Plants of Joshua Tree National Park

IMG_1356Panoramic view! We dropped our packs and went bouldering. IMG_1501

IMG_1448Some bad rain coming in-you can tell by those herring bone clouds or fish scale clouds. High winds the night before kept us up. Sunrise and sunset make for the most wonderful lighting, colors and shadows exacerbate the landscape's unique features.

IMG_1479Yucca @ dusk. This is higher up, about 4000 feet. As you descend southeast, you get into the Colorado Desert, which is really part of the Sonoran Desert. Different sorts of plant life grow down there, because it's drier and hotter at the lower elevations.

IMG_1476Joshua Trees (Yucca Brevifolia)-These were named after Joshua from the Bible by the Mormons who came to the southwest in the mid-19th century. They only flower after freezing temperatures and rain, while also growing at higher altitudes (3,000-5,000 foot elevation) in the Mojave Desert.

IMG_1486Ocotillo (Fouquieria Splendens)  I remember seeing fences built out of dead Ocotillo stalks. It was really nice to see people's yards with sand instead of grass, and fences made from organic material instead of chain link fences/wooden fences.

IMG_1482Brittlebush (Encilia Farinosa) Ubiquitious throughout the desert.

IMG_1473 Catclaw Acacia (senegalia greggii)  I have scars on my forearm from this plant from the fall of 2013. Not actually related to Acacia, which apparently is from Australia. Other names include Catclaw Mesquite (is related to mesquite). Mesquite also grow in the southwest, provide edible beans in pods, can be eaten raw or cooked. Related to locust trees, which are also pod-bearing. All of these trees have sharp little spines. Sometimes not so little.

IMG_1467Jojoba (Simmondsia Chinensis)-Native Americans could eat the seeds of this plant. Nowadays, beard enthusiasts like to use the oil from this plant to wax their facial hair. Jojoba oil closely mimics the essential oils (amino acids) that the human body produces. George (that's me!) would rub a little Jojoba oil from the leaves into his mustache as we hiked.

IMG_1466Cholla Cactus. Cholla must be carefully removed from passersby if the spines become caught on their pant leg. Use two sticks to pry it off. Otherwise, it can break apart into two parts and attach itself further to other sections of the body, like a hydra.

IMG_1443Beautiful wildflower found in the crevice of a rock on one of our last hikes in Joshua Tree.

IMG_1470 Joshua trees at dusk. Joshua Trees are a member of the lily family, along with agave. Sometimes these really embody their name, and grow 20, 30 feet high, the lower portion becomes really woody, rough, brown and tough...like tree bark/the trunk of a tree. Lots of wildlife depend on Joshua Trees and other Yucca in the desert, where extreme temperatures, dryness, winds, and water scarcity make for a harsh but really almost surreal looking, beautiful landscape. Those are manzogranite rock formations in the background which are about 1.5 billion years old, formed from magma. Before the manzogranite formations swelled up out of the earth, Pinto gneiss rock formations were here. Pinto Gneiss rock (not visible here) is almost as old as the earth is.

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IMG_1361Unidentified  plant

IMG_1359Pine tree (unidentified).

IMG_1353These are called Beavertail Cactus. They look like Prickly Pear Cactus, but their spines are less visible. The fruit seen here are really tasty, but you have to be careful to remove the small spines on the fruit themselves, called glochids.

IMG_1325This is a small specimen of California Barrel Cactus. There are lots of Barrel Cacti, they grow into a cylindrical shape, I've even seen them grow as tall as 7 feet, with a diameter of about 2.5 feet. The California variety have this really deep red color on their spines, which looks really cool.

IMG_1306This is a type of Juniper. Juniper makes for great firewood. Related to Cedar Trees. The Juniper berries of course, are what give Gin it's signature flavor. Juniper used to be a very commonly used spice for flavor in cooking about a century or more ago. I love to eat them while walking, it reminds me of almost a Licorice flavor/sensation.

IMG_1419 We took this photo near sundown-we were mimicking Joshua Trees (or Saguaro Cacti, which grow in the Sonoran Desert farther southeast).

IMG_1405This hat is so cute, it instills a sense of calm and joy in both user and observer.  Wish us luck in Jamaica and the American West! Thank you to everyone who helped us along the way on our journey to the heart of the American dream. Freedom, pancakes, rain, wildlife, wilderness, logging, coal, GMO's, big agriculture, citrus fruits, orchards, military bases, salad, yoga instructors, wildland firefighters, whales, sea otters, elephant seals, merlets, old growth forest, cows at dusk, the smell of salt air, the salt spray, sourdough bread, hazelnut trees, honeybees, small airports, babies, married couples, children, grandchildren, sailing, kindly bicycle mechanics, bowling, billiards, homelessness, diving ducks, newts, frisbee, bicycle polo, wheeeee descents, one million jeweled daggers comprising an ocean view, redwood forests, earthquakes, ferns, mountain biking lost coast trails of old stagecoach carriage paths, brazen raccoons, bicycles, music, adventure, self-reliance, discovery, pluck, grit, and determination. I love this lady and I love 'murica.