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.

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.

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 (Phacelia fremontii)
Fremont’s Phacelia (Phacelia fremontii)

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

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.