Camp Hi-Sierra Nature

Camp Hi-Sierra Nature

Welcome to Camp Hi-Sierra.

The camp is on the site of an old lumber mill. According to "The History of Camp Hi-Sierra", until 1912 the area was logged of Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Jeffrey Pine, Sugar Pine, and Black Oak. Today, Incense Cedar and White Fir cover much of the area with many Ponderosa Pine, Jeffrey Pine, and Sugar Pine being the taller trees. You may still find a Black Oak or Douglas Fir.

Camp Hi-Sierra is a wonderful place to see the native plants of the Sierra Nevadas. If you are lucky you will also see the native animals.

This page helps you find some of the plants that grow at Camp Hi-Sierra. Most of the plants on this list are native to the area. Just click on the plant name in the index or scroll down and click on the flowers on the camp map. Remember, to earn the First Class rank you need to be able to identify 10 plants native to the area; you can use this page to learn about some of the plants native to Camp Hi-Sierra.

You can follow this link to see all of the iNaturalist observations of plants and animals at camp. See how adults can help add to this list. More information is in the research notes section.

Index to CHS Plants


Trees of the Pine Family (Family Pinaceae)

White Fir (a common tree not on the locating map)
Sugar Pine (a common tree not on the locating map)
Jeffrey Pine (a common tree not on the locating map)

Trees of the Cypress Family (Family Cupressaceae)

California Incense Cedar (a common tree not on the locating map)
Giant Sequoia

Trees of the Willow Family (Family Salicaceae)

Quaking Aspen
Black Cottonwood
Yellow Willow
Narrowleaf Willow

Trees of the Beech Family (Family Fagaceae)

California Black Oak


Ceanothus (Mountain Whitethorn or Deerbrush)
Sierra Gooseberry
Greenleaf Manzanita
Coffee Berry

Flowers, Herbs, and Small Plants

Streambank Springbeauty
California Mugwort
Alpine Strawberry
Western Columbine
Streambank Bird's-foot Trefoil
Common Yarrow
Common Selfheal
Star-Flowered Lily-of-the-Valley
Arrowleaf Butterweed
Wild Rose
Sierra Iris

Non-native Plants

Oxeye Daisy
Great Mullein

Camp Hi-Sierra Map

Many of the plants can be located by clicking on the yellow flowers on the locating map below. Some trees are so common they are not marked on the map.

Coffeeberry Wild Rose Black Oak Common Yarrow Not Native Black Cottonwood Yellow Willow Mugwort Narrowleaf Willow Not Miners Lettuce Sequoia Mullein Black Cottonwood Lupine Columbine Strawberry Arrowleaf Senecio MeadowLotus Quaking Aspen Gooseberry Muskflower Common Selfheal Manzanita Ceanothus



There are several trees that can be found throughout camp. All these trees are native to California although some were imported to this area from other parts of the state.

White Fir

The White Fir (Abies concolor) is one of the most common trees at camp.

Just go anywhere away from the main path and there could easily be a White Fir nearby. They are easy to see because many of these trees are small.

Fir trees are part of the Pine family. They all have needle-like leaves. Notice how fir trees have needles are in a tight herringbone pattern.

The fir and pine trees are all members of the Pine Family (Family Pinaceae). "Family" is the level just above Genus.

Height: 80 to 200 feet typical (record 246 feet)
Leaf: Needle-like, 1 to 2.5 inches long

Sugar Pine

The Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana) is a common tree at camp.

These are the trees that have the huge pine cones. These are tall trees, normally growing 130 to 200 feet tall (with a record of 273 feet 9 inches). The needles grow in bundles of five and the needles are 2 to 4-1/2 inches long.

The fir and pine trees are all members of the Pine Family (Family Pinaceae).

Jeffrey Pine

In the western states the name "Yellow Pine" refers to two similar looking trees, the Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) and the Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi).

Both have long needles in bundles of 3.

The pinecones are similar, but with one significant difference. There is a common saying about the pinecones: gentle Jeffrey and prickly Ponderosa. See the spikes at the edge of the pinecone at the right; they curve inwards which makes them gentle. On a Ponderosa Pine the spikes are straight or curve outward which makes them prickly.

