Monday, May 31, 2010

Redstem Filaree or Storksbill

Redstem Filaree,
also known as storksbill, redstem stork's bill and coastal heron's bill (Erodium cicutarium)
is native to the Mediterranean Basin and was introduced to North America in the 18th century where it is now invasive, particularly in the deserts and grasslands of the southwestern United States. It is a hairy, sticky annual. The stem has bright pink flowers that often have dark spots on the bases.
The leaves are pinnate and fern-like.
It also has a long seed-pod, shaped like the bill of a stork,
which bursts open in a spiral when rip, sending the seeds with feathery parachutes into the air. The entire plant is edible with a flavor similar to sharp parsley if picked young. It is found throughout California and virtually throughout the United States, except for Mississippia and Florida. I've only seen it once one the bajada south of the Eagle Mountains. It is very small.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

California Fagonia

California Fagonia,
also known as California fagonbush and fagonia (Fagonia laevis)
is a spreading, ground-hugging plant,
a cousin to the creosote bush, with similar waxy leaves. It is a ground cover on rocks and hillsides and can form mounds up to 18 inches tall. The leaves are dark green, up to 1/2 inch long, narrow and composed of three leaflets.
It has purple-lavender star shaped flowers,
with five petals.
It is found in the southern Mojave, northwestern and western Sonoran and Baja Peninsular Deserts of southeastern California, extreme southeastern Nevada, extreme southwest Utah, large portions of Arizona and Sonora, Baja and Baja California Sur in Mexico.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hedgehog Cactus Fruit

Today I had a wonderful, unanticipated culinary discoverey. I was out at my spot in the Colorado Desert, off the Hayfield Road exit of the I-10, and found numerous hedgehog cacti with ripe fruit.
A closeup of the ripe fruit.
The hedgehog cactus flowers
bloomed several months ago.
I found one of the fruits that had been opened and the inside looked much like the inside of dragon fruit or red pitaya, which is also the fruit from a cactus.
I decided I needed to try some.
The tricky part is getting the fruit off the cactus and then the outer skin and spines off the fruit.
However, the payoff was amazing.
I'd not had any breakfast and the cool inside flesh was lightly sweet, very, very tasty.
The black seeds are edible and crunchy, much like sesame seeds.
I had five or six of the fruits
and would have had more if the process to obtain them was not so time consuming.
A newly discovered delicacy! What a treat!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Burrobrush or Cheesebush

also known as cheesebush or cheeseweed (Hymenoclea salsola) is a member of the aster family found in south and mid-eastern California, southeastern Nevada, southwestern Utah, Arizona and northwestern Mexico. It has inconspicuous flowers only 3/8 inch wide
which are followed by flower-like fruits
with five shiny, cream-colored wings.
The leaves are dark green, slender and thread-like. The plants are straggly and rounded
with numerous, slender branches.
It gets the name cheesebush from the fact that the pungent odor of crushed leaves smells like cheese.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Parachute Plant or Gravel Ghost

Parachute plant,
also known as tobacco weed and gravel ghost (Atrichoseris platyphylla) is a genus containing a single species.
It is a member of the daisy family. The scientific name means the flat-leave (platyphylla) chicory plant without hairs (Atrichoseris),
referring to the absence of hairs on the fruit. It has a white or pink-tinged flower with layered rays that are rectangular and toothed.
It has a thin branching stem
and rounded leaves in a basal rosette with gray-green and purple patches at ground level.
It is found in the deserts of southeastern California, southeastern Nevada, extreme southwestern Utah and portions of western Arizona.
It was not until my third visit to the bajada south of the Eagle Mountains this year, on May 1st, that I saw some. I initially saw them in an area I had not walked earlier in the spring, but then saw some in a dry ravine I had walked both times previous, so I am assuming they had just recently come up.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Emory's Rock Daisy

