Thursday, April 27, 2017

Yellow Desert Evening Primrose

On a recent trip (early April) to El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve in Sonora, Mexico, between Sonoyta and Puerto Penasco, I encountered the yellow desert evening primrose (oenothera primiveras) right near the entrance. It is found in the southwestern U.S. (CA, AZ, NV, UT, NM and TX) and northern Mexico in desert flats below 4,500 feet. It has a rosette of green or grayish leaves that are cut into deep lobes or teeth and wavy or crinkled edges. 
Yellow desert evening primrose
The flower can bloom from February to May and has four heart-shaped yellow petals which will fade to orange or red as they age.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hedgehog Cactus - 2017

With a wet year (finally) I've been desert-bound and adding to my round of desert posts from seven and eight years ago. Hedgehog cacti are one of the stars of the desert bloom as they have brilliantly colored flowers, stay open day and night, and flower in bunches, making for spectacular photos. 

Even though comparably small, they stand out, as illustrated by the pictures that follow. 
Even though dwarfed by teddy bear cholla, the brilliant hedgehog flowers demand attention. 
Barrel cactus and yellow brittlebush, the hedgehog holds its own. 
Even in this panorama, with barrel cactus, teddy bear cholla, brittlebush and ocotillo, the hedgehog is no "where's waldo."

They tend to clump in bunches. And when those bunches flower, they are spectacular.

They are beautiful from the side, if you can get down low enough to see them from that vantage point. 

But my favorite view is inside the flower, the brilliant cone, the green pistil and the yellow stamens and the collected pollen. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ocotillo - 2017 Rains

It has been number of years since I've spent much time in the desert. This year's rains got me excited to get out again and to see the desert in its blooming splendor. I've been out to Joshua Tree National Park twice and Organ Pipe Cactus National Park twice.

I did a post on ocotillo in 2009 and it feels like the right time again to share some photos of these wonderful desert plants that benefited from this year's rains. 
This area of ocotillo in Joshua Tree NP is probably the most concentrated cluster of ocotillo I've seen. 
The secondary leaves are out in green splendor and they are proudly displaying lots of red flowers. 
This area on the fringe of Joshua Tree is off Hayfield Road and has a nice mountain backdrop. 
The sun is catching the leaves of this ocotillo which stands out against the dark mountain backdrop. 

This water-logged ocotillo was in Organ Pipe Cactus NM during a heavy rain. 
These new, light green, secondary leaves are catching the morning sun. 

These red flowers really stand out against the dark green secondary leaves. 

The unopened flowers look like lipstick. 

As I mentioned in my 2009 post, ocotillo is one of my favorite desert plants. It was wonderful to see them beautifully green, flowering and thriving. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Buckhorn Cholla - Flowering

Seven years ago I did a post on buckhorn cholla, but none of the cholla I posted pictures of were flowering. In early April I was in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the buckhorn cholla were flowering in profusion. I got lots of photos. I found three variations of colored flowers: orange, yellow and red. 
Buckhorn cholla with orange flowers.
Two buckhorn cholla: red flowers in the back and yellow flowers in front. 
Buckhorn cholla with red flowers between two saguaro cacti.
The orange flowers were particularly beautiful, especially when the setting sun light was shining through the petals. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mexican Gold Poppy - 2017

In 2010, Judy and I traveled to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument ("OPCNM") in southern Arizona to see a spectacular Mexican gold poppy bloom. We have been experiencing severe drought since then, but the magnificent rains we experienced in late 2016 and early 2017 got me thinking about those gold poppies again and wondering if another great bloom might be in store this year. A great bloom only happens about every decade or so. 

Sam and I headed out to OPCNM in late February, early March, leaving a huge storm in Southern California and hoping for better weather in southern Arizona. Just the opposite happened, the storm where we live fizzled and we got nearly constant rain in the two days we spent in OPCNM. It was almost hard to believe how much rain was coming down in this parched corner of the world. 

We stopped at the Tillotson Peak Wayside and walked around on the amazingly soggy ground, ground that is normally rock hard. I found areas where the poppy plants were starting to grow, covering the ground, and a few were just starting to show their yellow flowers. It looked like it might be perfect in a week or two when the rain stopped and the weather started to warm up. Low 60s was as high as we experienced. 
The green carpeting the ground is Mexican gold poppies.
This closer view reveals a few yellow poppy flowers starting to unfurl. 
A closer view of one particular poppy plant. 
I decided to come back as soon as I could, but work and other commitments kept me from getting back again until early April. Things had dried out and the temperatures were in the low 90s. It looks as though I missed the main bloom, but I did capture some stragglers, most at the Tillotson Peak Wayside where I'd seen the plants earlier. 
The poppy plants have grown substantially and the ground was completely dried out again. 
The poppies were not covering the ground as heavily as they were when we visited earlier. I assume the heat had taken its toll on many of them. 
The Mexican gold poppy can vary from all yellow to very significant orange. There was less orange in these poppies than we found seven years ago, but they were still beautiful. 
These Mexican gold poppies are all yellow. 
These had a little bit of orange in them. 

I missed the main poppy bloom, but I did get some great cactus flowers that I'll share in later posts.