Unfortunately I’m not that well versed in the non-cactus flora of the Mojave and Colorado deserts so I’m afraid I don’t know the names of most of the plants featured in this post. If you have more details I would appreciate a comment.
Unknown blue flower in habitat
I was especially fascinated by this small plant growing in the lower Colorado portion of the Joshua Tree National Park. I visited too early in the spring to experience a full blooming desert but this guy was flashing its bright blue flower, standing out among all the earth tones amidst a wash crossing the trail from Cottonwood Spring to Lost Palm Oasis. I studied the plant and its surroundings for a while, intrigued by the habitat it had chosen to grow in - it would for certain be washed away by torrents of water during the next flash flood.
Unknown yellow flower
Another interesting plant displayed this beautiful yellow flower that looks like it might belong to the Fabaceae (Leguminosae) family but I’m not certain.
Unknown yellow flower in habitat
The yellow flowered plant had found a much more secure habitat, growing safely among the boulders in the rock-enclosed Hidden Valley (rumored to have been used by cattle rustlers in the past).
Nolina parryii in habitat
One species I’m pretty sure of is Nolina parrayii (Parry's Nolina or Giant Nolina) that has long thin leaves (and is sometimes called beargrass). It seems to be especially abundant in the lower Colorado portion of the park but also grows in some of the higher Mojave parts like e.g. the aforementioned Hidden Valley.
Nolina parryii seeds
Its tall flower stalk is said to be edible after being baked, with a somewhat bitter taste. Alas, no fresh flower stalks were to be found at the end of February and I didn’t want to try the old dry ones out for taste ;-)
Near the closing of February I spent a weekend in Joshua Tree National Park. It was my third visit to the park and this time I targeted in on teddy-bear cholla (and of course cacti in general), Yucca brevifolia (one could argue they are hard to miss in the park;-), and another of my favorites that is covered in this post: the ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) with its sprawling canes soaring for the sky.
Ocotillo flower, close-up
Fortunately my visit followed a period of heavy rains so the ocotillos were both draped in leaves and flowering. On the downside a strong gale was blowing making it extremely difficult to get a clear shot of the flowers (but as the pictures show I finally managed to snap a few;-)
Ocotillo in the Colorado Desert
The ocotillo, characteristic of the Colorado Desert, prefers to root in gravelly slopes of alluvial fans. Flash floods flush sand, gravel, and rock out of the canyons and onto the valley floor creating these fans.
Ocotillo displaying new growth
Fouquieria splendens is sometimes confused for a cacti, but is not. The thorny multi-stem shrub is in fact a woody deciduous plant. Unlike other deciduous shrubs, which normally grow leaves in the spring and drop them in the fall, the ocotillo may grow and drop leaves as often as five times during the year. Its leaves aren’t season dependent but rain dependent.
Fouquieria splendens leaves
Following a sufficient rain, the ocotillo puts forth a cluster of leaves above each torn, adorning the otherwise dead-looking canes with a flourish of green. At the same time red blossoms may appear at the tip of the canes. The leaves go about the business of photosynthesis until the next drought; then they turn red or brown and drop.
Sprawling ocotillo canes reaching for the sky
The above picture was taken standing on the ground looking up into the sprawling canes of an ocotillo. It gives an impression of the height of the plant as I stand 190 cm (6 feet 3 inches) tall and these plants tower above me.
Information on the peyote cactus et cetera. The primary focus of the Lophophora Blog is small Mexican cactus species like Lophophora (peyote), Obregonia (artichoke cactus), Acharagma, Ariocarpus (living rock), and Strombocactus but occasionally other subjects will be dealt with as well. Welcome to the Lophoforum and happy growing :-)