Winter 2012
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Milkvetch
March 25, 2012

      There are several species of milkvetch which grow in and around Death Valley. The one shown here was found growing at Panamint Valley Dunes and is known by the scientific name Astragalus lentiginosus, eleven varieties of which are found in California. The specimen shown here is almost certainly an example of the variety called variabilis. According to DeDecker it is found from the Panamint Dunes and southward, growing at elevations between 2200-3400 feet. Incidentally, an extract of the root of Astragalus membranaceus, called TA-65, is believed to have anti-viral and anti-aging effects. (Click here for more info!)

Rosy Apricot Mallow
March 11, 2012

      Apricot Mallow, or Desert Mallow, is highly variable in terms of size, leaf shape, and flower color. There are three varieties of this species (Sphaeralcea ambigua) which grow in the Death Valley area listed by DeDecker: ambigua, monticola, and rosacea. BTW, other plants that are members of the Mallow Family include hollyhock, hibiscus, cotton, and okra!
LINKS:
(Rosy Apricot Mallow Info!)
(Desert Mallow Info!)

Argus Blazing Star
February 26, 2012

      Seeing as this plant is found in the mountainous areas of Inyo County, it isn't surprising that it is also known as Inyo Blazing Star. In fact, many plant books list it as such. However, Argus Blazing Star (Mentzelia oreophila) is also an appropriate name, especially since there is another species (Mentzelia inyoensis) that has Inyo Blazing Star as it's common name. Of course, Argus Blazing Star doesn't just grow in the Argus Range, or in Inyo County for that matter. It can be found throughout much of the desert southwest, growing at altitudes between 1800 and 6000 feet. (Click here for more info!)

Flax
February 12, 2012

      Although common flax (Linum usitatissimum) is not native to North America, it does occasionally grow wild on this continent. It is also closely related to western blue flax (Linum lewisii), which may be found in the Death Valley area growing above 7500 feet in the Inyo, White, and Panamint ranges. Interestingly, L. lewisii is the only member of the Flax Family listed by DeDecker that is found in the northern Mojave region. The seeds of common flax are a great source of essential fatty acids and fiber! (Click here for more info!)

Rock Pea
January 29, 2012

      Although most desert wildflower books assert that Rock Pea blooms from March to May, I have often found some fresh flowers on these plants during January. This last week I encountered some Rock Pea flowers at an elevation of about 4000 feet while hiking in the Argus Range near Rattlenake Springs. Formerly classified as Lotus rigidus, this plant is now officially known as Acmispon rigidus. Another common name for this plant is deervetch, BTW. (Click here for more info!)

Notchleaf Phacelia
January 15, 2012

      Although poison oak does not grow in the Death Valley area, there is another plant that is fairly prevalent in the area that can cause dermatitis, at least in some people. For this reason it is best to avoid physical contact with Notchleaf Phacelia. One of the more descriptive alternate common names for this plant is scorpionweed, which is especially appropriate since the small flowers form in clusters that are coiled in a manner that is reminiscent of the tail of a scorpion. Formerly this plant was a member of the Waterleaf Family (Hydrophyllaceae), but it has been reclassified and is now a member of the Borage Family (Boraginaceae). (Click here for more info!)

Cryptantha
January 01, 2012

      Certain species of Cryptantha (commonly referred to as Forget-Me-Nots) are among the first flowers to bloom each year. Some begin blooming in February. The Jepson Desert Manual lists thirty-six species of Cryptantha which are found in the Desert Southwest. Likewise, Mary DeDecker lists thirty-one species of Cryptantha which grow in the Northern Mojave Desert. Many members of the genus Cryptantha are what are often called "belly flowers" due to their small size. Incidentally, certain species of Cryptantha produce flowers only one-sixteenth of an inch wide. (Click here for more info!)


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