However, there is a better way to tell the difference between the two pinecones. The Jeffrey pinecone is large, about 6-8 inches and the scales are densely packed. The Ponderosa pinecode is small, about 3-4 inches, and the scales are loosely packed.

There are other differences: some Jeffrey pines can have blue-green needles while some Ponderosa pine can have brighter-green needles.

Either tree might have a vanilla scent; sometimes a Jeffrey might have a butterscotch scent.

The tall pine tree in front of archery may be a Jeffrey Pine. The CHS elevation is slightly under 5000 feet whereas the Jeffrey Pine would normally grow at a slightly higher elevation in California. To verify this is a Jeffrey pine we would need to see a pinecone dropped by that tree.

Pinus jeffreyi is more stress tolerant than Pinus ponderosa. At higher elevations, on poorer soils, in colder climates, and in dryer climates, Pinus jeffreyi replaces Pinus ponderosa as the dominant tree. Pinus jeffreyi is also tolerant of serpentine soils and is often dominant in these conditions, even on dry sites at fairly low altitudes. [Reference: Wikipedia.]

Camp Hi-Sierra is at an elevation where you will get both versions of the Yellow Pine.

In the area you might also find the Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta). This tree has shorter needles (1.5 to 3 inches long) and a small cone (1 to 3 inches long). The needles might grow in pairs. A large Lodgepole pinecode is about the same size as a small Ponderosa pinecone and both have prickles at the ends so it might be hard to tell the difference between the two.

The fir and pine trees are all members of the Pine Family (Family Pinaceae).

Height: up to 230 feet (Sugar Pine)
Height: up to 223 feet (Ponderosa Pine)
Height: up to 180 feet (Jeffrey Pine)
Height: up to 112 feet (Lodgepole Pine)

California Incense Cedar

The Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) is another common tree.

Look at the wide, flat, soft leaves. Compare these to the Giant Sequoia leaves which are sharper and not so flat. The Cedars, Sequoias, Junipers, and Cypresses are all in the Cypress Family (Family Cupressaceae). Their leaves are similar.

Height: up to 200 feet

Giant Sequoia

There is one specimen of the Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) at camp.

The Giant Sequoia is native to the Sierras, but this tree was planted here in front of the dining hall. The nearest natural stand of trees is northwest, less than 20 miles away at Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

Compare these leaves to the Incense Cedar leaves. The Cedars, Sequoias, Junipers, and Cypresses are all in the Cypress Family (Family Cupressaceae). Their leaves are similar.

The Giant Sequoia has rather short needles. The Coast Redwood has longer (1 inch) needles.

Height: up to 275 feet (record 311 feet)

Quaking Aspen

The Trembling Aspen or Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) can be found in the areas not far from the river. Walk a few dozen yards north of the Campfire Bowl.

Look at the roundish leaves with a little point at the end. The bark is pretty neat, too.

Quaking aspen propagates itself primarily through root sprouts, and extensive clonal colonies are common. Each colony is its own clone, and all trees in the clone have identical characteristics and share a single root structure. As all trees in a given clonal colony are considered part of the same organism, one clonal colony, named Pando, is considered the heaviest and oldest living organism at six million kilograms and perhaps 80,000 years old. [Reference: Wikipedia.]

The Aspen and Cottonwood are in the same genus (Populus). They are part of the Willow family (Family Salicaceae).

Height: up to 80 feet

Black Cottonwood

The Black Cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) is another example of a tree native to other parts of California. Several were planted here years ago.

There are a line of trees at the edge of the clear area north of the dining hall (towards the aquatics area) and a few trees are in the adult leader grove north of the trading post.

The Aspen and Cottonwood are in the same genus (Populus). They are part of the Willow family (Family Salicaceae).

Height: 100 to 160 feet

Yellow Willow

This plant is known as the "Yellow Willow". You will find several of these trees along the river.

