OAUSA Net - December 5, 2019 - Plants of the Mojave

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OAUSA Net - December 5, 2019 - Plants of the Mojave


Post by DaveK » Tue Dec 03, 2019 10:08 pm

Plants of the Mojave

From the mountains of the Mojave high desert to the "below sea level" Mojave, there are a huge variety of plants. If you think that this desert is just tumble weeds and cactus, you don't want to miss this net. Most plants do well in a specific environment, which includes elevation, and the Mojave offers a huge range. Like plants, many animals thrive in certain environments, and it is surprising just how many species exist there. But, that is a net for another day.

We don't know every plant, but we sure have seen a lot. The result, of course, is that we have our favorite places to visit, and that has a lot to do with the plants. For clarity, we use a very broad definition of plants to include trees, flowering plants, Yucca, wild oats, and of course, cactus and tumbleweeds. There are a lot more, and we will get to many of them during the net.

In the image below, you can see the boundaries of the Mojave. Keep in mind that these boundaries are not like the exact dimensions of the lot on which your home may sit, and there are no markers that serve as visual indicators of the limits of this desert. The map however, does give a pretty good idea of how vast it really is, but due to the lack of exact boundary lines, estimates of the actual size vary somewhat, ranging from 48,00 to 54,000 square miles, (and some even more.) Regardless, it covers a large portion of the South West, including parts of Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California.

Mojave Desert Boundaries.jpg
Mojave Desert Boundaries.jpg (453.22 KiB) Viewed 343 times

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Re: OAUSA Net - December 5, 2019 - Plants of the Mojave


Post by DaveK » Wed Dec 04, 2019 2:06 pm

Plants of the Mojave, Part 1

1. Joshua Trees (Yucca.)

Interesting facts
  • Technically, Joshua Trees[/b] are not trees at all, but we tend to refer to them as such since they appear to resemble a tree. Actually, Joshua's are succulents (plants that store water) and are members of the Yucca family, being the largest Yucca in the world.
  • Joshua Trees exist only in the USA Mojave Desert at elevations from about 2,000 feet to 6,000 feet. Concentrations occur in Nevada, Utah, Arizona and California.
  • The origin of the Joshua name, by which these plants are usually referred, is a bit cloudy, but one of the best explanations is that Mormon settlers in the 1800s thought that the shape of the tree reminded them of the Bible episode where Joshua reaches up his hands to the sky in prayer. While the etiology of the name is not well documented, it none the less is the name by which we refer to this plant today.
  • Joshua Trees have a very long life span, reaching hundreds of years. I have seen "estimates" that claim the oldest tree to be 1000 years old. Since Joshuas are not trees, they don't have growth rings by which to gauge their age, so "estimates" are used to make this determination. And, as you might expect, the "estimates" of average life span are all over the map, from 150 years to 500 years. The bottom line however, is that they live for a long time.
  • Joshua Trees are so amazing that one of our most popular National parks is named after this famous member of the Yucca family - the Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP.). Within the boundaries of this park are one of the highest concentrations of Joshua Trees in the world. But, Joshua Tree concentrations are not unique to JTNP, for in the California Eastern Mojave Desert, lies another area with possibly the largest and densest concentrations of Joshua Trees in the world. Located in and near the Cima Dome, this is what it looks like.

    Joshua Trees=1 (Large).JPG
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  • Under the right conditions, Joshua Trees will bloom once a year, but in order to do so they require a sufficiently cold spell along with the right amount of rain. So, the blooms are not always every year. When in bloom however, the flowers give off an interestingly pleasant scent. While the scent is not appreciated by all, when they do bloom, it is well worth the trip to the desert to catch it. Since the blooms occasionally coincide with other desert flower blooms, you can get a "two-fer" for your trip.

    Joshua Tree flower.jpg
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  • Joshua Trees offer both food and habitat to certain animals of the desert. Birds initially come to mind, but there is another critter that is more important to the future of these trees - the Yucca moth (I guess it's an animal, but whatever!) The Yucca moth collects the pollen of the Joshua and also lay their eggs in the flowers. The Yucca moth caterpillars eat the seeds of the Joshua, but fortunately leave enough for the tree to reproduce. It is this pollination which helps to create the seeds and propagate the the plant population. Go moths!

