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Wildflower Updates

Wildflower Report – March 25, 2017

Welcome to our last Wildflower Wednesday report of the season. Despite a few holdouts, our astounding annual bloom is on its way out. More dune primrose (Oenothera deltoides) and bladder pod (Isomeris arborea) were spotted in a caterpillar-free zone off Poleline Road this week. Bladder pod is related to the caper family and is a magnet for hummingbirds. We saw varied mini-gardens while hunting for bugs along the Road Runner Trail.

Ocotillos (Fouquieria splendens) have finally flamed on this week in the western end of the park, in stark contrast to the stubble of annuals. Nevertheless, you’ll enjoy the primary colors of perennial shrubs as you drive to and from the coast in the coming weeks.


Wildflower Report – March 22, 2017

The color of the week around the OW Discovery Center is yellow! A not-so-mellow-yellow collage includes well-irrigated brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), creosote bush (Larrea tridentata), burro bush (Ambrosia dumosa), and blue palo verde trees (Parkinsonia florida). Burro bush, a member of the bursage family, dukes it out for real estate, trying to avoid underground secretions from creosote roots. Bursage plants also seem to have a way to prevent growing too close to one another. On the sand surface, palest-yellow sand blazing star (Mentzelia involucrata) has been seen around the headquarters complex. Rayless encelia (Encelia frutescens) is blooming behind the complex in a small wash; its bud-like blooms are extremely fragrant.

Not to be outdone, blue blooms are on the rise. Indigo bushes (Psorothamnus schottii) began displaying their aptly-named blossoms this week. You can find cushions of bristly gilia (Langloisia setosissima) on the hillside to the west of the Amphitheater.

Although many early bloomers are starting to crisp up, there are still pockets of mixed color in local washes. Can you identify everything in this mini-garden?

Some Sphinx moth caterpillars have hit their limit and are heading underground to pupate.

Before the season draws to a close, many thanks to Ron Shugan for his exquisite and well-catalogued collection of wildflower photos.

Indigo bush


Wildflower Report: March 15, 2017

Cholla Bloom photoThey’re hee-eere! Desert five-spots (Eremalche rotundifolia) have bloomed behind the Discovery Center, with many more on the way. Third graders from Westmorland Elementary visited this week and spotted some great new finds, including Bigelow monkeyflower (Mimulus bigelovii) and a bloom on our silver/golden cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa). A dye bush (Psorothamnus emoryi ) below the walkway has begun to bloom.

Being so low to the ground, the kids also spotted the first White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata) caterpillars of the season, already chowing down on brown-eyed primroses. Enjoy the aromas of all our wonderful blooms soon, as the caterpillars are doing their worst!

Visitors have been enjoying acres of desert sunflowers north of Cahuilla Trail. Desert lilies – some two feet tall – are hanging tough out there, too.

Mardee Cat

Mardee Cat 


Bigelow's Monkey

Bigelow's Monkey

Desert Sunflower

Desert Sunflower

Wildflower Report: March 8, 2017

Desert Sunflower PhotoIf you are looking for a drive-by flower gazing opportunity, look no further than Pole Line Road. Sheltered draws on the west side of the road between Wide Open Spaces and Gas Domes Trail still support crowds of desert lily, some nearly two feet tall. Look for golden orange stretches of hairy desert sunflowers (Geraea canescens). Their grizzled leaves inspired a botanist of yore to give them a Latin name that comes from the same roots as ‘geriatric’ and ‘gray-haired.’ Staff also spotted a dune evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides) trying to hitch a ride from a protected spot.

Arizona lupine (Lupinus arizonicus) have begun blooming behind the Discovery Center and elsewhere. Their many-fingered leaves follow the sun, then fold up at night, prompting the Sonoran Desert Seri people to call them ‘sun watchers.’

The Cove camping area also hosts dune evening primrose. Look closely along the base of the butte for tiny desert star (Monoptilon bellidiforme) blooms. These 2-inch-tall plants are members of the aster family and look like daisies scattered on the ground.

News flash: Our first Desert five-spots (Eremalche rotundifolia) have begun blooming. More next week!

Dune Evening Primrose

Dune Evening Primrose photo


Lupine photo

Desert Five Spot

Desert Five Spot photo

Wildflower Report: February 22, 2017

Wildflower walks near the Discovery Center/Amphitheater began last week, and we’ve had colorful news flashes every day, both from blossoms and rainbows. Delicate pygmy gold poppy (Eschscholzia minutiflora) blossoms are joining white popcorn flowers (Cryptantha spp.) to carpet the ground between small washes behind the Discovery Center.

A desert broomrape (Orobanche cooperi) has poked its flowered cone out of the soil right next to our Discovery Center. This amazing perennial herb is a parasite that leaches nutrients from other plants to survive. That is why you will not see any leaves or chlorophyll on this plucky parasite, as it doesn’t need either!

Brown-eyed primroses (Chylismia claviformis) are taking over the place (shhh – don’t tell the caterpillars yet). A relative, the “bottle-cleaner” evening primrose (Camissonia boothi) is not too far behind; look for the red spots on its leaves.

One of our fish-hook cacti (Mamillaria dioica) on the east side of the Discovery Center is overachieving with an early cream-and-scarlet bloom!

Look for a great variety in a little drainage west of the Amphitheatre, right off the paved trail.

Gold Poppy

Gold Poppy

Brown-eyed Primrose

DC Fishhook

DC Fishhook

Wildflower Report: February 15, 2017

Beware of our blooming bonanza at the base of East Butte! Two of our featured wildflowers this week are relatives in the nightshade family, which contains fruits ranging from deliciously edible to poisonous to hallucinogenic. The yellow blooms of desert ground cherry (Physalis crassifolia) will eventually form tomatillo-like green fruits. Annual desert tobacco (Nicotiana obtusifolia) spreads like crazy in washes and disturbed areas.

Desert lilies are starting to bloom! This one was spotted near the intersection of Pole Line and Gas Domes Trail. Thanks to Mardee for being our alert bloom spotter this week!

Several other flowers currently in bloom include: Popcorn Flower, Phacelia, White Rhatany, Dyeweed, Brown-Eyed Primrose, Little Gold Poppy, and even our Palo Verdes. Join us for drop-in wildflower walks this coming Friday through Monday at our Discovery Center from 9am-noon and 1-4pm. You can join our Naturalist for a short walk, or just get directions to the best places to see flowers in the area. See you there!

Ground Cherry Mardee

Ground Cherry Mardee

Desert Tobacco Mardee

Desert Tobacco Mardee



Wildflower Report: February 8, 2017

Cool-but-sunny weather continues to coax early bloomers here at OW. Field staff spotted a blooming Orcutt’s aster (Xylorhiza orcuttii) in Tule Wash this week. Also known as woody aster, this lavender-petalled beauty is native to clay, alkaline soils of Southern California and Northern Baja. Check out the shiny, spiny leaves. Desert lilies are hard at work, forming torch-shaped flower buds near the Ranger Station complex.  Alongside Pole Line Road, you can watch desert pussypaws, aka dead men’s fingers (Cistanthe ambigua), push up their pudgy, red-hued leaves up out of the sand.  A sheltered chuparosa bush has begun attracting bees and hummingbirds near the Discovery Center. In some areas, it almost looks like we’ll have to get out the lawn mower if we get any more rain! Just kidding! The caterpillars will be out soon enough!

Desert lily

Desert pussypaws (Cistanthe ambigua)

Chuparosa bush

Tule Wash Orcutts Aster

Orcutt’s aster (Xylorhiza orcuttii)