One of the hazards of being a botanist is only being able to see some of the plants I love once a year. They show up, have a big party and then crumple into the dirt, expired. The annuals are like parting rock stars of the plant world. They get all pretty with fancy make up, party 24 hrs a day, then crash into oblivion, phoenix like.
Look at these little beautiful herbaceous annuals below.
These are owl's clover (Castilleja densiflora) and goldfields (Lasthenia californica) which were laid like a pink carpet just for me among the rabbit brush scrub community I was surveying.
So, I was doing work HERE and HERE again. The grand mountain views were eclipsed by the plant life that was blooming. This region is the intersection of several ecological regions including the Mojave, Sonora and Great Basin habitat types, thus it makes for interesting botanizing.
The iconic figure of loneliness, the spiky spot of shade in the distant horizon, those large lilies called the Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) were blooming. I heard U2 in the background while canvasing the ground surveying the project area for my target species.
One tree hill?
Then I spotted a fascinating shrub that appealed to my senses of wonder. At first glance there is nothing, just a blur of green touched with white. Then upon closer inspection I saw the hundreds of flowers born upon the armored stems. They were colored a lovely creamy-white with pointed, recurved petals. What family does this lovely shrub belong to?
The Solanaceae, otherwise known as the tomato family! Yep, it's cousin to the garden variety tomato. It's called peach thorn (Lycium cooperi). And no I don't know why somebody had to put a "peach" in it's name to make thing confusing.
Here's another closely related species called Anderson thornbush (Lycium andersonii) that was in the same vicinity as the first. It is diffentiated by the smaller, more narrow flower tubes and more delicate leaves.
Then I only found one location with this perennial flowering plant called wooly-fruited desert parsley (Lomatium dasycarpum spp. tomentosum). It's in the carrot family. Can you tell by the umbel (flower formation) at the top colored yellow? That trait is the main similarity between the members of the Apiaceae.
I love the many times divided leaves. So delicate and fine. They almost resemble baby hands getting ready to stretch and open wide, to reach at some ungraspable object.
Then my attention not being entirely devoted to those things on the ground, I heard a call and spotted a large winged creature on a near by powerline. There was a sticknest carefully constructed and guarded by two large raptors. Dad is sitting on the power pole to the right.
Dad called a warning yelling, "Beep, beep, beep, beep," like some strange back up alarm when I got within 400 feet of their nest. He did NOT like me near his woman and nest. He was down right pissed off and grumpy with me in HIS area.
Do you know what kind of raptor he is?
Yep, he's an osprey. They hunt at a very large lake and river nearby. Frankly, I was a little surprised to see them nest as far away from the water as they they were located. I left them in peace and quickly completed my plant surveys in their area without any harm done.
They sure were nervous, jumpy raptors though. I've monitored other hawk nests during construction with tractors working within 100 feet of the nest tree and they could have cared less about the action. These osprey were pitching a hissy fit just at the sight of a human nearby.
And finally, back to the ground where I saw some large native ladybugs doing their thing. They were hunting for bugs in a dried up wetland. Crawling over huge clods of dirt the size of mountains in proportion to their body size.
Just another day observing the mighty colorful, the mighty fliers and the mighty small in the world of Our Simple Life.