California Poppy ( Eschscholzia californica )

The California Poppy the state flower of California.
The California Poppy the state flower of California.

As the name implies, the California Poppy is that state flower of California. However, this little flower is extremely wide spread and flourishes throughout most of the United States. The flower was first described by a Germain naturalist and poet, Adelbert von Chamisso. Chamisso was travelling on the Russian exploring ship “Rurick”. The “Rurick” was travelling around in the world in 1815, when the ship sailed in the San Francisco Bar Area.

This species of flowering plant with an international pedigree is a perennial and can range in height from 5 – 60 inches. The four petals of the flower are about two inches in size and range in colors from a vibrant orange to yellow, red and in some cases pink. They typically flower between February and September depending upon location.

A Field of Poppies photographed at their maximum display in Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
A Field of Poppies photographed at their maximum display in Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

When in full display, the California Poppy can carpet the landscape in a sea of color as happens in the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. Such an event is spectacular to witness and will make the local news outlets in Southern California.

The flowers have four petals, which will close each night or when windy and or cloudy. The delicate little flowers will open again each morning to once again showcase this little plant.

Mojave Mound Cactus ( Echinocereus mohavensis )

The Mojave Mound Cactus or Claret Cup Cactus boasts a bright red - orange flower blossom.
The Mojave Mound Cactus or Claret Cup Cactus boasts a bright red – orange flower blossom.

The Mojave Mound Cactus ( Echinocereus mohavensis ) is a cactus of many names and it also known as the claret cup cactus, hedgehog and kingcup cactus. It is native to the desert southwest of the united states and parts of Mexico. The cactus can be found in a variety of habitats including rocky slopes, scrub, low desert and mountain woodland.

This is a small barrel shaped cactus, which will range in color between light green and bluish green stems. As the name implies, this is a mounding cactus with may form up to 500 cylindrical stems with create a bulbous mound. This low lying cactus only grows to about 16 inches in height, while is clusters of spines can grow up to 1.5 inches long.

The funnel shaped waxy flowers range in color from orange to red to a dull scarlet color. The plant is commonly found at altitudes of 3500 to 9000 feet in elevation. This beautiful little cactus is known to locate Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave Desert and parts of Nevada.

This delightful specimen was found in the spring on the Pine Nut trail about 50 miles outside of Las Vegas, nestled among from boulders.

California Juniper ( Juniperus californica )

The California Juniper ( Juniperus californica ) is a common tree found in California, western Arizona and southern Nevada at medium elevations between 2,460 – 5,250 ft.  Commonly growing 10 and 26 feet in height, the grayish shredded bark Juniper may reach a maximum height or about 33 feet, although this height is rare.  Growing up in California and frequently camping in the Mojave and High Sierra, the California Juniper has frequents my memory and photographs.

A Juniper bush decorates the Mid Hills Campground in the Mojave National Preserve.
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Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)

The Joshua Tree was named for the biblical character by the Mormon Setters as they crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid 19th century.  It is told that the tree reminded the early Mormon’s of Joshua who, much like the tree, held his hands up in prayer.  From these humble beginnings, this tree and its undulating shadows have become of an icon of the desert southwest.

Joshua Tree located in the Mojave National Preserve.

Joshua Tree located in the Mojave National Preserve.

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Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)

Blown by wind, and ravaged by time, the Bristlecone pine tree is a silent sentinel of the White Mountains in eastern central California.  Only growing high in subapline mountains, Bristlecone pine trees are among the oldest living organisms, reaching ages of 5000 years old, with on specimen being documented at 5,067 years old by Tom Harlan who aged the tree by ring count.  That calculation confirms this one individual tree to be the oldest living non-clonal organism on the planet.

A Bristlecone Pine (not the oldest) located in the White Mountains, CA
A Bristlecone Pine (not the oldest) located in the White Mountains, CA

The Bristlecone pine groves are found between 5,600 and 11,200 ft of elevation on mountain slopes with dolomitic coils and can be reached using the White Mountain Road.  This harsh alkaline soil gives the Bristlecone a competitive advantage because over plants and tree are unable to grow.  The trees grow very slowly due cold temperatures, arid soil, wind and short growing seasons.

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