Especially since this drought is likely to make our California spring pass in an eye-blink.
"Six months of summer," as we nature geeks call it. While depressingly scanning the fields for a color other than brown.
Of course, there are places in CA that routinely have about 6 months of summer.
And to survive there, some native plants keep it short. In both size and life.
Those miniature, ephemeral annuals that seem to pop up out of nothing, often on slopes, or in low, sandy washes, and then disappear just as quickly as they showed.
Aka, the belly flowers.
Someone splattered color on the sand!
I was lucky enough to catch some seasonal belly flora on my recent botanizing around the west Mojave. Here are a down-and-dirty dozen of the species I saw.
Wallace's Woolly Daisy, Eriophyllum wallacei, is a common Mojave belly flower
The rayless and less showy Pringle's Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum pringlei, is also common in the Mojave
Purplemat, Nama demissum, can be common too, and can form large mats on rainy years
Monkeyflowers, such as Fremont's Monkeyflower, Mimulus fremontii, are also standard members of the arid mini-flora, with many highly localized species in California
Such as the Kelso Creek Monkeyflower, Mimulus shevockii, a rare endemic to the Kelso Valley area that I've been wanting to see for years
Another plant I've been hoping to see is White Pygmy Poppy, Canbya candida, a micro member of the Poppy Family, Papaveraceae
Which shouldn't be confused with the true Pygmy Poppy, Eschscholzia minutiflora, that's closely related to our State flower, but is a desert-adapted annual with dime-sized flowers
The electric blue Charlotte's Phacelia, Phacelia nashiana, is a bold beauty I've seen before, but am always, always happy to find
Desert Calico, Loeseliastrum matthewsii, that I saw in the Panamints, is also in the west Mojave, and most of the SoCal deserts
Sandblossoms, Linanthus parryae, pop up in white, light yellow and purple
But the related Golden Desert Trumpet, or Yellow Linanthus, Leptosiphon aureus, is always sunshine yellow
And the also related Evening Snow, Linanthus dichotomus, opens in the evening and night to be pollinated by moths, such as the White-lined Sphinx Moth
As I sprawled around taking photos, I learned I wasn't the only admirer of the belly flora.
The striking Black-throated Sparrows that hopped around my camp snatching up the early season insects and seeds also seemed to be fans.
So, the next time you're out in the desert, pretend it's the beach and do some belly flops. You might just see some wonderful. But do check for rattlers and scorpions first.
- Wikipedia - Steve Martin - Let's Get Small
- Wikipedia - Mojave Desert
- The Jepson Manual of Vascular Plants of CA, and Jepson Online Interchange
- Pam MacKay - Mojave Desert Wildflowers
- California Native Plant Society (CNPS)
- CNPS Santa Clara Valley Chapter
- CNPS - Rare Plant Program and Ranking System