Silver Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa)

Silver Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa) is a common species of cactus which is native to the southwestern United States including Nevada, Arizona and California. The Silver cholla is a larger cactus which is known to grow in excess of 6 feet tall.

Silver Cholla waiting for an incoming storm.
Silver Cholla waiting for an incoming storm.

This species can be found rather easily and quite common in the Mojave Desert, Sonoran Desert and the the Colorado Desert. It is typically found in dry desert washes, Joshua Tree wood lands (as photographed above ) or pinyon-juniper woodland environments.

The body of the cactus is segmented by joints which are typically four to eight inches in length. The joints and body of the cactus are densely covered with spines about 1 inch long with are covered in a papery sheath. The spines are typically yellow in color, which contrast nicely against the green skin of the cactus body. This spiny armor not only protects the cactus, but is also forties the nests of the Cactus Wren and other animals who may seek shelter within this plant.

This cholla typically blooms in spring depending upon conditions. The flowers are green in color however some variants may contain yellow, pink or brown. The lumpy, tan-colored fruit hosts the seeds for germination and is known to have a foul scent.

Fremont’s Phacelia (Phacelia fremontii)

Fremont’s Phacelia (Phacelia fremontii) is a small delicate looking flowering plant commonly commonly found in the southwestern United States including Nevada, Arizona and California. The flower is named for John C. Fremont who was the 5th Governor of the Arizona Territory as well as a soldier, explorer and first Republican Candidate for President of the United States.

Fremont's Phacelia (Phacelia fremontii) photographed in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Fremont’s Phacelia (Phacelia fremontii) photographed in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

The Phacelia is a small annual plant which only grows to a height of 12 inches. The small flowers are funnel or bell shape and typically blue or lavender with a yellow throat and between 7 and 15 mm in size. The throat is typically crossed with purple veins to offer a wonderful contrast against the yellow throat. The deeply lobbed leaves are oblong in shape.

Fremont’s Phacelia is known to grow in the Mojave Desert, Sierra Nevada and the above photograph was taken in Valley of Fire State Park near the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The little plant commonly grows in gravelly or sandy soils and flowers between March and June each spring and may be found at elevations up to 8000 feet.

Fremonts Phacelia is named for John C. Frémont - 5th Governor of the Arizona Territory
John C. Frémont – 5th Governor of the Arizona Territory

Southern Cattail (Typha domingensis)

Commonly found in the southern half of the United Stats, the Southern Cattail ( Typha domingensis ) is a a wetland plant which may be found in California, Nevada and Arizona. The Southern Cattail will flower in late spring and summer and produces a densely packed seed spike which may grow up to 13 inches long. The Pistillate spike is the identifying feature on this wetland plant.

Southern Cattail (Typha domingensis)
Southern Cattail (Typha domingensis)

This rhizomatous plant is centered around a simple, erect stem which may grow between 5 and 13 feet tall. Each stem may grow between 6 and 9 long and linear leaves. As with many marsh plants, the cattail has an internal tissue adaptation which allows the direct transfer of air between the leaves and roots, which is similar to a vegetative snorkel. The hot dog shaped brown flower is indicative of a female plant, while the male is characterized by a yellowish tapered cone arrangement.

The cattail is typically found between sea level and 6000 feet in elevation. Native American tries were known to use the plant as thatch, and the young shoots could be utilized as a food source. The seed fluff could also be mixed with tallow and chewed as a gum.

Southern Cattail along a water crossing on the old Mojave road.
Southern Cattail along a water crossing on the old Mojave road.

Recent studies suggest that the Typha is very effective at cleaning the water of bacterial contamination. This includes up to 90% reduction of enterobacteria which is common flora inside of mammalia intestines.

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata)

The Giant Red Indian Paintbrush or Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) is a wildflower and perennial which is quite common in the western United States, including California, Nevada and Utah. The genus Castilleja contains about 200 species of hemiparasitic wildlowers.

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata)
Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata)

The plant is known to grow between 1.5 and 3 feet tall and their stems may be unbranded of semi-branched. The flower cluster of the plant is said to resemble a paintbrush which gives the plant its common name. The bracts beneath the flower are known to be brightly colored and may be a bright orange, pink or a crimson red. Typically the paint brush will bloom May through Sepetember, however this event is subject to environmental conditions such as altitude and water availability.

The paint brush generally prefers sunlight and moist well drained soils. The root system will connect with and grow into the root system of other planets to harvest nutrients from the host plant. For this reason, they are no able to be transplanted easily.

Native American tribes are known to consume the edible flowers of the paintbrush. The selenium rich flowers were also used as a hair wash by the Ojibwe people. The Owls Clover is a member of the same genus as the Indian Paintbrush.

Wikipedia article of Castilleja.

Chicalote (Argemone munita)

Chicalote (Argemone munita)
Chicalote (Argemone munita)

A species of prickly poppy, Chicalote (Argemone munita) is also known as the flatbud prickly poppy. A native of California, the Chicalote is also found in Nevada and Arizona. This hearty wildflower dereives its name from the Latin work “Minuta” which means armed, in reference the the small sharr spines commonly found on its lobed leaves.

The flower consists of sixe crinkly looking white petals and feature many bright yellow stamen. The delicate looking flowers can reach and overall diameters of up to fie inches. Overall, the plant commonly reaches about three feet in height.

The leaves of Argemone munita are mint green in color, dry in appearance and quite lobed. Each leaf is armed and features a small short spike for protection.

Chicalote (Argemone munita) on the roadside into Bodie, CA
Chicalote (Argemone munita) on the roadside into Bodie, CA

The Chicalote poppy commonly grows in dry rocky areas and found at elevations up to 10,000 feet. The flower typically grows in chaparral, or northern slopes of Transverse ranges and desert mountains. The plant typically puts its flower in bloom in June through August.

It is quite common to find this little gem of a flower in San Diego, the areas surrounding Los Angeles up the High Sierra and into Mono County.