Most likely this is a Salix lasiandra var. lasiandra which known both as a "Yellow Willow" and a "Pacific Willow".
Or this might be a Salix lutea which is also known as a "Yellow Willow".
This is an example where multiple plants use the same common name and shows why naturalists need to use specific species names to describe plants.

Height: 13 to 36 feet

Narrowleaf Willow

This plant might be a "Narrowleaf Willow" which also goes by the names "Coyote Willow" and "Sandbar Willow" (Salix exigua). However, this identification has not been confirmed so it is possible this is a different species.

To show how confusing plant naming can be, in addition to the three English names for this plant, there are nine different synonyms for the species name Salix exigua: S. argophylla, S. hindsiana, S. interior, S. linearifolia, S. luteosericea, S. malacophylla, S. nevadensis, and S. parishiana. [Reference: Wikipedia.]

Height: 13 to 23 feet

California Black Oak

The California Black Oak (Quercus kelloggii) is common in California and some can be found at camp.

This baby tree can be found near the excursions area just north of the trading post.

Mature height: 30 to 80 feet


Ceanothus: either Mountain Whitethorn or Deer Brush

These plants are growing just above the retaining wall as you walk into the Campfire Bowl.

There is some confusion regarding the actual species. Some people believe this is a Deerbrush Ceanothus (Ceanothus integerrimus). Other people believe this is a Mountain Whitethorn (Ceanothus cordulatus). It is also possible this is a natural hybrid between those two plants.

Look carefully at the picture on the right. You might need to click on it to see a zoomed-in version. You can see some short leaf branches end in spikes (thorns).

We might need to get good pictures of the plant when it is blooming to get a better identification. These plants normally bloom in May or June.

Height: 3 to 6 feet (Mountain Whitethorn)
Height: 3 to 12 feet (Deerbrush Ceanothus)

Sierra Gooseberry

There are a few Sierra Gooseberry plants (Ribes roezlii) at camp.

This one is a few dozen yards north of the Campfire Bowl next to the main path. During summer camp season they are easy to identify by the spiky berries.

Ribes roezlii is a spiny shrub growing erect to a maximum height around 1.2 metres (3.9 ft). The hairless to hairy or woolly leaves are up to 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) long and divided into 3 or 5 rounded, toothed lobes.

Seeds are dispersed by running water and by animals that eat the fruits, such as American black bears. The foliage is an important food source for mule deer and bighorn sheep, and the fruits are a common food for fox sparrows living in its range. The berries can be eaten by humans in an emergency, but are unpalatable. [Reference: Wikipedia.]

Greenleaf Manzanita

There are several Manzanita plants at camp. Most likely, this is the Greenleaf Manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula) but it is possible they might be a different Manzanita.

This one is not far from the Sierra Gooseberry plant.

Height: 1 to 2 meters
Leaf: Oval to round; up to 6 cm long and 4 cm wide.


There are a few Coffeeberry (Frangula californica) plants at camp. They are sometimes known as California coffeeberry and California buckthorn.

Height: 3 to 12 feet (often 3 to 6 feet)

This one and several others are in the trail to Miwok. Look for the oval leaves and smooth, round berries.

The berries and seeds are safe and edible. The seeds inside the berries make an excellent, caffeine-free coffee substitute, superior to chicory and with overtones of mocha.

Although the plant itself looks much like a coffee plant, its berries, which are succulent, do not, but they can be made into jams and jellies.

Native Americans of the west coast of North America had several uses for the plant as food, and used parts of it as a traditional medicinal plant. Several tribes of the indigenous peoples of California ate the fruit fresh or dried.

The Ohlone people used the leaves to treat poison oak dermatitis. The Kumeyaay people had similar uses for its bark. The Kawaiisu used the fruit to treat wounds such as burns. The bark was widely used as a laxative by the indigenous peoples.

[Reference: Wikipedia.]

Flowers, Herbs, and Small Plants

There are many small flowering plants found at camp.

Streambank Springbeauty (or Indian Lettuce)

This is not Miner's Lettuce! This plant is called a "Streambank Springbeauty" (Claytonia parviflora). It is also known as "Indian Lettuce" but be careful because there are at least five different plants called Indian Lettuce.

