Saturday, March 26, 2005

Joshua Tree NP 3/25/05

The 2005 desert flower season trek took us to Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP), where at this writing wildflowers are in bloom in the southern (lower elevation) section of the park. The flower display is most dramatic along the stretch of road between the Cottonwood Visitor Center and Interstate 10, the site where most of the following pictures were taken. I've tried to name some of the flowers I've photographed, but I'm not a botanist and my identifications come without guarantee or warranty.

The most ubiquitous flower along the road is probably the desert-dandelion, pictured below,

followed closely by brittlebrush, ostensibly the favorite flower of the butterflies:

Driving can be quite a challenge during the daylight hours, as butterfiles abound (and continually collide with your vehicle).

The picture below appears to be a dwarf relative of the California poppy, more yellowish in appearance and not nearly as fetching a flower

The next two photos are of the beavertail cactus, which is very common in the park but not yet in bloom... except for this one example seen near Cottonwood

I've heard of Jimson weed, but have never seen it -- until this trip. I didn't find it particularly attractive

This time, we found the ocotillo in bloom, indicated by the reddish flowers emanating from their spiny branches

Here is a closeup view of the ocotillo bloom

JTNP is famous for its rock formations. The next picture shows off one of the formations, rising above a small reservoir called Barker Dam

Finally, consider this tree which found itself growing alongside a huge boulder. The word this image evokes is pertinacity.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Mojave desert 3/13/05

We drove out to the western Mojave desert today (3/13) to see if the expected spectacular desert flower season had started yet in this portion of Southern California. The first two pictures were taken near the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve and showcase a very nice cluster of golden poppy blooms. It's still early in the season for the high desert, and the best may be yet to come.

The next two pictures show Joshua trees and were taken a few miles farther west. The Joshuas are (ostensibly) flowering; the last picture shows a closeup of its white bloom.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Prospects for this desert flower season

Most of the year -- and this is unfortunately true of most full years as well -- the deserts surrounding Los Angeles are well described by the title of Raymond Chandler's quintessential LA novel, The Big Sleep, at least as far as flowering plants are concerned. Occasionally, however, we get spectacular desert flower displays during March and April, as transpired in 1992, 1998 and 2003, for example. Precipitation alone is not sufficient, but this year's abundant rains have raised hopes for a spectacular desert flower season.

This picture was taken in March, 2003, in the western section of the Mojave Desert, just east of the Grapevine. The photo looks north, towards the Tehachapi Mountains that separate the Mojave from the Central Valley. A carpet of bright orange poppies can be seen, stretching as far as the eye can see. These poppies bloomed vigorously for a few weeks, and then vanished.

Here is a closer view of the California golden poppy, our state flower:

And finally a side view, showing some of the flower's inner structure behind the petal: