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.

Mustang

A lone mustang is the symbol of wild, power and freedom
A lone mustang is the symbol of wild, power and freedom

Left behind by Spanish explorers and settlers, the Mustang of the desert south west is alive and well in Nevada and a symbol of the southwest. Due to the fact that this animal population is descendant from a domesticated population the Mustang is actually a feral horse. The imagery of a wild mustang galloping across the desert as burnt into the memories of kids who watched “Western” movies or appreciate classic cars. The wild mustang brings one to think of power and freedom.

A mustang taking in some shade next to a pool of water.
A mustang taking in some shade next to a pool of water.

There is much debate when it comes to the wild Mustangs of Nevada. Some will debate weather you consider them an invasive species and a natural species. However, you consider them, they are thriving and a part of the landscape at this point. Should you happen upon them, you can not help but feel lucky.

The wild horse populations are separated by long distances, so each isolated herd has developed specific genetic traits. Some consider the horse populations a nuisance which destroy the terrain with their appetite. Their hooves can be quite destructive to the landscape and ranch land. Although considered “culturally significant”, the horse populations are closely monitored by the Bureau of Land Management to ensure healthy herd populations.

Two will fed mustangs near Cold Creek, Nevada
Two will fed mustangs near Cold Creek, Nevada

Population increases of about 20% per year have prompted the BLM to capture some of the horses. The captured horses are not euthanized, and instead are available for adoption for the cost of $125. Horses which are not adopted are held in “long term holding”, which costs the US Tax Payer about $50,000 over the lifetime of each individual horse.

On a trip to see the mustangs near Cold Creek, Nevada, we ran across the local herd lazily walking along the side of the road. We slowed the jeep down, and which point the horses started to walk up to the car looking for some food (which we did not provide). Not exactly the in line with the western movies of my youth.

BLM Mustang Range Map
BLM Mustang Range Map

For more information on Mustang Adoption visit the BLM Website.

Silvery Lupine (Lupinus argenteus)

Silvery Lupine (Lupinus argenteus)
Silvery Lupine (Lupinus argenteus)

Silvery Lupine (Lupinus argenteus) is a fairly common vibrant purple wild flower and is common in much of Western North America including Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. Deriving its name from the fine silvery hair found on its stalks, which are reddish in color.

Lupine is a stalked plant which grows up to four feet tall. The Lupine thrives in higher elevations and may be commonly found between 3,300 and 10,000 feet. It is quite common for the flower to be found along roadways, stream valleys, rocky prairies and in open pine woods.

The Lupine typically blooms in June to October, however like many wild flowers, this period will vary dependent upon water and location. The violet colored flowers are typically arranged around a spike which may reach up to eight inches in length.

The Silvery Lupine grows quickly and in bunches and considered a member of the pea family. Although toxic to humans, this beautiful flowering plant is known to attach butterflies, birds and hummingbirds.

The Navajo people used the Silvery Lupine as a natural treatment for Poison Ivy blisters. The Lupine is commonly found in clearings in the countries of Apache, Coconino, and Mohave, and Navajo in Arizona.

Mojave Yucca (Yucca schidigera)

The Mojave Yucca is a small evergreen tree which flourishes in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts of California, Arizona and Nevada. The Yucca’s most noticeable characteristic is its large branches and bayonet like leaves. The rigid leaves are typically dark green in color and can reach up to 4 feet in length. I can also personally attest that they are sharp at the pointy end.

Mojave Yucca guarding the Ring Trail, Mojave National Preserve.
Mojave Yucca guarding the Ring Trail, Mojave National Preserve.

The Mojave Yucca can reach a height of 16 feet and that mass is supported by a trunk which is up to 12 inches in diameter. The Yucca is typically found on rocky slopes and below 4,000 feet in elevation. The plant blooms are very similar the Joshua Tree and it will send up a cluster of white bell shaped flowers from the top of the stem. This cluster is short lived, but can reach and additional 120 cm in length.

Also like the Joshua Tree, the Mojave Yucca depends upon the white pronuba moth for pollination. This moth will deposit its eggs in the ovary of the Yucca Flower and there by cross pollinate the tree. The moth lavae hatch and consume some the the seeds in a wonderful example of natures balance.

The Mojave Yucca also provided utilitarian purpose for the Native Americans. They utilized the leaves as a source of cordage, which could be woven into blankets, rope, hats and mattresses. The roots of the Yucca contains high levels of saponin, and could be made into a pulp and used as soap The flowers and fruit were a food source and could be eaten both raw and roaster. The black seeds could be ground into flour.

The yucca, with its sharp pointed leaves offer wonderful defensive habitat for snakes, lizards, rabbits, birds and other desert animals.

Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus)

The Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus) is a commonly seen resident of the desert southwest and its range includes California, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico. The Barrel cactus gets its name from its short stocky appearance which is said to resemble a barrel. Despite its name, this succulent can grow over 6 feet tall and thrives in gravelly, rocky and / or sandy soils and are typically seen below 5000 feet in elevation.

A Barrel Cactus on a rock out-cropping in the Mojave National Preserve.
A Barrel Cactus on a rock out-cropping in the Mojave National Preserve.

The Barrel Cactus is covered in spines which when new, are straight and red in appearance, and will turn gray in color and curve as they age. This species blooms yellow or red flowers on the top of the plant, which typically happens in the spring. Like its name sake, this desert nomad will swell with fluid during the monsoons to survive the long dry periods of the desert heat.

Some Native Americans utilized this plant as a cooking vessel. It is said that they would remove the top of the plant and remove the pulp from the interior. Hot stones were place inside along with the food. Additionally, the long heavy spins were utilized as needles.

There are fifteen different species of this cactus.