Monday, May 16, 2011

Prunus andersonii

Desert peach

A relative of our stone fruits, Prunus andersonii is a small to large shrub found in the canyons of the Sierras. Thorny and tenacious, this species is quite spectacular when in bloom, bursting with pink "cherry-blossom" type flowers. After the blooms have been pollenated, the plant will produce small, fuzzy, reddish fruits, which will be fleshy in wet years, and dry in dry years. These are a food source for rodents, who eat both the fruit and seeds.

These plants also reproduce asexually, spreading by rhizomes to form large clone patches. Like many desert perennials, these plants are armed. In this case, the plant has true thorns (sharp, hardened branch tips), which create a formidable barrier against both herbivores and botanists.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Crotalus cerastes

Desert Sidewinder

One of three rattlesnake species found in the Mojave region, Crotalus cerastes is potentially the least dangerous. A small rattler, this snake is known best for its characteristic sidewinding locomotion when crossing areas of loose sand or silt. Though less aggressive and venomous than Crotalus scutulatus, the Mojave green rattlesnake, C. cerastes is still a venomous snake, and can inflict a painful, and potentially lethal, bite. As with all venomous snakes, keeping one's distance and letting the snake have its space is the best way to interact with them.

Aside from the snake's distinctive locomotion, one of the most iconic features of this species are its supraocular scales, giving the snake the appearance of having horns just above its eyes. These are handsome snakes, and if given their space, are a pleasant treat to see when in the field.