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.

Spreading Phlox ( Phlox diffusa )

Spreading Phlox ( Phlox diffusa ) is a perennial shrub with small needle like leaves.  This is a small white flowering plant prefers alpine, sub-alpine environments and rocky or sandy soil.  This is a low growing plant which is commonly only two to eight inches tall which probably offers survival advantages when confronted with the harsh landscapes of sub-alpine and alpine environments, in which it thrives.

Photographed in the White Moundtains, Phlox diffusa is a small white flowering plant which prefers alpine and sub-alpine environments.
Photographed in the White Moundtains in California Phlox diffusa is a small white flowering plant which prefers alpine and sub-alpine environments. Photograph by James L Rathbun

Spreading Phlox is commonly found and adapted high in the mountains and distributed throughout in the western United States and Canada. This plant employs a tap route, which is ideally suited to capture water deeper under ground and also offers an anchor to help the plant cling to the mountain in high wind conditions. The plant is short, and when in full bloom, the flowers may completely obscure the green needle like leaves from view.

The five petaled flowers range in color from a clean, magnificent white to calming understated lavender or pink color.  

The blooms are typically visible from May to August and a welcome sight to those who hike at elevation.

Desert Primrose (Oenothera deltoides)

Desert Primrose photographed in Anza Burego, CA
Desert Primrose photographed in Anza Burego, CA

The Desert Primrose ( Oenothera deltoides ) is a small bush-like flowering planet with delicate white flowers.  The primrose ranges from 2″ to 18″ high and frequents the sand dunes of the Mojave, Anza Burego and Sonoran Deserts as well as the Great Basin. This white flowered is common in most of the south western states of the United States.

The plants themselves may cluster and spread up to about 40 inches wide when healthy. They will grow profusely in abundant spring rains offer the water they need to sustain growth. The long tongue of the white-lined sphynx moth is known to pollinate this flower.

The pretty white flower blooms from January through May. During which the 2 – 3″ delicate bloom opens in the evening and closes mid morning.  The small oval shaped branches are pale green in color grow to about 4 inches in length.

The Primrose is also known by the following common names:

  • Basket Evening Primrose
  • Birdcage Evening Primrose
  • Devil’s Lantern
  • Lion-in-a-Cage

The delicate flower above was photographed with the light of the setting sun and the back country of Anza Burrego, CA. The year, the desert flower was inundated with these plants and a white covered the sands of the desert floor.