Elephant Trees Discovery Trail Professional Review and Guide
"This well-signed interpretive nature trail climbs gently up a rock-lined wash to a small “herd” of elephant trees. This most unusual elephant tree of the Sonoran Desert was not discovered and identified by botanists until 1937. This grove was long thought to be the northernmost group of elephant trees in California. However, in 1987 another grove of almost 200 elephant trees was discovered on the western slopes of the Santa Rosa Mountains, 21 miles farther north. Here, on the Elephant Trees Discovery Trail, there are only about 100 of these rare specimens. Although large elephant trees attain a height of only 10 feet, they tower above most other desert plants. They cling precariously to boulders and steep side slopes of the wash. Desert-dwelling Native Americans used the trees’ red sap as medicine and to bring good fortune. Mayans and Aztecs burned the sap as incense and made a resinous dye for their clothing. Elephant trees are common to Baja California and the Mexican state of Sonora, but are found in only a few scattered canyons and washes of Anza-Borrego, the northernmost extent of their range. This enjoyable 1.5-mile desert walk along a dry wash provides a fascinating glimpse of how vegetation copes with the harsh desert environment. For example, plants avoid dehydration by remaining short while shedding short, thick leaves."