Sunday, March 21, 2010

Desert Dandelion and Desert Chicory

I originally started out doing a post on the desert dandelion. Then, while in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and in El Pinacate Gran Desierto in Sonora, Mexico I found what I thought were desert dandelions that turned out to be desert chicory. So now my post gives both and tries to distinguish them. The desert dandelion is an annual flower with many yellow, square-tipped petals and a dark orange center. The one below was found near Eagle Mountain.
It blooms from March through June. Following wet winters it can form brilliant patches across the desert floor. The desert dandelions below were found near Warner Springs while hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail last spring.
The flowerhead is about one inch in diameter.
Today, while driving along the I-10 between Blythe and Chiriaco Summit, there were sections along the freeway with a literal carpet of beautiful yellow desert dandelions. I could not find a good spot to stop for a picture, other than these near Desert Center which were more isolated.
The stalk can get to about 15 inches tall. It is a member of the sunflower family and can be found in dry, well-drained sandy, gravelly and rocky soils. It is found in the Mojave, Sonoran and Great Basin deserts of Southern California, much of Arizona and northern Mexico. While driving through El Pinacate Gran Desierto I found what I thought was desert dandelion growing up through other bushes. It had white leaves and looked like a scraggly, wimpy version. Then while trying to connect desert dandelion and chicory, which I thought were different names of the same plant, I discovered they were different.
The desert chicory has a white flower head, is weaker stemmed and more sparsely leaved. That more straggly appearance is one way of differentiating the chicory from the dandelion. It is often growing up through other plants, like what I saw in El Pinacate, using those other plants for support. Another distinguishing characteristic is a pink violet stripe on the underneath of the flower petals. The desert chicory below was found in Alamo Canyon in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, growing next to an organ pipe cactus. Note the violet stripe on the backside of one of the petals.
A top view of the same Alamo Canyon chicory.
The next flowers look like a cross between a desert dandelion and desert chicory. They were also found in El Pinacate Gran Desierto, but in another section, closer to Puerto Penasco. Their stems seem stronger than the other chicory I saw, but do not seem as strong as the dandelions.
The flowers were much whiter than the dandelions, but the center was much more yellow than the chicory.
I am learning a lot about the different desert flowers by doing these posts and find that I still have a lot to learn. These may be a cross between the two plants or perhaps even a different species.

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