2, Cactus of the Mojave

This one was difficult to pin down, both as to number of cacti and all the different varieties. Since it was not really necessary to zero in on the exact number of species of cactus in the Mojave, I am comfortable saying that there are a lot, a whole lot. While I know that my experience is not necessarily indicative of the most prevalent type of cactus, I will say that the one type that I run into (literally) most often is the cholla cactus, in all its varied forms. Incidentally, it is the cholla cactus that has made high top boots a mandatory foot wear item whenever I visit the desert - no exceptions!!!!!

One of the interesting traits of cholla cactus is the means by which it flowers. It seems that the flowers are accompanied by quite a number of the needles (or spines), all of which disperse onto the ground as the flower dies, and always in just the spot I pick to have a seat. One bit of advice I can offer for those who travel to areas which are home to the cholla, and that is to carry a very fine pair of tweezers and some high magnification eyeglasses. If you are unfortunate enough to meet up with a cholla, there will usually be a lot of needles which will be very difficult to remove.

All cactus are succulent plants, but not all succulents are cactus. Like many other plants of the Mojave, cactus have spectacular blooms, generally occurring at the same time as other desert plants are in bloom. Some of the most spectacular blooms come unexpectedly from the cholla (courtesy of https://www.livescience.com/62058-choll ... hotos.html:)

Cholla blooms.jpg
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And, when the cholla dies, it leaves behind its skeleton, which your may have seen.

Cholla Skeleton.jpg
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Here are a few shots of other cactus, in bloom:

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IMG_1009 (Large).JPG (266.74 KiB) Viewed 300 times

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Re: OAUSA Net - December 5, 2019 - Plants of the Mojave


Post by DaveK » Wed Dec 04, 2019 2:07 pm

Plants of the Mojave, Part 2

3. Pinon Pines
commonly exist in desert regions, such as the Mojave, and usually in elevations that range from about 4.500 feet to about 6,000 feet, just above the Joshua Tree elevations. Pinons are very slow growing and require many decades before producing cones (30 or so years.) Often the Pinon Pine and the Juniper trees share the same elevation zone.

The pinon has a very long life span which can be a hundred years or more. I've read estimates of age ranging up to 1,000 years. The Pinon Pine trees have another distinctive feature which makes them a popular treat for the animals of the Mojave as well as 2 legged critters, all of whom enjoy pinon pine nuts (sometimes spelled pinyon.) On many occasions we have feasted on the pinon pine nuts while hiking, hunting or just relaxing around producing trees. in the picture below, note the many pine cones:

Pinon Pine cones.jpg
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The "forest" effect that these pine trees create make for some of the best remote campsites in the entire desert. Remote, secluded, wind protected, and scenic, are the best descriptions of this desert feature. Some examples:

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4. Tumbleweeds have a unique feature that most plants do not possess. The weeds themselves are not a single species of plant, as there are several that have the unique trait I'll mention shortly. The tumbleweed is the structural part of a plant that exists when it is mature and dry and detaches from its roots. Once detached from it's roots, the plant blows in the wind, eventually degrading and dispersing its seeds or spores for reproduction. Often times the tumbleweeds will come to a rest in moist environments, also creating the opportunity to reproduce.

In significant quantities, tumbleweeds can be a nuisance and, agriculturally speaking, very damaging. Victorville, which is located in the Mojave desert, recently suffered from a super abundance of tumbleweeds. Nothing to sing about;

tumbleweed disaster.jpg
tumbleweed disaster.jpg (53.98 KiB) Viewed 295 times

5. Poisonous Plants
in the Mojave vary in their toxicity and will have different effects on different people. Best advice - don't consume or contact that which you don't know. Here is a small list

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Re: OAUSA Net - December 5, 2019 - Plants of the Mojave


Post by toms » Wed Dec 04, 2019 4:09 pm

Let me know if I have miss-identified any of these!

Classic .jpg
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This is a classic view of the Mojave Desert with many of the major plants in it. The cinder cone in the background is Jedediah Smith Butte (sometimes called Lookout Mountain). The picture is looking mostly north east at the Butte.

Creosote Bush in Bloom.JPG
Creosote Bush in Bloom.JPG (389.7 KiB) Viewed 329 times
This Creosote bush is in full bloom.
The Creosote bush defines the Mojave desert. As you travel north the last Creosote bush marks the end of the Mojave desert for biologists. Much like a tree line, it look a definitive line from a distance but up close there are a few bushes that cross the line.
It is not the desert, until I can smell the creosote bush.