There are three easily confused plants all in the Claytonia genus:
Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) also known as Indian Lettuce or Spring Beauty
Streambank Springbeauty (Claytonia parviflora) also known as Indian Lettuce
Redstem Springbeauty (Claytonia rubra) also known as Erubescent Miner's Lettuce
One way to tell the difference between these three plants is to look at the leaves and stems. Miner's Lettuce has wide green leaves. Streambank Springbeauty has narrow green leaves. Redstem Springbeauty has wide green leaves with red stems.

I found this specimen in July, 2019 at the base of a tree just below the old (removed) handwashing station below the Dining Hall.

California Mugwort

The California Mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana) is a common plant in the region.

This picture was taken behind the trading post.

Artemisia douglasiana was used by Native American tribes as a medicinal plant to relieve joint pain and headaches, and to treat abrasions and rashes (including poison ivy). This plant also had ceremonial and spiritual purposes for many tribes. It was commonly carried to ward off spirits of the dead and was smoked or drunk as a tea to induce vivid dreams.

[Reference: Wikipedia.]

Alpine Strawberry

The Alpine Strawberry also known as a Woodland Strawberry or Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) can be found near the creek between the Nature area and the Handicraft area. The berries are delicious. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to find any ripe berries because the local critters will get to them first.

These plants are wild, but there are many varieties in cultivation.

Western Columbine

You will also find the Western Columbine (Aquilegia formosa) can be found next to the creek between the Nature area and the Handicraft area. The strawberry and columbine plants are growing in the same area.

The Aquilegia formosa plant grows to 20-80 cm in height, averaging around 60 cm. Flowers, which can be seen from April to August (with some variation between regions), are about 5 cm long and red and yellow in color. Technically, the red or orange spreading outer parts of the flower are sepals, and the yellow inner parts are the true petal. The petals bear spurs that attract the plant's pollinators, the sphinx moths. Hummingbirds are also attracted to it in gardens. The flowers are edible, with a sweet taste—though the seeds can be fatal if eaten, and most parts of the plant contain cyanogenic glycosides.

[Reference: Wikipedia.]

Streambank Bird's-foot Trefoil (or Meadow Lotus)

This plant has several names. Many people know this as a "Meadow Lotus" but Streambank Bird's-foot Trefoil may be the proper name for Hosackia oblongifolia. It is also called a Streambank Lotus or a Narrow Leaved Lotus.

There is a group of these plants at the entrance to the Nature area.


There are several lupine plants especially along the main path near Foxfire and the Clavey shed. In the past, these have been mistakenly identified as Brewer's Lupine (Lupinus breweri).

Common Yarrow

You can find the Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) near the old mill foundations behind the Excursion area.

This widespread plant is native to North America, Europe, and Asia.

Common Selfheal

You can find the Common Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) along the path between Nature and the Campfire Bowl.

Self-heal is edible: the young leaves and stems can be eaten raw in salads; the plant in whole can be boiled and eaten as a potherb; and the aerial parts of the plant can be powdered and brewed in a cold infusion to make a beverage. This is also used in traditional Chinese medicine.

This is another plant that is native to North America, Europe, and Asia.

[Reference: Wikipedia.]

Star-Flowered Lily-of-the-Valley

You can find the Star-Flowered Lily-of-the-Valley (Maianthemum stellatum) along the path between Nature and the Campfire Bowl. This also known as the False Solomon's Seal.

This is native to much of North America and blooms mainly in May through June.

[Reference: Wikipedia.]


This plant might be found between the Nature area and the Campfire Bowl.

The Sarcodes sanguinea is a parasitic plant that lacks chlorophyll. Instead of photosynthesis, this plant gets sustenance from fungi attached to tree roots. You will typically see just a stalk with red or dried berries but no leaves.

This plant will be found mainly in the Sierra Nevada range but also in the mountains north through Oregon and south to San Diego and Baja California.

[Reference: Wikipedia.]

Observation (c) socal_angling (Jacob) - some rights reserved


This plant might be found between the Nature area and the Campfire Bowl.

