Saturday, February 26, 2011

Desert Wildflower Series, Cactus


 Desert's Hidden Beauty


Part 2 of my Desert Wildflowers Series focuses on the desert's most unique plants, the cactus.

Cacti are perhaps the most interesting and adaptable of the desert plants.  From the huge Saguaro that can reach 40 feet (2m) to the 6 inch (15.24cm) tiny Pincushion, cacti have developed some unique ways to endure life in the extreme hot dry desert.




In stead of leaves, a cactus has developed needles that serve several purposes in its survival:  protection from being eaten by herbivores, shade from the sun and a system for channeling rain water down to its roots where it can be more easily absorbed.  Cacti have developed other adaptations that include a waxy coating over the skin called glaucus bloom which keeps moisture from evaporating, plus a long root system that reaches deep in the soil where water can be soaked up and stored in the plant.


 



The following are a few of my favorite cacti that I come across most often in the desert.  

The Barrel Cactus is one of the largest in North America, reaching from 3-10' (90-300cm) in length and can be found in the Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts where it grows in washes and gravely slopes.  The yellow flowers that bloom on top of the large barrel-shaped stem are small in size compared to other cacti flowers.  The Barrel Cactus has served many purposes for the Native Americans. The spines were used as needles, the young flowers were boiled and eaten like cabbage or made into a drink, candy was made from the pulp, and the barrel became a cooking pot after it was scrapped out and filled with hot stones.  For survival, the pulp can be chewed for food and water.  The Barrel is the latest cactus to bloom, with a short period lasting only from July and August.




The Pincushion Cactus is so tiny, reaching less than 6" tall (15cm), it can easily be stepped on and often goes unnoticed. Its barrel shaped tube may never extend above the gravelly, dry areas or ledges where it prefers to grow.  The Pincushion's 1-2" (2.5-5cm) flowers are larger in ratio to its smaller size and a favorite food source for bees, birds and rodents, when in bloom from May through June.






The Prickly Pear can be found in the Mojave Desert around dry rocky areas where it may grow to a height of 1 to 7 feet (30.48-213.36cm).  Its brilliant yellow flowers bloom from May through June.  This cactus has pads rather than branches that store water and are edible as a vegetable known as "Nopalito".  The fruits are also edible and sold in stores under the name "tuna".  For protection, the prickly pear family of cacti are armed with clusters of fine, tiny barbed spines called glochids, which are difficult to see, and even more difficult to remove from the skin.




A member of the Prickly Pear family, the 6-12" (15-30cm) Beavertail Cactus, can be found on rocky slopes in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts.




Its gray-green jointed stems are flat and wide, resembling the tail of a beaver.  Blooming from March to June, the brilliant reddish flowers give way to an oval fruit which is full of seeds.


 


The Cholla have been known to reach 15 feet (4.57m) in height and appear more like a shrub with segmented stems. The stems store water for the cactus and have sharp spines that are covered in papery sheaths, a native of the Sonoran Desert, the Cholla blooms during the spring from March through June.




The Hedgehog Cactus is so named because it resembles a hedgehog with its small barrel-shaped stems that grow to about one foot (30cm) in length. One of the earliest flowers to bloom in the spring, the Hedgehog is found on sandy slopes, flats and rocky hillsides. The two inch long (5cm) scarlet red flowers close at night and reopen in the morning to attract hummingbirds which are the main pollinators of the plant. To get to the nectar, the hummingbird must carefully place its entire head to the base of the flower which then becomes coated with pollen.  The fruits are edible once the spines have been removed.




As with all wildflowers growing in the desert, cacti should never be picked or harvested. Any disruption may destroy an entire ecosystem that will take years to grow back.  All ecosystems in the desert are very fragile and are interconnected and interdependent.   If you are interested in tasting the fruits and vegetables from the various cacti, many are available commercially in stores.   Furthermore, in National and State Parks it is illegal to pick flowers and if caught, you may be subject to a fine. 





No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






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.
 
 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.