Emory's rock daisy,
also known as the rock daisy and rock lily (Perityle emoryi) is a member of the sunflower family and is found in desert plains, slopes and washes in Southern California (as well as occasionally in coastal regions), extreme southeastern Nevada and southwestern Utah, mid to western Arizona and northern Mexico. It can also be found on the western coast of South America, in Chile and Peru. The rock daisy generally has 8 to 12 white rays or petals and a yellow disk
and it is very tiny, the head generally no more than a centimeter wide. It can have simple to multi-branched stems and alternately arranged leaves with blades of various shapes which are toothed or divided into lobes. 
It is usually hairy and glandular in texture. One site says that it can be most commonly found in dry streambeds and among granite boulders.
I have been on the bajada south of the Eagle Mountains three times this year and have only seen one of these plants, in a small ravine, among granite rocks, coming off the slope of a hill.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Button Brittlebush or Rayless Encelia

Button brittlebush
or rayless encelia (Encelia frutescens,
synonymous with Simsia frutescens) is a shrub with stems that are usually whitish,
rough-textured leaves that are green, stiffly hairy and rounded to narrowly oval in shape. The flower heads are button-shaped,
have a yellow disk and are usually without petals. If petals are present, they are yellow. It grows from two to five feet tall. These bushes were photographed in a wash on the southern side of the Eagle Mountains off the Hayfield Road exit of the I-10.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Ship George Cannon

I was made aware of the ship George Cannon when an individual contacted Hunter Cannon of the George Q. Cannon family website asking for more information about it. His relatives, William Aird and his wife, Mary Hunter, had sailed from Scotland to Quebec, Canada on the ship George Cannon in 1829 and it appeared to him that the “ship was named after Captain George Cannon of your family.” 

Hunter forwarded the email to me and I did some research. I found the website of the New Jersey Lighthouse Society which reported that “scores of vessels…met their fates on the shores between the Great and Little Egg Harbors”, including the George Cannon, which ultimately led to the installation of a lighthouse there. 

Then on Google Books, I found a book by Alfred M. Heston titled Absegami: Annals Eyren Haven and Atlantic City 1609 to 1904; Being an account of the settlement of Eyren Haven or Egg Harbor, and Reminiscences of Atlantic City and County during the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: also Indian Traditions and Sketches of the region between Absegami and Chicohacki, in the country called Scheyechbi (Sinnickson Chew & Sons Compay, Camden, New Jersey: 1904).
On pages 187-188 it related the following about the wreck of the ship George Cannon:

"1830- In the winter of the same year (1830) the ship "George Cannon," from Liverpool, with a cargo of dry-goods and hardware, came ashore. The boxes of dry-goods were thrown overboard and soon lined the strand. The off-shore people scented the prey and came in crowds, eager for the spoils. Then began the most exciting game of hide-and-seek ever known on the seaboard. Cupidity and rapacity crushed out all sense of honor. Neighbor robbed neighbor. Holes were made in the hills and the boxes buried, but while the party who had hidden was gone to seek another, somebody would dig it out and convey it to another place of concealment. The night was bitter cold, and two men, who started for a house at Cedar Grove, perished on the hills near by.*"

[As a footnote]"*Mrs. Robert B. Leeds, of this city, has in her possession, a calico lining for a bedquilt which possesses special interest. It is a part of the wreckage from the George Cannon, which struck on the beach near where one of the piers now stands. The Cannon had an assorted cargo, part of which was thrown overboard. The vessel got off and was being taken into the Inlet when it struck again on the north side of the channel and went to pieces, a total wreck. It was a packet ship from England. The wreckage was a bonanza to people along the shore, who secured parts of it. The relic which Mrs. Leeds has is well preserved, and is a fine sample of old fashioned print and design. The first double-barrel guns ever seen in this locality are said to have appeared along the shore soon after the wreck of this vessel."
In Lloyd’s Register, Shipowners and Underwriters for both 1829 and 1830, the ship “Cannon” is listed, a brig of 235 tons with Captain A. Bates. Both years show the primary route as Liverpool to New York. It is owned by Smith & Co. Lloyd’s Register - Underwriters for 1830 is shown below, but it is virtually identical to the other entries.
Given the name of “George Cannon” and the Liverpool connection, it would seem there must be some connection to Captain George Cannon. A family member, a friend, a former sailor with him, perhaps John Cannon? It is ironic that the ship met its fate in a shipwreck, not all that far from where Captain William Cannon’s ship Leander also met its fate.