The Erythranthe moschata is a species of monkeyflower and is also known as a musk monkeyflower.

Observation (c) kd1066 - some rights reserved

Arrowleaf Butterweed

This plant might be found near the path to the Nez Perce or Apache campgrounds.

The Senecio triangularis also goes by the names arrowleaf ragwort, arrowleaf groundsel, and arrowleaf Senecio.

Observation (c) kd1066 - some rights reserved

Wild Rose

These roses were found on the path to Miwok. There might be 2 plants on this path. Not sure of the actual species; most likely this is a Woods' Rose (Rosa woodsii) but it could be a California Wild Rose (Rosa californica) or Sierran Dwarf Rose (Rosa bridgesii).

Hardwig's Iris (also called Rainbow Iris or Sierra Iris)

This Iris hartwegii was found on the logging trails south of camp near the area that burned in the late 2000's (maybe 2008?). This picture was taken in late July. A better time to see the flowers would be June.

Non-Native Plants

These plants are not native to California.

Oxeye Daisy

This plant is invasive! The Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) was introduced here years ago and it is slowly taking over more land. This plant is native to Europe and a few parts of western Asia.

You will find lots of these between scoutcraft and archery.

Great Mullein

There are several Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) plants at camp. This plant stands out with a tall, distinctive flower spike.

This plant is native to Europe, northern Africa, and Asia.

There are several large plants growing in the Chief's Rocks and along the main path.

Research Notes

This plant list was created using "iNaturalist" which is available on a website and as an app for your phone. iNaturalist is a citizen science project where people around the globe make "observations" of plants and animals and upload the pictures into iNaturalist. Other people look at this observations and help identify the organism. This creates open research data available to anyone. iNaturalist is a good app to use to learn about plants and animals because you can take a picture and wait for other people help identify the organism.

To learn more about any of these plants, click on the picture or name. This will open up a new browser tab with the iNaturalist observation of that plant. On that page, click on the name of the plant and it will show you more details about that plant including where it is currently found on the "Map" and it will show you the Wikipedia article on "About".

Observations of plants and animals have been taken at Camp Hi-Sierra by multiple people. You can see the entire collection here on iNaturalist.
[For better viewing, choose the "Map", click on the "layers" icon, and choose "Satellite".]

The plant identifications are often confirmed by other citizen naturalists. Not all plant identifications have been confirmed and in those cases this lists the best guess.

The early version of this lists only plants because there are very few animal observations. (Maybe because having hundreds of scouts nearby scares them away?) With help from other people we might be able to collect enough animal observations to list them, too.

For fun try this: use iNaturalist to look at the map in your local area to see observations of local plants and animals. There might not be many observations near your home, but if you look at local parks, trails, lakes, and creeks you will see many more observations. Open up "" in your browser, click on "Explore" at the top left, then enter your city or county name in the "Location" box (or navigate using the map).

How You Can Help

You too can use iNaturalist to make more observations of living things.

Suggestion for adults: when you visit Camp Hi-Sierra try using iNaturalist to take pictures of plants and animals. When you add your observations they will automatically be included here on iNaturalist. If you are following one of the trails that go out of camp take iNaturalist observations along the way; this will help mark the trails.

Suggestion for scouts: if you have a smartphone and you have permission from your parents, try using iNaturalist in your neighborhood or try it while on a hike. Or search for a "bioblitz" in your area and volunteer to make observations with that group.

Here is an example showing how iNaturalist works:
  1. Load the app "iNaturalist" onto your phone.
  2. Use iNaturalist to take a picture of a plant or animal.
  3. When you submit this observation it gets uploaded to iNaturalist
  4. Only if you know what this plant or animal is, you edit the observation to identify it. iNaturalist can give you hints.
  5. Later, other volunteers may look at your observation then add an identification.
  6. When two people make the same identification of a species, then the observation will be considered "Research Grade".
iNaturalist has been used to identify animals in Camp Hi-Sierra, too. However, there are only a few animal observations in CHS.

Research Sources Used to Identify Plants:

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Version 1.04 September 08, 2022