"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Las Vegas Bearpoppy




The Bear Paw Poppy


On March 8-10th, professional photographer Karen Linsley and I will be conducting a wildflower photography workshop in Death Valley.  As a prelude to the workshop, I will be writing some posts about wildflowers that grow in the Mojave Desert near Death Valley. 

In Part 1 as an introduction, I would like to begin with a very unique wildflower that is only found to grow in a small area near Lake Mead close to Las Vegas, Nevada, the Bear-paw Poppy, Arctomecon californica.




The Bear-paw Poppy or Las Vegas Bearpoppy is endemic to the gypsum-rich soils of the Lake Mead region of the Upper Sonoran and Mojave Desert.  Due to the limited area where the Bear-paw Poppy is found to grow and with all the increased urbanization around Las Vegas, it has been placed on the Threatened Species list by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

 


From March to May, the yellow Bear-paw Poppy can be seen at lower elevations from 1,200 to 3,150 feet (365.7 to 960.12 meters) along eroded, disturbed habitats where the gypsum content ranges between 36 to 69 percent, in what is categorized as the Gypsum Barren Community. 





The Bear-paw Poppy grows from a 5 inch (12.7cm) clump of blue-gray, wedge-shaped leaves resembling a hairy 3-5 toed bearpaw. 





The 6 petal large poppy grows atop long stems, reaching about 20 inches (50.8cm) from the basal clump of leaves.  




At the end of its flowering season in late June, numerous tiny black seeds are expelled when the oval seed pod opens and the Bear-paw Poppy's cycle continues. 




 The Mojave Desert is home to a huge diversity of plants and animals that have adapted for many years to its unique and harsh conditions. With increased urbanization more of its fragile ecosystems are becoming threatened and even endangered through construction, recreational activities, groundwater pumping and increased grazing of domestic livestock.  It takes a conscientious effort on the part of humans to protect and not disturb these fragile ecosystems so that the animal and plants may continue to thrive and make their home in the Mojave Desert.





For more Information on the Bear Paw Poppy:









No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






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.
 
 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.

"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"

Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.




Visit our website at: http://www.bonnierannald.com/





Saturday, February 12, 2011

Grimes Point Petroglyph Trail


Walking with the Ancient Ones


Grimes Point, one of the largest and most accessible of the thousands of Native American petroglyph sites in the U.S, lies just east of the small farming town of Fallon, Nevada on Highway 50.
 





Designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1978, the one mile, 1280m, interpretive dirt trail is a walk back through ancient times when a Hunter-Gatherer people frequented the area at least 10,000 years ago leaving behind their legacy of rock art  with lines, circles, dots and abstract humanoid and animal shapes.






As with all petroglyph sites including Grimes Point there is little authentic information regarding the true purpose of the rock etching, however they appear to be along animal migration routes where water, plants and wildlife were plentiful.





The land around Grimes Point was much different 10,000 years ago, as was the climate.  The Ice Age was just drawing to an end and ancient Lake Lahontan was beginning to recede, leaving behind marshy remnants where waterfowl and mammals thrived.  The plants and animals of the area would have provided sustenance, clothing and building materials that were used by the hunter-gathers.





As a testament to their existence or place in history abstract designs were etched in the dark residue on rocks, called Desert Varnish which is created over a vast period of time from dead bacteria impregnated with iron and manganese salts.






At the kiosks, a Grimes Point Petroglyph Trail brochure is available that will give information about each group of rock carvings. A longer and more strenuous trail leads around the mountain to a major archaeological site,  Hidden Cave. Occupied between 3,400 to 4,000 years ago, Hidden Cave was used by the hunter-gathers as a cache or storage site.





All petroglyph sites should be respected because many were used as outdoor places of worship.







The petroglyph boulders should never be walked on and due to the oils in the hands they should never be touched. All of these sites and the rocks therein are objects of antiquity and are protected by state and federal laws.




Please regard the rocks and etchings as sacred monuments of history, left by a vanishing people.




Recommended Reading:

Patterson, Alex. 1992. A Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest, Johnson Books, Boulder, Colorado.




No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






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.
 
 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.

"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"

Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.




