Spring 2011
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Steershead
June 26, 2011

      At first it is very hard to accept the idea that this unusually shaped flower could be a member of the Poppy Family. In fact, it wasn't long ago that it was a member of an entirely different family (the Fumariaceae). But thanks to modern genetic analysis, it was determined that this plant is closely related to the other plants included in the Poppy Family. Steershead is not a plant you will come across in the Death Valley area. The plant shown in this photograph was found in Mineral King National Park and is quite common throughout the Sierra Nevadas and a number of other areas throughout the region. (Click here for more info!)

Snow Plant
June 26, 2011

      This unusual plant is a member of the Heath Family (Ericaceae). That puts it in the same family with madrone, manzanita, summer holly, Spanish heather, St. John's wort, mountain laurel, and Labrador tea. This is another one of those plants that just doesn't look all that much like other members of its family, but which is nonetheless closely related. And while we're on the topic of snow, there was a ton of snow at Mineral King this last week and this forced me to alter my hike for the day. There was much less snow the following day when I hiked the Freeman Grove Trail, which is at a much lower elevation. (Click here for more info!)

Bitterroot
June 12, 2011

      Two years ago I set a personal goal of finding bitterroot ( Lewisa rediviva) in the Death Valley area and last week I finally accomplished that goal by locating some plants in the Inyo Range between Badger Flat and Papoose Pass. There was quite an abundance of bitterroot above an altitude of 8000 feet. Although I realize that bitterroot is a relatively common plant throughout the Great Basin region, it is a little hard to come by in and around Death Valley. In fact, Mary DeDecker ( see list of Useful Desert Plant and Wildflower Books) lists Inyo-White, Grapevine, and the Panamint mountains as the only locations where it grows in the region. (Click here for more info!)

Rock Nettle
May 29, 2011

      Although Rock Nettle produces great quantities of large and extremely beautiful flowers, it has nonetheless earned the nicknames Stingbush and Velcro Bush. While the flowers are pleasing to look at, contact with the leaves should be avoided if at all possible! This is because the leaves are covered with barbed, stinging hairs which attach themselves to any clothing that brushes against them. The leaves often remain attached to clothing even after laundering. The odd thing is that desert bighorn sheep enjoy munching on them just the same! (Click here for more info!)

Brittlebush
April 24, 2011

      Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) is also known as Incienso. It is found throughout much of the desert southwest below 3000 feet, usually growing in areas also populated with creosote. The plants are dome-shaped and may reach five feet in height, but most often grow to about three feet. Brittlebush produces numerous daisy-like, yellow flowers. The grayish green leaves also help make this plant easily identiable. (Click here for more info!)

Fremont Phacelia
April 10, 2011

      It's pretty easy to see why Fremont Phacelia is sometimes called Yellow Throats. The tubular flowers range in color from pale lavender to magenta depending on the acidty or alkalinity of the soil in which the plants are growing. The inside of the tube of these flowers, sometimes referred to as the throat, is yellow. Fremont Phacelia is common throughout the Death Valley area and in much of the southwest at altitudes below 7500 feet. (Click here for more info!)


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