Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Shrubby Deervetch or Desert Rockpea

The shrubby deervetch,
more than any other plant I've blogged, is known by many other different names: the shrubby deer vetch, desert rockpea, desert rock pea and wiry lotus. I found that the only way I could consistently find it on different websites was to use the scientific name: lotus rigidus.  
The plant has a shrubby form, wiry stems and widely spaced leaves.
The leaves are green and at widely spaced intervals along the stems, and they are covered with flat-lying hair.
 The flowers,
which bloom from February to May, 
are in clusters of one to three.
Each flower is pea-like, about an inch long and yellow fading to red-tinged yellow or orange.
The flower has a large upper, backward flaring petal that is red on the back. 
The flower is followed by a slender green to reddish bean pod with a pointed, up-slanted tip.
It is important forage for bighorn sheep and mule deer.  It is found in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. All of the above were photographed in Estes Canyon in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. More recently, I found a number of different plants in the southern portion of Joshua Tree National Park, off of Hayfield Road and the I-10,
although the bushes did not seem as thick and there was less red in the flowers.

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