Visit our website at: http://www.bonnierannald.com/





Sunday, February 6, 2011

Red Rock's Unique Eco-Systems


Part III, Flora and Fauna of Red Rock Canyon

 
Part I focused on an overview of Red Rock Canyon's inception from being under an ancient sea  600 million years ago to its present day Mojave Desert landscape. Part II explored Red Rock's aquifers with their unique micro-climates that contribute to and provide sustenance for a large variety of plants and animals that make their home in the Mojave Desert.

Part III combines Red Rock Canyon's topography with the micro-climates and the flora and fauna that are able to co-exist in the desert landscape.


Viewing Red Rock Canyon from the overlook gives the impression that you are about to enter a very unique environment with huge colorful Aztec Sandstone  formations and strange shaped trees set against the deep blue sky.  The trees are named Joshua Trees by the Mormon settlers for the Biblical Joshua and are native to the Mojave Desert, surviving for up to 200 years of age.




Joshua Trees provide shelter and habitats for many of the desert dwellers including the Cactus Wren that weaves her protective nest of grass safely within the sharp prongs, the Desert Tortoise that may dig shallow burrows in the sandy soil and the blacktail jack rabbit that escapes the desert heat in its shade.



                                                                                                       

Looking out at the desert floor, one might conclude that the soil is lifeless and uninhabitable, however the soil is full of microorganisms or Biological Crusts that are a vital part of the desert ecosystems. The more available water allows for a larger diversity in plants and animals supported by that ecosystem.  A symbiotic relationship exists between the land, water, plants and animals because in the desert all things are interconnected and interdependent.  In the spring and early summer, Evening Primrose grows profusely accenting the reddish sandy soil with white flowers at Calico Basin.


                                                                                               

So many of the mammals in  Red Rock Canyon area are nocturnal to avoid the strong daytime sun, however the antelope ground squirrel can be seen running across the desert soil at the hottest time of the day.  To cool off, this rodent will flatten its body against the soil in a shaded area.  Water lose is replenished by drinking early morning dew and feeding on green plants.




                                                                                             

The desert is often thought to be dry and without water, but in many of the sandstone layers there are natural  tinajas or catchments that hold water from rain or snowmelt.  Calico Basin Tank has water most of the year, providing a habitat for many different desert creatures including small insects, insect larvae and fairy shrimp. On a nearby rock a Collard Lizard waits for an insect and sometimes it is even possible to spot a Desert Bighorn Sheep on one of the steep rocky slopes coming down for an occasional drink.


 


The seasonal rains and snow storms bring an abundance of wildflowers to the canyons, desert floor and stream beds.  Some seeds remain dormant for up to 10 years before there is adequate precipitation to bring them to life.
                    
                                                               
       
 Redbud trees put on a visual display in the spring and may reach from 15 feet (4.6m) to 25 feet (7.62m), attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to the sweet nectar.
                                                                                       
              


 Springs flowing through the canyons of Red Rock provide micro-climates that promote lush vegetation.  Petroglyphs are found near where there is water and were once the camping sites of prehistoric people.  It is believed that the Anasazi hunted and gathered foods from the Red Rock Canyon Area.


                                                                                                           
In the shade by the stream at Pine Creek, North America's smallest hummingbird, the Calliope has built her nest on the branch of a willow.  A Gambel's Quail calls from the top branches of a Honey Mesquite tree while a brilliant blue Scrub Jay looks for seeds and berries on the ground below. 

                                                                                                                  

The harsh desert which goes from extremely high temperatures in the summer to freezing periods in the winter supports such a diverse ecosystem for its flora and fauna.    
                                                        
                                                                                                            
 
Gazing out across the landscape where I have spent so much time, I am always filled with a profound sense of awe for the fragile and delicate ecosystems that thrive and adapt in such harsh conditions.


                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
For More Information:

Desert Tortoise  
Desert Bighorn Sheep
Desert Plants
Desert Soil
Hummingbirds





No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






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.
 
 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.

"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"

Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.




Visit our website at: http://www.bonnierannald.com/