Thursday, February 5, 2009

Some Mojave Plants

The Mojave Desert has some really neat plants, and when I recently visited to help with a deer capture, I couldn't help but stop and admire some of the plant inhabitants. One of our deer capture sites was on Cima Dome, which reportedly has the largest and densest Joshua tree forest in the world. The Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) are amazing.

This Joshua tree still has its large seed pods from last year. The Joshua tree "leaves" are very sharp. It's not a tree you would want to run into! (Of course, there probably aren't many trees you want to run into.)

Here's a large cactus nearby. It's in the genus Opuntia, but I'm not certain of the species, so if anyone knows please leave a comment. Surrounding it are a lot of bushes, most without leaves because it's winter. I was continually surprised in Mojave National Preserve by the amount of ground cover--there were more bushes and grasses than in many spots in the Great Basin Desert.

This cholla cactus (Opuntia sp.) is easily identifiable to genus due to its upright, branching form. But there are more than 20 species found in North America, so getting it down to species can take a little more time. After a cholla cactus dies, it leaves behind an interesting skeleton with a pattern of lots of little holes.

Here's an overview of the plant communities up on Cima Dome. Cima Dome, by the way, is a huge granitic pluton that has pushed up out of the earth and then eroded away in a very symmetrical manner, leaving a gentle rise in the land. It's marked on a lot of maps, but unless you know what you're looking for, it's easy to overlook. 

In the middle of the preserve are some burned Joshua trees. A 70,000-acre wildfire changed the landscape several years ago.

At our second deer capture site a well was raising water for this trough. To see what animals use it, a wildlife camera was installed on the pole. Whenever something passes in front of the infrared beam, the camera snaps a picture. 

At lower elevations, creosote bushes (Larrea tridentata) were everywhere. They have a wonderful smell, especially after a desert rain.

Many of the roads in Mojave National Preserve are gravel, but wide. The distances are long, but the views along the way are spectacular.

This crazy-looking Joshua tree was right next to the road. I always like the Joshua trees that twist a lot!

At our third site we found a lot of Fremont's barberry (Mahonia fremontii), a plant with holly-like leaves but with sharp points. The bushes grew big and round and it hurt to walk next to them. 
An easy distinguishable plant is the desert trumpet (Eriogonum inflatum). The stems have the bulbous growths just below the joints. 

This yucca is another spiky plant out in the Mojave. The spikes help protect it from being grazed and thus are a way for it to ensure its survival and reproduction.

This Joshua tree fell over but was able to keep growing--just from a different angle.

Seeing all these different plants makes me excited for my next trip into the Mojave!


The Incredible Woody said...

I SO need to visit there!!

Anonymous said...

love those crazy Joshua trees

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