Monday, May 5, 2014

Wildflowers and Native Plants - Southern California Desert; A Tourist View

Native Plant: Joshua Tree - Spring 2014
I celebrated National Park day hiking around Joshua Tree which is about 2.5 hours west of LosAngeles, California. The trip and these photos were taken April  19-20, 2014.
Blooming Yucca - Joshua Tree, Spring 2014

I've wanted to visit Joshua Tree National Park after seeing photos - very Suessical landscape! I wanted to also see the desert in springtime bloom. The flowers, the Joshua Trees, large cactus, and the rock structures - without any one, it wouldn't have been nearly as enjoyable. Check out the Wildflower bloom report provided by the Park.  The Joshua Tree was named by Mormons after the prophet Joshua because it reminded them of Joshua waving his people toward the promised land. These trees are native only to Southwest USA in the higher and cooler Mojave Desert, at above 3000 ft. It's Yucca Brevifolia, very tall (40 ft) and it can live for 1000 years.   Visiting the desert in April meant the weather was warm enough to wear less layers - but it didn't mean don't bring water, wear hats or sunscreen!  We did several hikes including 49 Palms Oasis, Cholla Cactus Garden, Octilla Patch, Ryan Ranch, Wall Street.

49 Palms in Joshua Tree - April 2014
The most strenuous hike we took was 49 Palms Oasis. It's "only" a three-mile round-trip hike to a fan palm oasis. We were so eager to get out into Joshua Tree, we just saw the sign and said "let's do this!"  We hiked up and over several ridges of dry desert landscape dotted with blooming barrel cacti and other flora. Lots of lizards everywhere.  Little did we know... the whole trail is in the direct sun. This hike in Joshua Tree National Park really was hiking across a desert, sun beating down, desperate for water, wobbly legged, and happy those palm trees were not a mirage. I SO NEEDED that shade. It's a welcome spot of cool green.  There were a half-dozen folks resting under those shady palm trees in the desert.  I can't imagine this hike in the heat of summer - I heard there are often rescues at this location for various reasons. If not for the kindness of strangers sharing water and sunscreen, I might have needed rescuing.  

Cholla Cactus Garden - Joshua Tree, Spring 2014
Next we visited the Cholla Cactus Garden where the Colorado Desert meets the Mojave Desert. It's a leisurely walk through a large collection of, you guessed it, Cholla Cactus aka Teddy Bear Cholla - but don't treat them that way. Despite signs that warn about the pain and perils of touching them - I did, and regretted it immediately. My companion had to remove the spines with great difficulty.  You can see from the second Cholla Cacuts photo - that the flowers turn into fruit or a small sections of the cactus, then these actually detach and create small "rolly teddy bears" that either fall to the ground to start new cactus, or jump onto passer-bys! Well, that's my hypothesis on what's happening. It was an oddly alien looking environment with well defined borders. Something in this small spot makes these Cholla very happy.

Native Plant, Cholla Cactus - pushing off new babies! 

About 1.5 miles farther east from cholla cactus garden is the Ocotillo Patch - which really is just a cluster of a few of these cactus. Oddly before we reached the designated stop, I was already fascinated by the Ocotillo I saw from the window, so it was a great coincidence. The Ocotillo is a tall shrub. It blooms whenever conditions are right - largely to do with water. What I liked were the small leaves on the trunk and the waxy yellow bits that gave it a barley twist feeling. 

Native Ocotillo plant, Ocotillo Patch, Joshua Tree National Park - Spring 2014

What I liked best about Joshua Tree National Park was the diversity of cacti and other flora.  Many of the plants remain unknown to me - but that doesn't stop me for enjoying the beauty.  The wide range of color of blooms was surprising and a joy. They may take a while to load, but please enjoy the photos!

These native plant - succulents were so small they could have been easily overlooked.
Blooming in Joshua Tree National Park, Spring 2014

These large bushes added so much color to the landscape in Joshua Tree, Spring 2014

Bright Red Barrel Cactus - Joshua Tree, Spring 2014
"Salvia / Lavender" Look alike - Joshua Tree, Spring 2014

The photos below give you a close-up of the flowering native plant as well as a broader view of the terrain and landscape around it. You can see just how much that bright pop adds to the feel of this desert environment. 
Spring Blooming Cactus - Joshua Tree 2014

Blooming cacuts, Joshua Tree NP, Spring 2014

Wildflowers, Joshua Tree NP, Spring 2014

Wildflowers, Joshua Tree NP, Spring 2014

Thanks for stopping by to take this virtual tour of Joshua Tree National Park blooming in springtime! 
Just one last shot of the critters that were so common in many parts of the park.


Teresa Maria

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