King Clone
1. Along Bessemer Mine road – circles of Creosote Bush
2. Thought to be the oldest Creosote bush ring in the Mojave Desert,
3. Estimated to be 11,700 years old
4. Considered the possible oldest living organism on Earth – maybe 3rd oldest
5. These circles grew from a single bush – as the brush grew outward the center part died
6. identified & documented by Frank Vasek, a professor at the University of California, Riverside
7. Early Americans used leaves & oils for medicinal purposes
8. And they make a hot fire

Oldest Tree
• The world's oldest clonal tree is a Norway Spruce tree to be found on the Fulu Mountain in Dalarna, Sweden. The tree is 9550 years old, taking root at the end of the last ice age.[1]
• The record holders for an individual non-clonal tree are Great Basin Bristlecone Pine trees from California and Nevada

• The title of "World's Oldest Tree" can be a contentious one, as there are numerous examples of long-living clonal colonies of trees around the world.
o A colony of 47,000 quaking aspen trees (nicknamed "Pando") covering 106 acres in Fishlake National Forest, United States is considered one of the oldest and largest organisms in the world. It has been estimated to be 800,000 to a million years old,
 although tree ring samples determine individual, above-ground, trees to only average 130 years.

Rain is rare in the desert, and any plant has to be able to get as much of it as it can while losing as little of it as possible. The problem all plants face is that they must “breathe” in carbon dioxide through openings on the underside of their leaves called stomata, but doing so means they lose water. This becomes a big problem when it is especially hot and dry as it always is during the day in the desert.

So the creosote bush only opens its stomata in the mornings when the humidity is relatively high and the loss of water is the lowest. It is during this time that creosote bush undergoes photosynthesis, and shuts it down when the sun rises higher.

Creosote bush always faces southeast since the plant photosynthesizes only in the mornings when humidity is highest, it needs to maximize the amount of sunlight it receives during that time.

Yucca.jpg (408.03 KiB) Viewed 329 times
The yucca can grow as tall as 40 feet and the leaves may grow 2 feet long with sharp edges and a spike at the end of each leaf will remind you to use extreme caution in planting them near children or animals.
Yuccas are native to America and many are presently being grown throughout the U.S. as cold hardy security plants or as architectural specimens. These plants are very persistent and durable even re-sprouting from dormant stumps of plants, that were cut to the ground 10 years previously.

They are pollinated by the yucca moth, and in its absence they rarely fruit : a striking example of interdependence, since the moth, which lays its eggs during pollination and whose larvae feed on some of the developing seeds, cannot reproduce without the yucca. The leaves are usually stiff and spearlike, often with marginal threads.

The Mojave yucca, (yucca schidigera) can sprout from seeds when fertilized by the yucca moth, or can clone itself by rhizome extension producing copies of its DNA within the sprouts. Located near the Fry Mountains, this fenced Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) contains nearly yucca clone rings of yucca plants. Each ring started from a single plant possibly as far back as thousands of years ago and is a natural clone of the original. As the rootlets from the existing yucca plant sprouts and grows immediately next to it, the ring is formed over long periods of time..

Barrel - Yucca.JPG
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• In some species, one or more central spines are curved like a fishhook, accounting for the common name Fishhook Barrel Cactus.
• It is covered in long, plentiful spines, which are straight and red when new and become curved and gray as they age. [5]
• Flowers appear at the top of the plant only after many years.
o Barrel cactus buds typically start to bloom in April with a bright yellow or orange flower. Pink and red varieties also exist but occur less frequently.
A common myth is that the barrel cactus is full of water. In truth, it is filled with a slimy alkaline juice that would cause a net loss of water if drunk, diarrhea, as well as potential hypothermia due to a drop in bodily core temperature

Many people mistakenly believe that the common sight of a tipped over barrel cactus is due to the cactus falling over from water weight.
Actually, barrel cacti fall over due to the fact that they grow towards the sun, just like any other plant. Unlike other plants, however, the barrel cactus usually grows towards the south (to prevent sunburn) hence the name "compass cactus."

Pancake Catus.JPG
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It is a species of prickly pear. The pads and the fruit can be eaten.

