California Native Plant Society
San Gabriel Mountains Chapter

Lily Spring Area Survey

Background to the survey

In the study area

This project was an opportunity for the chapter to become involved in monitoring the population of high-elevation native plant species within the San Gabriel Mountains, and making scientifically useful comparisons with observations made 30 years earlier. This was done by repeating a survey carried out in 1981 by Wayne E. Sawyer in an area around Lily and Little Jimmy Springs. Click the image at the right to see typical views of the study area. For a map of the study area, see the maps page.

Sawyer documented his survey in the Southern California Botanists twice-yearly publication Crossosoma, in a paper titled "A list of high elevation angiosperms and their phenology in the San Gabriel Mountains, Los Angeles County, California," February 1987, 13(1):5-10. To download a copy of his paper, click here (PDF 656 KB). ( “Angiosperms” are flowering plants. “Phenology” is the study of plant flowering times.)

Annoted view

The area used by Sawyer for his survey covers approximately 360 acres between 7,000 and 8,400 feet elevation, bordered on the south by the Pacific Crest Trail, and in the north by State Highway 2 (Angeles Crest Highway,) with Little Jimmy and Lily Springs approximately defining the western and eastern extremities respectively. (Click the thumbnail at the right to see an annotated view of much of the study area, albeit a winter scene.) To complete his survey, Sawyer visited the site “at least twice a week between May 2, 1981 and September 11, 1981.” The result is a spreadsheet-like table giving a week-by-week indication of whether flowers were present for approximately 100 species. He spent the spring and summer of the previous year, 1980, getting to know the area, defining the study site, and compiling a list of the plants to be observed.

In our survey, we did not attempt to replicate Sawyer's work precisely. For example, we regarded field observations as being adequate on a weekly rather than a twice-weekly basis. We had just a small team of volunteers, making observations on steep hillsides, in drainage gullies, and along hiking trails, as well as adjacent to Highway 2. Interestingly, Sawyer's observations along the highway included the drainage gullies that were the subject of our chapter's field trip in August 2009.

Our field observing began in the spring of 2010, largely on the basis of learning about the survey area. The main part of our survey extended throughout the blooming season of spring-summer-autumn 2011. Some parts of the survey extend into 2012, especially for the collection of specimens.

Staff at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden assisted with respect to scientific guidance, access to information about Sawyer's collection in the herbarium, and the submission of voucher specimens.


A permanently wet drainage gully in our study area above Angeles Crest Hwy


Lily Spring overview page