Zebra Tailed Lizard ( Callisaurus draconoides )

The Zebra-Tailed Lizard is a medium sized lizard which features a long black and white striped tail and commonly found in California, Arizona and Nevada. Additional coloring includes two rows of brown / bray spots down the middle of the back, and is often marked with cream colored spots. The males boast belly bars which range in color from blue to yellow and orange. The females belly bars are often much more muted or lacking completely.

A male Zebra-Tailed Lizard ( Callisaurus draconoides )
A male Zebra-Tailed Lizard ( Callisaurus draconoides )

This animal is commonly between 4 and 6 inches in length from snout to vent and its regenerative tail may double to overall length of this animal. The female lays a clutch of up to 15 eggs, however the more common number is between 2 and 8 eggs. A healthy population will host between 4 and 6 lizards per acre, however the number seems much higher when they are darting around you in the Mojave, Great Basin or Sonaran deserts

The Zebra tails are frequently found at elevations up to 5,000 feet. The are usually found in areas which have sandy soils and open spaces in which they can run. An ambush predator, the lizard will often lie in way for its dinner to walk by and is known to feed on bees, wasps, beetles, caterpillars, ants and grasshoppers. Additionally it is known to consume other small lizards and spiders.

Very tolerant of the high heat of the desert in which it lives, the feisty lizard is known to be active during the high temperatures of the summer sun when most animals seek shade and go underground. These lizards are know to alternately stand on opposing feet and alternate between then two stances as a means of protection from the harsh landscapes in which it lives. During the cooler nights, the lizard may burrow down into fine sane, however is also known to sleep on the surface on warm nights.

When spotted by a predator, the reptile will curl its boldly stripped tail over its head which may serve notice to the predator that it was spotted. When needed a quick burst of speed will serve as the best prevention to being a meal to larger animals.

A Zebra Tailed lizard photographed ny my lovely wife in the Ivanpah Mountains of California.
A Zebra Tailed lizard photographed ny my lovely wife in the Ivanpah Mountains of California.

Black Tailed Jackrabbit ( Lepus californicus )

Black Tailed Jackrabbit enjoying the shade of a Joshua Tree
Black Tailed Jackrabbit enjoying the shade of a Joshua Tree.

The Black Tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) commonly known as the American Desert Hare makes its home in the western half of the United States including California, Nevada, Arizona and parts of Mexico. One of the largest species of hare, the animal boasts large distinctive ears, powerful rear legs, black tips on its ears and a black tail for which the animal gets its name.

This species of hare commonly reaches sizes of 18 to 24 inches long and may weigh between 4 and 8 pounds. Typically, the females are slightly larger compared to the males. The animal will mate ear round depending upon environment and the young are born with a full compliment of fir and open eyes, which classifies it as a true hare and not a rabbit, despite its common name. The female does not build elaborate nests for birth. A new born hare is and well camouflaged and quite mobile within minutes of birth. The juveniles will stay near the mother for nursing, but are not protected by the mother.

Commonly found in desert scrub, prairies and meadows at elevations up to 10,000 feet, the Black Tailed Jackrabbit is quite adaptive to various environments. Camouflage is their only defense, and they will freeze when a threat is near. Their diet consists of a variety of green vegetation and grasses, however they are known to consume dried or woody plants in the harsh winter months. The hare does not hibernate during the winter months.

The Black Tailed Jackrabbit is a valuable member of the ecosystem. It serves as a prey item of other carnivorous animals including coyotes, foxes, eagles, hawks, owls and various Native American tribes.

Mojave-aster ( Xylorhiza tortifolia )

Mojave-aster ( Xylorhiza tortifolia )
Mojave-aster ( Xylorhiza tortifolia )

A member of the sunflower family, the Mojave-aster ( Xylorhiza tortifolia ) boasts a delicate lavender flower in the harsh desert environment. Also known as the Mojave Woodyaster, the plant commonly reaches about 30 inches in height. The green-grey colored stems hold a solitary flower which is about two inches in diameter. The plant gathers sun with three inch long silver-green leaves and an individual plant may offer dozens to purple hued flowers.

A solitary Mojave Aster next to a wind blown Globe Mallow bush.
A solitary Mojave Aster next to a wind blown Globemallow bush.

The Mojave Aster typically blooms between March and May, and again in October when the monsoon season allows. It in commonly found between 2000 and 3500 feet in elevation, however in California it is know to thrive between 700 and 6500 feet. The flowers of this plant are attractive to bees, butterflies and birds.

The aster is known to grown in the Great Basin and Sonora deserts and thrives in the Mojave. Like many other desert adapted plants, this plant thrives in sandy dry, well drained soil and common on desert slopes and washes.

The Havasupai people used this plant and its flowers as a fragrence to mask body odors and as an incense. Dried leaves where commonly carried in clothes by the tribal members.

Desert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos)

Desert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos)
Desert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos)

Desert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos), also known as the “horny toad”, is a common North American reptile and found throughout the southwest and the Mojave. A personal childhood favorite of mine, the horned lizard does have the appearance of a small dinosaur and it a master of camouflage.

This is a small to medium sized lizard, its 3 – 5 inch broad and flat body features a prominent series of fringed scales. Its head also boasts several horn which offers the lizard its name. Undoubtedly, the overall body shape is that of a toad is also a contributing factor. The coloration of the body will vary to help the lizard blend into its background.

The reptile’s diet is small insects and is commonly found at or near ant mounds where they will lie in wait for its meal to simply walk by. Generally speaking this animal is found at elevations below 6500 feet in creosote-bursage flats and Mojave Desert Scrub.

Desert Horned Lizard, a master of camouflage
Desert Horned Lizard, a master of camouflage

Defensively, the little lizard is all about appearances. Primarily, camoflauge allows it to remain hidden in plain sight. The reptile is known to hiss and puff up its chest when confronted in an effort to appear larger and more dangerous that it really is known to be. Some species of the genus are known to squirt blood from its eyes and may reach a distance of 5 feet.

Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

The Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) is a perennial herb and orange wildflower which is commonly found in Nevada, California, Utah and Arizona. This plant grows well in sandy or alkaline soil and found in creosote bush and desert chaparral habitats and typically grows between 1 – 3 feet tall and typically found at elevations up to 4000 ft.

The orange flowers of this plant grow in clusters at the end of the stem. It boasts broads leaves which are comprised on three lobes. Like other desert plants, the globemallow grows fast and fades faster, however, the flowers produce an abundance of nectar and commonly used by bees and other insects. The globe mallow is known to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The plant flowers in the spring, however with an adequate supply of rainfall, it is known to bloom almost year round.

Globemallow growing outside of Las Vegas
Globemallow growing outside of Las Vegas

Native Americans are known to have used the plant for a variety of medicinal purposes including the treatment of sore throats, eye disease and diarrhea. The roots of the plant would be used to treat upset stomachs and poultices where made for broken bones and swelling.

Other common names for this flower include apricot mallow, roughleaf apricot mallow, desert mallow, sore-eye poppy, mal de ojo, Parish mallow, desert hollyhock.