Cholla - Buckhorn.JPG
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cholla - Pencil.JPG
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Cholla -Teddy Bear.jpg
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some species hardly breed at all, because their seeds are sterile. In these cases the plants rely on clonal propagation - stem segments fall to the ground and take root, so that any local population of the plant consists of genetically identical individuals, which might differ slightly from another population of the same species. The teddy bear cholla is a classic example of this - see the right-hand image above.
The teddy bear cholla is named for its furry "cuddly" appearance but is actually a densely spined plant. This dense covering of spines almost completely obscures the stem, shielding it from exposure to intense sunlight. Characteristically, the base of the plant is black or chocolate-brown in colour, where the older branches have fallen off, while the younger branches have a golden or silvery appearance, depending on the colour of the spine sheaths. The plants grow to 1-1.5 metres tall, with many short branches, which are readily detached by animals or even wind and then take root in the soil.

Coyote Melon.JPG
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• Flowering plant in the squash family known by the common names coyote melon
• Native to northeastern Baja California, southeastern California, and southwestern Arizona to a point near the Colorado River.
• Growing along the edge of washes and over rocks and shrubs, the coyote melon (Cucurbita palmata) thrives during the desert’s summer monsoon season.
• Coyote melon fruit begs to be gathered. By whom, you should ask?
• This melon will never pass your lips. The pulp (actually the placental attachment for the seeds) contains cucurbitacins, among the bitterest substances known to mankind. If you actually swallowed some of the pulp, the emetic action would thoroughly and for days cleanse your digestive tract.
• For all this, Indians did roast and eat the highly nutritional oily seeds after carefully cleaning them of pulp. The Indians attribute coyote, “the trickster”, with giving these melons a bitter flavor while providing edible seeds.
Catclaw.jpg (556.29 KiB) Viewed 329 times
Catclaw up close.jpg
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names mostly come from the fact that the tree has numerous hooked prickles with the shape and size of a cat's claw, that tend to hook onto passers-by; the hooked person must stop ("wait a minute") to remove the prickles carefully to avoid injury or shredded clothing.

Ocotillo.jpg (657.37 KiB) Viewed 329 times
Ocotillos are named after the cluster of fiery red flowers you can find at the end of their stems from about March to June.In Spanish it means "little torch".

Juniper.JPG (517.47 KiB) Viewed 329 times
Juniper berries are found on the evergreen juniper shrub, which grows widely throughout the Northern Hemisphere. New berries appear on mature trees in the fall, and by spring they ripen to blue. Because the berries take between two to three years to fully ripen, the same plant can have unripe green and ripe blue berries at the same time. In addition to their use in herbology, the berries are used as a flavoring agent in gin and luncheon meats. The berries’ nutritional profile and volatile oil make them particularly supportive of the genitourinary system.

Desert Paint Brush.JPG
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This is the Desert Indian Paint Brush. There are reported to be 47 varieties in California and 200+ in the United States.
Indian paintbrush is parasitic plant. It uses specially designed tubes called haustoria (modified roots) for the absorption of water and nutrients from the roots of nearby, host plants.
Native Americans used flowers as condiment, in treatment of rheumatism and to boost their immune system, to improve quality and gloss of the hair, and as a source of dyes.
Bittle Bush.JPG
Bittle Bush.JPG (416.19 KiB) Viewed 329 times
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Re: OAUSA Net - December 5, 2019 - Plants of the Mojave


Post by KAP » Thu Dec 05, 2019 3:58 pm

Dave Tom and the net
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Re: OAUSA Net - December 5, 2019 - Plants of the Mojave


Post by Ionyx » Thu Dec 05, 2019 5:28 pm

Good Evening.
Early check in please.

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Re: OAUSA Net - December 5, 2019 - Plants of the Mojave


Post by Jeff-OAUSA » Thu Dec 05, 2019 5:48 pm

Please check me in.

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Re: OAUSA Net - December 5, 2019 - Plants of the Mojave


Post by VK2DY » Thu Dec 05, 2019 6:43 pm

Please chek me in,

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Re: OAUSA Net - December 5, 2019 - Plants of the Mojave


Post by NotAMog » Thu Dec 05, 2019 6:56 pm

Please check in -

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Re: OAUSA Net - December 5, 2019 - Plants of the Mojave


Post by KA9WDX » Thu Dec 05, 2019 7:55 pm

Early check in please - Thanks - Bernie

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