A ghost town alive with blooms
Looking for wildflowers in the Great Basin Desert can take me to some very interesting and off the beaten path locations. Many species of flowering plants have unique adaptations that are specific to the type of soil and elevation.
In July, I planned a photo-adventure to the Aurora, Nevada area for the chance of catching any desert wildflowers that might be in bloom following monsoonal rain that moved through the mountains.
Located in west central Nevada, near the California border, Aurora was a mining town that by 1869 had produced $27 million in gold. However, the gold veins proved to be shallow and due to its remote location, the town of Aurora was deserted and eventually became a ghost town.
Today not much remains of the town except for the cemetery that is maintained and still receiving souls to be laid to rest under the tall junipers.
The area south of the cemetery is where I focused my wildflower photography. At an elevation of 7,441 Feet (2,268 meters) and surrounded by the Humboldt-Toiyable Forest, the wildflowers growing in this area are adapted to the lose, gravelly, alkaline soil; where most of the moisture comes from snowpack in the winter or a summer thunderstorm.
The first flowers that I noticed were pale yellow blooms of the Antelope Bitterbrush, Purshia tridentata which seemed to be growing everywhere. "Bitterbrush" is in the Rosaceae or rose family, was used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans and is a browse plant for wildlife.
Glancing down close to the ground I saw delicate yellow flowers of Brewer's navarretia, Navarretia brewer extending up from a layer of rocks. These tiny flowers are under a centimeter in length.
A unique looking flower, the Cushion Desert Buckwheat, Eriogonum ovalifolium was growing in mats around the gravelly soil and is a species of wild buckwheat.
A deep blue-violet Anderson's Larkspur, Delphinium consolida caught my eye standing out against a yellow flowering Bitterbrush shrub. Larkspur is in the buttercup family and happens to be the flower for the month of July.
Purple clusters of Shaggy Milkvetch, Astragalus malacus thrive on the sandy slopes.
In the pea family, this interesting flowering plant of Milkvetch has soft, white hairs covering its leaves.
Such dainty white flowers on the Longleaf Phlox, Phlox longifolia seem out of place in a desert environment but this plant can cover dry hillsides where it gives off a sweet fragrance to attract pollinators.
Periwinkle flowers of the Two-lobe Larkspur, Delphinium nuttallianum stood out against the pale green desert sage. This variety of Larkspur prefers gravely soils.
Much to my surprise, I found numerous clusters of the colorful Bigelow's Monkeyflower, Mimulus bigelovii all along the desert floor. During dry spells, this plant may only grow to an inch off the ground.
The Monkeyflower's name comes from the flower markings that resemble the face of a smiling monkey. Not only is the plant beautiful, all parts are also edible.
While I was trekking deeper in to the denser desert vegetation, I began to notice a different type of yellow flowering plant. Closer inspection revealed that I had come upon the Yellow Milkvetch, Astragalus flavus This Milkvetch is in the pea family and grows in Selenium soils.
As the day was wearing long I began my departure which took me through Lucky Boy Pass. Rounding a hair-pin turn and there on the roadside stood the most gorgeous stand of Scented Penstemon, Penstemon palmeri.
Carefully parking and bracing my camera, I managed to get a few sharp images of these beautiful flowers.
What a rewarding day this turned out to be! Continue to follow my blog and see where my next photo-adventure will go.
With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.
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