Monday, April 19, 2010

Salvia carduacea

Thistle sage - Salvia carduacea

Found in the lowlands of the Mojave, this member of the mint family eared its common name through its superficial resemblance to true thistles, members of the sunflower family. The flowers of this plant are typically mint, and are quite showy. This annual species can grow up to a meter tall in the right conditions, but those I've encountered are typically only half that size at most.

One of the most striking aspects of the blossoms are the feathered appearance of the lower lip, and the orange color of the anthers.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Salazaria mexicana

Paper bag bush - Salazaria mexicana

Of the Mojave's mints, one of the most visually unique is the Salazaria mexicana, commonly known as paper-bag bush. Twiggy, grey-green and somewhat thorny, this plant is easily recognized out in the field. Its most defining character, and in fact its namesake, is the small paper-bags that form from the plant's sepals during and after flowering. While the plant is in flower, the bags are warm pink, and subtend the flowers, while after flowering is complete, they dry and form a tough, papery "capsule" around the developing nutlets. When the bags eventually fall off, they are blown along the ground by the wind, dispersing them and the seeds.

These plants are typically found in exposed areas and drainages, typically where the plant's sepal-bags can catch and germinate. The plants themselves can become a medium to large bush.