Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Spiny Hopsage

Spiny hopsage,
also known as hopsage (Grayia spinosa)
is a low growing, brushy shrub with pointed stems that become spines. It is dioecious, which means that there are male plants and there are female plants. Male plants have spike-like staminate inforescences. It has a flower with four lobes and four stamens. I did not get pictures of any male plants. Female plants produce seeds attached to leaf-like bracts (those below just starting to turn red)
that turn red with age.
These were the plants I focused on because of their beautiful color. I was driving through the Mojave Desert recently, on the way to Utah, and stopped along the road along the upper Baker grade. I saw quite a few of these bushes and was attracted to the red leaf-like bracts which I thought were flowers. On the way back from Utah, I took a detour off the I-15 along Cima Road, into the Mojave National Preserve. I saw a few hopsage there as well, but nothing like what I saw along the Baker grade. The leaves are variable on the same plant.
Some leaves are small and fleshy.
On the same plant, other leaves will be larger and flatter.

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