Davy Gilia (Gilia latiflora)

A Davey Gilia stalk poking up between the California Poppies in the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.
A Davey Gilia stalk poking up between the California Poppies in the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.

Davy Gilia (Gilia latiflora) also known as Hollyleaf gilia or broad-flowered gilia is a flowering plant commonly found in the open flats or sandy areas and can carpet the western Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree woodlands and endemic throughout California.  This wild flower grows at 2500 to 4000 feet in elevation and grows to reach about 18 inches in height.

The plant features a tiny, small, five leafed flower about one inch in diameter. The flower is is purple in color and features a white throat to offer a beautiful display. The purple flowers are known to bloom between March and May.

Typically a Southern California Flower, the Davy Gilia has been observed in southern Nevada in the areas surrounding Rhyolite and Beatty, Nevada.

This Davy Gilia was photographed in the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve and the small purple flower was a highlight in the lush canvas of deep golden colored, California Poppies. It was common for a taller gilia flower to explode above the shorter California Poppies.

The California Poppy was the reason from my trip, however the gilia was the purple accent which made my trip.

Beavertail Prickly Pear (opuntia basilaris)

The Beavertail Prickly Pear cactus (opuntia basilaris) is very common in the desert south west, and would go most of the year most of the year without a second glance.  However this species of cactus exemplifies the best of what the desert has to offer in one symbol.

Beavertail Prickly Pear. Photograph by James L Rathbun
Beavertail Prickly Pear. Photograph by James L Rathbun

The Beavertail Prickly Pear grows in clumps, low to the ground and grows horizontally rather than vertically like the iconic saguaro.  The dull greenish grey leaves grows feature a complete lack of spines and a shaped which gives the plant it’s name.  The pads of this cactus lake the spines traditionally associated with cactus, but rather the pads are covered with minuscule, gray-blue bristles which feature barbed tips which easily puncture human skin.

Each spring the cactus puts on a display of wild flowers which is amazing to behold in the arid desert environments.  Typically starting the March, each cactus pad my put out several shoots which Colosseum in a burst of colors, most commonly a vibrant pink but also known to be yellow, white or rose colored.

Beavertail Cactus found off the Mormon Wells Road, Las Vegas, Nevada
Beavertail Cactus found off the Mormon Well Road, Las Vegas, Nevada

The cactus typically grows in  rocky , sandy plains, valleys, washes & canyons  all over Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Northern Mexico.

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 Marigolds (Baileya multiradiata)

Desert Marigolds located off the Old Mojave Road.
Desert Marigolds photographed near the Old Mojave Road.

Desert Marigolds (Baileya multiradiata) are an abundant and well distributed flower across the desert south west. The name Marigolds are derived from the name “Mary’s Gold” which is to honor Mary, the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.

As with all members of the Asteraceae family, the Desert Marigold is characterize with individual florets which are arranged so that each flower groups appears to be a single flower. The bright yellow flowers of this annual growing plant will first appear in bloom in early March. The planet may bloom several more times upon subsequent rains brought in my the desert monsoons and thunderstorms.

It is not uncommon to view the Desert Marigold display until November depending upon the conditions.  A wildly distributed flower, the Desert marigold can be found growing in sandy or gravelly soils. It is quote common to fine them along roadsides, washes, and plains. The elevations they may be found at range from 100 to 6500 feet above sea level and may be found from California, Arizona and Nevada to Texas.

The Desert Marigold can typically survive about two years and it can be poisonous to livestock.

This yellow wild flower is also known as:

  • Desert Marigold
  • Showy Desert Marigold
  • Paper Daisy
  • Desert Baileya

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.