Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jewels in the Desert

On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
And the sky, with no clouds
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But the air was full of sound...

- A Horse With No Name, America

Even in a year of inconsistent rains that left the Cali annuals behind, there was flora to be found in the Mojave for our 2012 Herp Holiday.

Perfectly-timed perennials.

And, while the sandy and spiny landscapes are always stunning (and the lizards, snakes and camp-outs the true raison d'), on a bad year for botanizing, spotting these hidden pockets of color is like stumbling upon rare gems.

lava camp
Our lava camp at the edge of the Mojave National Preserve

granite mountains
Granite Mountains

Kelso Dunes as seen from our camp in the Providence Mountains

kelso dunes
Kelso Dunes

providence cyn
Providence Mountains

mojave textures
Typical Mojave textures

Many of the desert perennials we saw were the usual suspects...

desert senna desert mallow
Desert Senna and Apricot Mallow

creosote desert mistletoe
Creosote and Desert Mistletoe

bladder sage desert willow
Bladder Sage and Desert Willow

brittlebush mojave aster
Brittlebush and Mojave Aster

But, much like old friends, they're always welcome sights.

Of course, the brightly-blooming cacti are the true gems of the arid expanses. Here's the six species we've found in flower in the eastern Mojave...

calico cactus
Calico Cactus, Echinocereus engelmannii

silver cholla
Silver Cholla, Opuntia echinocarpa

mojave mound
Mojave Mound, Echinocereus triglochidiatus

old man cactus
Grizzly-Bear Prickly-Pear, Opuntia erinacea

Beavertail Cactus, Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris

pancake-pear flower
Pancake-Pear, Opuntia chlorotica

Along with the colorful cacti, a few other perennials also showed fair faces...

yerba amarilla pima rhatany
Yerba Amarilla and Pima Rhatany - two flowers vying for hardest name to remember

palmer's penstemon snapdragon penstemon
Two big Penstemons - Palmer's and Snap Dragon

desert liveforever ground cherry
Panamint Liveforever and Ground Cherry, which is related to tomatillo

desert marigold hoary aster
Desert Marigold and Hoary Aster in the Dunes

Ah, the power of perennials. Whether woody, succulent or herbaceous, and with roots, tubers or bulbs, they're the tough customers you can always count on.

Year after year.

Even bad years, when they're like jewels in the desert.

prickly road
Prickly Poppy on Kelbaker Road



  1. That is one heck of a view of the Kelso Dunes ain't it. Great flower pictures as always. I am impressed that you get so many good images and do such a good job of cataloging all of the species. I need to get better at that. Maybe using an SLR is the way to go for the ease factor.

    One more year and I think it may be time to put together a little self-published hard-copy photo guide to the flowers of the Mojave that the rest of us can carry along with us.

  2. I began my adventures in naturalizing through UCSC's Natural History Field Quarter and a couple of weeks in the Mojave's Granite Mountain area back in 1995. I appreciate this post. Thanks for the memory spark and pictures of old friends.

  3. Yes, a great memory spark for me too. What a place.

  4. Beautiful! That Beavertail is so bright just about pops out of the screen!

  5. Man I need to get out of northern Europe and back to the Deserts southwest before they too are gone. Beautiful warm pics.

    Thanks, Kevin



Please leave a comment, thought or question at any time.