Beardtongue (Penstemon pinifolius)

PENSTEMON (numerous species)

There are more than ten species of penstemon and the closely related keckiella in our mountains. They grow mostly as bushy shrubs, and one grows as a vine-like plant. The flowers of all the varieties are similar, being tubular in nature, growing 1.5” or less in length, with an upper and lower lip at the end of the tube. The upper lip is divided into two parts and the lower into three. Both the lips themselves and the divisions are more pronounced in some species than in others. The lips are least obvious in the scarlet bugler (Penstemon labrosus). Three common examples of the penstemon would be the showy penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis), scarlet bugler (Penstemon centranthifolius), and beardtongue (Penstemon grinnellii). The most common flower color is a deep red or scarlet; the next most common is purple. The beardtongue is light colored, almost a pale washed out purple or lavender, and the lesser common yellow keckiella is yellow with purple lines.

The Snowplant is very unique and is a rare sight around Big BearSnowplant

SNOWPLANT (Sarcodes sanguinea)

The snowplant is most unusual and a very unforgettable plant. When you come accross a snow plant consider yourself lucky because they are a rather rare sight. The snowplant appears singly or in small groups and consists of a vivid red spike sticking up from the soil or pine litter on the forest floor. Most likely, the snowplant got its name because it may appear before the last of the winter snows have melted, creating a blood red contrast with the white snow. The snowplant has no green color because it lacks chlorophyll. Without chlorophyll a plant does not have the ability to create its own food through photosynthesis. Therefore, the snowplant is categorized as a saprophyte, the term used to describe plants that take their nourishment from dead and decaying plant material.

Wild Columbine grows in moist areas in the forestWild Columbine

WILD COLUMBINE (Aquilegia formosa)

Because it is a plant of moist, shaded places, columbine is usually found along streams. It flowers in the summer and is typically 2’ to 3’ high. The columbine’s leaves are mostly on the lower portion of the stems and have an airy appearance with their 3 separate leaflets, each with 3 lobes. The long flower stalks rise gracefully above the leafy portion of the plant and the flowers hang down from the stalks. The flower’s sepals and petals have 2 distinct parts. Five red sepals (part of the flower which appears below the actual petals) spread outwards or turn back slightly. The 5 actual petals are mostly yellow and point downwards from the sepals. They are shaped somewhat like miniature ice cream cones, the lower portions of which are red and extend to the back beyond the sepals. Many slender red stamens protrude from the flower adding a final touch of grace and contrast to this unforgettable flower.

Wild Iris in a meadow just west of the Timberline LodgeWild Iris

WILD IRIS (Iris missouriensis, Western Blue Flag)

The Western Blue Flag is native to the southern California mountains and if you are familiar with the garden variety iris, you can’t mistake recognizing this stunning flower. Western Blue Flag grows at higher elevations, and can be found in sunny, open, moist areas such as meadows, surrounded by forests. This Iris is a foot or so high perennial with 2-3 inch, pale lavender flowers with one or more long, narrow leaves rising from the base. The large flower has 6 segments united briefly at the base and then spreading broadly, with 3 segments staying erect and 3 curving downwards or drooping. These late spring flowers are purplish with lighter areas near the base and veins that are darker in color. The wild iris is rarely seen but well worth seeking. As you drive into town from the dam, near Medcalf Bay, on the west side of The Timberline Lodge there is a open meadow where the Iris's bloom every year.

Yarrow is found throughout the mountainsWhite Yarrow

YARROW (Achillea millefolium)

The yarrow is a distinctive plant which grows up to 3’ high, but is usually smaller. Common yarrow is an erect herbaceous perennial plant that produces one to several stems and has a rhizomatous growth form.The leaves are quite lacy and fernlike growing up to 4” in length. The tiny white flowers occur in flat-headed clusters, and bloom from late spring through mid summer The yarrrow prefers soils which are slightly moist and may often be seen in or on the edges of mountain meadow.

The plant has a long history as a powerful 'healing herb' used topically for wounds, cuts and abrasions. Yarrow was also know as Arrowroot and was used as a food; it was a very popular vegetable in the seventeenth century.The leaves can be dried and used as a herb in cooking.

Cow Parsnip found in the San Bernardino mountainsCow Parsnip

COW PARSNIP (Heracleum maximum)

The Cow Parsnip is a tall attractive plant, reaching heights from 3-10 feet. Leaves are divided into 3 segments with coarsely toothed leaflets and a broad wing at the base of each leaf stalk. The stems are rough, hairy, hollow and grooved. Cow Parsnip has flower umbels that are white or cream. The flowers have 5 petals of different sizes and are arranged in broad, flat-topped clusters at the top of short stalks. The juice of all parts of the plant contains a phototoxin that can cause a burning rash, blistering, and severe dermatitis. The wild food literature warns that cow parsnip can irritate the skin if you collect it in direct sun while sweating The plant is an herb and is used by herbalists and various Native American tribes used all parts the plant for different reasons.