Friday, July 23, 2010

Fremontodendron californicum

California Flannelbush - Fremontodendron californicum

Found up canyons and in washes, Fremont- odendron californicum is on of the Mojave's floral treats. Blooming in summer, it's flowers are strikingly yellow, which contrasts strongly with the deep, waxy green of the foliage. The flowers are unusual, in that the showy parts are not in fact petals, but sepals. In fact, the flowers are completely without petals. After pollination, the flowers turn into large, woody capsules, which are covered in stiff hairs. These hairs give the plant its common name, and provide a painful deterrent to any animal seeking to attack the seeds.

Flannel bush is a fire following species, pioneering areas that have been recently burned. Thus, it is a popular plant for reclamation in areas where it is naturally range, which consists of the majority of California. After fires, these plants will establish quickly, holding together the soil and protecting it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Opuntia pulchella

Sand cactus - Opuntia pulchella

Not all cactus are large, perennially apparent plants. In the case of Opuntia pulchella, the above ground portion of the plant is deciduous, and shed each year. In the fall, the plant will die back to a large underground rhizome, going dormant. In the spring, the stems will re-sprout, and produce a short, highly spiny hedge of stems. In late spring, early summer, the cactus will put on its flowers, which are an intense pink-purple.

O. pulchella has an unusual status in the California state BLM. Though unusual, and protected in multiple states, it is only considered a species of interest. This means, that while it is uncommon, it is not rare enough to warrant legal protection. There are many plants that fall into this category across the country, and while they are unusual, and rare in some cases, they are not under threat of becoming endangered or rare. Were that to happen, then the plant's status could change.