Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘desert

More cacti near Tucson

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On our way out of Tucson four years ago today we stopped for a guided desert walk in the eastern section of Saguaro National Park. That’s where we first heard about the staghorn cholla cactus, Cylindropuntia versicolor. The second picture offers a closer look at the fruit of this species.

We also saw two other cacti, a fishhook barrel (Ferocactus wislizenii) and a saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea):

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “Few countries in the world present so marvellous a variety of scenic features as does Arizona, the Wonderland…. Drop upon it where you will, it is wondrous, marvellous, astounding, even thrilling.” — George Wharton James in Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 8, 2020 at 4:40 AM

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Cacti at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

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Four years ago today we spent time at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. Above is a mature teddy bear cholla cactus, Cylindropuntia bigelovii; the second picture gives you a closer look at a younger one.

To top things off, below is a fasciated saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea.
You might say those cacti do everything in a big way.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “Take the rose—most people think it very beautiful: I don’t care for it at all. I prefer the cactus, for the simple reason that it has a more interesting personality. It has wonderfully adapted itself to its surroundings! It is the best illustration of the theory of evolution in plant life.” — Charles Proteus Steinmetz.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 7, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Desert views

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Four years ago today we drove across the southern California desert on our way to Tucson. In the picture above of the Salton Sea, mist made the mountains beyond the western shore unclear, and it’s also unclear to me what range it is (perhaps the Borrego Mountains). The second picture comes to you from along Interstate 8. A lot of the dunes there allow recreational vehicles, and as a result I couldn’t take pictures in many of the places I wanted to because vehicle tracks marred the scene. While the dunes below do show a slight amount of disturbance, I hope you’ll still find this panorama pleasant.

But if you insist on arenaceous purity and no tracks, I’ll backtrack two weeks to October 23rd of 2016, when we stopped at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah. Though it also allows recreational vehicles, we stayed long enough for me to wander around and find undisturbed parts of the dunes to photograph.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “J’ai toujours aimé le désert. On s’assoit sur une dune de sable. On ne voit rien. On n’entend rien. Et cependant quelque chose rayonne en silence….” “I’ve always loved the desert. You sit down on a sand dune. You see nothing. You hear nothing. And yet something glows in silence….” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le petit prince, The Little Prince.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 6, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Joshua Tree National Park

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Where else to find Joshua trees than Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California?

The park and the Mojave Desert welcomed us four years ago today, though actually we’d seen our first Joshua trees two weeks earlier in Nevada, and then in Barstow.

These “trees” aren’t truly trees at all, but members of the yucca family, Yucca brevifolia. Yuccas are members of Agavoideae, which isn’t so surprising, but that group is a part of the asparagus family, a fact that does surprise most people. Not all is as it seems, is it?

And how about finding a nest in one of the Joshua trees? Thanks to the staff at Joshua Tree National Park for telling me that the maker of the nest is most likely a ladder-backed woodpecker, Picoides scalaris.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 5, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

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Four years ago today we visited the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on the west side of Las Vegas, Nevada. We arrived in the morning, when clouds still hung over the mountains.

Note the yuccas in the second picture. I believe they’re young Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia).

And notice the cholla cactus that looks like a running stick figure in the third picture.

The first three views don’t seem to support the name Red Rock, so here’s a picture that does.

Instead of a quotation today, let’s have an English vocabulary question. A mailman delivers mail. A fisherman catches fish. A fireman puts out fires. A salesman sells things. What does a henchman do?

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 25, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Paloverde by dusk and day

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Four years ago this evening, dusk was approaching by the time we arrived in Phoenix’s South Mountain Park, which is the largest municipal park in the United States. As sunlight faded, I used flash to photograph a paloverde tree (Parkinsonia microphylla or florida; there are two local species, and I don’t know which this was). The flash brought out the greenness of the tree’s branches—in fact palo verde means ‘green branch’ in Spanish. The next morning, on our way out of Phoenix, we stopped at South Mountain Park again. It seems that when paloverde branches die, they tend to turn orange.

We learned that paloverdes sometimes act as “incubators” for saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea), giving some degree of protection to the young ones until they get established.

Likewise for barrel cacti.

Did you know that our use of cactus to designate plants like these last two resulted from a mistake? It did. The Latin word cactus, from Greek kaktos, referred to a type of artichoke. Linnaeus, the great 18th-century scientific namer of species, understandably yet mistakenly thought that the spiny plants we now call cacti were akin to the prickly artichoke.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 17, 2020 at 3:40 AM

Life and death in Saguaro National Park

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Behold a fishhook barrel cactus (Ferocactus wislizenii) in the eastern sector of Tucson’s Saguaro National Park as we saw it two years ago today:

Hardy as desert plants are, they all eventually meet their demise. Here’s what a barrel cactus look like then:

Oh, all right, it was Saguaro National Park, so I guess I’ll have to show you a saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea). This one had two particularly enfolding “arms”:

And here are the stately remains of a saguaro with upraised “arms”:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 8, 2018 at 4:49 AM

Joshua Tree National Park

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We spent a good part of November 5th two years ago at Joshua Tree National Park in the desert of southern California. The first picture shows you a picturesque wall of boulders there. The reddish-brown growths occupying the bare branches in the foreground are desert mistletoe, Phoradendron californicum.

Here’s a closer look at some boulders:

Smaller details also caught my attention:

Oh yeah, we did see some Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park:

By the time we drove out the southern entrance of the park, the sun had already set.
Even so, I stopped to photograph a creosote bush, Larrea tridentata:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 5, 2018 at 4:38 AM

Monahans after the rain

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When we drove into the town of Monahans in west Texas on June 14th it was too late in the afternoon for us to continue the short distance to the attraction that had brought us there: Monahans Sandhills State Park. We could see that it had rained in the area that afternoon, and what effect that had had on the dunes became clear only the next morning. How differently textured the sand was then from the way we’d seen it in 2014 when we’d visited on the afternoon of April 12th and the morning of April 13th.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 19, 2017 at 4:40 AM

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Carlsbad canyons

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No, the title isn’t a typo or thinko: I meant Carlsbad canyons. While almost everyone goes to Carlsbad Caverns National Park to see the caverns, the road in from the highway passes through some scenic canyons whose grand scale makes them worth stopping for in their own right, as we found out on June 14th. It’s a harsh land of little rain, where many plants have a hard time making a go of it.

One plant that thrives there is Dasylirion wheeleri, known even in English by the name that the Spaniards took from the Aztecs: sotol. Below you see a sotol flower stalk (which people joke is so tall).

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 22, 2017 at 5:08 AM

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