Saturday, April 4, 2009


Well, as promised, here is the other half of my series of flower photos from my recent visit to Anza Borrego. Now I am back in Chicago and we have had gale force winds, torrential rain and thunder storms so the heat of the desert seems very far away indeed.

This spiky little plant is the Bristly Calico or Bristly Gilia Langloisia setosissima a member of the phlox family it is a very low growing plant. I like the fact that although the delicate flowers are such a beautiful delicate lilac colour, there is something slightly sinister about those leaves - touch me at your peril!

I think this is the Smoke Tree Psorothamnus spinosus there were very few flowers on this plant as we were still a little early in the flowering season for this particular plant. It is called a Smoke Tree because it drops its leaves very early, as you can see! It has spiny stems which are covered in fine grey hairs and when not in flower, the plant has a slightly ethereal, hazy/smoky look, from a distance. When this plant sheds its seeds the coating on the seed must be scratched in order for water to enter the seed and initiate germination, this usually happens as the seed is tumbled along in the gravel of a sandy wash.

There are several flowers that look very similar to this one but as far as I can tell, this is the White Tackstem or White Cupfruit Calycoseris wrightii it was very profuse in rocky areas and an indicator that there had indeed been good rains because this species does not flourish in drier years. I was particularly taken with the little yellow 'eye' in the centre of each bloom of this species.

I am wimping out on this again because species of Globemallow Sphaeralcea are notoriously difficult to identify without closely studying the fruit segments. However this beautiful blossom was so outstanding in the harsh environment of the desert I was determined to include it anyway! If you happen to carry a hand magnifier with you, which I don't, apparently the stem and leaves are covered in star shaped hairs.

The Desert Rock Nettle or Desert Stingbush Eucnide urens is another deceptively delicate looking flower, although its name should be warning enough. So many of these plants grow in such inhospitable habitats that in order not to be eaten by a hungry herbivore they have adapted to make themselves as unpalatable as possible. This plant has fine stinging hairs all over the leaves and stems, so, you can look, but you really shouldn't touch!

The Desert Rock-Pea or Desert Deerweed Lotus rigidus spends a large part of the year leafless and looking as if it is dead but with the onset of winter rains it undergoes a transformation and bursts forth with masses of red and yellow pea like flowers.

This is yet another plant that has developed irritating hairs in order to deter potential browsers. The Checker Fiddleneck or Devil's Lettuce Amsinckia tessellata has coiling flower clusters and each blossom opens as the flower head uncoils. If at all possible you should avoid brushing against this plant as the long white hairs will stick with you!

The Desert Chicory Rafinesquia neomexicana has an unusual flower structure, what appears to be one flower is actually made up of numerous flowers. The flower is strap shaped with five teeth at the end which is the result of the union of five petals which you can see quite clearly on the photo above, even though I took it after the light had gone in the evening! As you can also see from this picture, the Desert Chicory is often found growing up through other shrubs.

Although this is not the most spectacular of blossoms I wanted to include it just because its structure was so different from most of the other flowers we saw. This is the Burro-Weed Ambrosia dumosa which is in the sunflower family. All the members of this particular group have very inconspicuous flowers, usually with the male and female flowers on separate heads.

The Blue Palo Verde Cercidium floridum was not really living up to its name when we saw it. Palo Verde translates as Green Tree but, as you can see, it was in fact a riot of yellow when we were there! It does have small leaves, briefly, early in the year which it soon drops. Researchers have discovered that unusually, up to fourty percent of the trees annual photosynthesis occurs in the bark.

The Desert Pincushion or Fremont Pincushion Chaenactis fremontii has beautifully intricate blossoms with enlarged outer florets. The leaves are quite fleshy although that is not easy to see in this picture. This is another member of the sunflower family.

This one is, as promised, for Doug. The Beavertail Cactus Opuntia basilaris is one of his favorites. During our trip we had seen a number of Beavertails with one or two flowers just beginning to come out. On our final day we were in an area called Coyote Canyon and we seemed to hit the mother lode on flowering Beavertails! This plants tiny little spines, known as 'glochids' are very painful if they get lodged in your skin and, because of their minute size, very difficult to remove. I am reliably told that tape is the best way to pull them out - OUCH!!

And while we are on the subject of prickly characters..............I just had to include this lovely picture of a Teddy-Bear Cholla Opuntia bigelovii that my husband took. And you can figure out for yourself whether I am referring to my husband as prickly or a Teddy-Bear!!!

And if you are still with me. well done, you have made it through all my desert flowers, or at least all the ones I am going to post. Thank you for sticking with me.

Photo Credits - CJT & Dominick V


Arija said...

Celeste, your desert floral series are just amazingly beautiful and oddly similar to spring alpine flora in colouring and brightness.

Walker said...

Beautiful captures.

Louise said...

I really think I need a trip like this. I love the flowers. Your photos are fabulous. And I'm so impressed with your identification skills! I always takes pictures so I can identify later, and I rarely have the time later to figure it out.