Desert Rains and Mountain Snow…

…Make the Wildflowers Bloom and Grow

Valentines Day 2019 brought rains and flash floods to the Coachella Valley.

  desertsun.com

desertsun.com

Cold temperatures dropped snow on the mountain tops… from San Jacinto to San Gorgonio to Joshua Tree…


February 21st

Harlan asks me to join him on a walk along the Indian Palms Trail. He is searching for an unknown wildflower he saw a few days ago and one that even stumped Ginny, our Preserve Manager. You betcha! Any walk with Harlan is a special treat.

We don’t find the whereabouts of the unknown wildflower, but I enjoy identifying the flowers I see with Harlan and capturing the threatening sky surrounding the valley.

California Evening Primrose…

Cheese Bush and something else I don’t know…

Pincushion…

Some type of Box Thorn? Not sure…

Indian Tobacco…


Later in the afternoon

Jeff and I walk along the McCallum Trail in search of Spectacle Pod. We spy with all 4 of our eyes…

Wild Heliotrope aka Phacelia Distans…

Also called Blue Phacelia, the flowers are a light lavender color.

Arrowweed blooming…

California Croton…

And a small patch of Spectacle Pod along the return loop from Moon Country back to the Visitor Center… It’s my new favorite wildflower!

Look at the leaves on the stem…

Sooooooo awesome and unusual!

I turn around and capture the field of wildflowers blooming on the Moon Country Trail.

On the way back we discover…

Lax-Flower…

Desert Velvet or “Turtle Back”…

And purple clouds over Simone Pond…

Wild About Wildflowers

And Harlan…

JANUARY 17TH

Harlan is our resident desert guru who has taken a hiatus from leading nature walks due to a flair up in his back. As he undergoes physical therapy, he is slowly getting back to his game. On this Thursday morning he asks me if I want to walk with him to Pushawalla to check out the wildflowers. You bet I do! I never turn down a chance to spend time learning and exploring with Harlan. Judith is the docent today in the Palm House and she is also excited to tag along. So Jeff takes care of the Visitor Center and Harlan, Judith, and I take off to view wildflowers.

Brown-Eyed Primrose

Chicory

Wishbone

Shaggy Mane Mushroom

Indian Tobacco

Wishbone… again

Not sure… Harlan is stumped about this one… Maybe more Desert Tobacco?

Fagonia

Notch-Leaved Phacelia and Rock Daisies

Cryptobiotic Crust

Also known as “desert glue”, this hidden layer of biotic organisms plays a vital role in desert health. They hold the place in place! Cyanobacteria in the desert form filaments surrounded by sheaths. These filaments become moist and active during rains, moving through the soil and leaving behind a trail of sticky sheath material. The sheaths stick to soil particles and form an intricate web of fibers which stabilize erosion-prone surfaces from wind and water. They not only protect the soil from blowing away but they also absorb precious rainfall and reduce flash flood runoff. They contribute nitrogen and organic matter to the desert. The boot of a hiker or the weight of a tire, however, can destroy these cryptobiotic crusts which take 5 to 7 years to return. (nps.org)

Chicory… again

Whispering Bells

A cool rock Judith and I really like!

Sand Verbena

Bladderpod


Quiz Time

Okay, I’ve been taking pictures of desert wildflowers for awhile now and identifying them in my journal posts. How many can you identify?

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Answers at end of blog…


January 26th

We wake up to an unpleasant surprise…

Yikes! More palm fronds have fallen from the same palm tree in front of the Visitor Center. Jeff and I live right behind the Palm House and sleep with our windows open, yet we heard no noise from such an incredible explosion!

I take pictures and send them to the Preserve Manager, Ginny. She tells us to leave them there while awaiting estimates to trim the skirts off the exploding palm tree. Dan and David secure the dangerous area with caution tape and orange cones.

Meanwhile, Harlan invites me on another wildflower walk. Jeff, Gregg, and Mary join us.

Quail Bush

Cryptantha or Popcorn,aka Forget-Me-Nots

Indian Tobacco

Cheesebush

Pigweed

London Rocket

Phacelia (Notched-Leaved)

Desert Dandelion… one is pollinated… which one?

Answer: The one on the right is pollinated. (No red dot in the middle)


Bonus Question: What plant is below the dandelions?

Answer: Primrose


Answer to Quiz:
1: cheesebush
2: wishbone
3: pygmy cedar
4: lupine
5: phacelia
6: primrose
7: whispering bells

What’s Blooming on the Indian Palms Trail?

Sacred Datura or Jimson Weed…

Goosefoot, another invasive species… aka Pigweed and Amaranth…

California Evening Primrose…

Wishbone…

Notch-Leaved Phacelia and Rock Daisies…

Mt. San Jacinto blooms snow caps in the distance…

London Rocket and Rock Daisies…

Barrel Cactus…

A social trail…

More Barell Cactus…

Mt. San Jacinto again…

A hillside getting ready to bloom…

Jincus…

Another hillside ready to explode with color!

Sahara Mustard Weed

An Invasive Pest

This mustard is native to the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East and has now become an unwelcome weed of the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts and the desert valleys of Southern California. The plant grows quickly and crowds out the native flora by monopolizing moisture in the soil. When seeds start forming, as early as January, the plant self-fertilizes and deposits seeds in the sandy soil. Winter rains then moisten the seed coats and turn them into a sticky gel ready to adhere to people, animals, and objects who then help distribute and drop seeds into the ground. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

So, how did this sandy soil annual invasive species, Brassica tournefortii get here? The most logical answer is from imported date palm trees. According to tsusinvasives.org, Texas Invasive Species Institute, Sahara mustard was first discovered in the U.S. in 1927 near California’s Coachella Valley. It was likely introduced as a seed contaminant.


It’s Monday, not our day to “work”. Jeff and I have nothing better to do, so we hike out to Moon Country looking for Dan, the Land Steward extraordinaire, and his truck. Why?… to help pull Sahara Mustard weeds! Why not?

But what a windy day it is! By the time we find Dan pulling mustard along the ridge, my ears sting and my muscles are sore from plowing through the wind.

We find him parked off trail amid a blowing field of huge Brassica tournefortii. We do our best to help out, leaving a trail of destruction…

Sweaty, thirsty, and in need of a break… I stop to get a picture of blooming fields of desert sunflowers. White-capped Mt. San Gorgonio smiles down upon us.

And then… woo-hoo! Chicory buds and blossoms flap in the wind!

When we are done we gratefully accepted Dan’s offer for a ride back to the Palm House where our RV awaits us.