Sunday, February 19, 2012

Salt flats

In the Mojave desert, there were once large lakes that filled the valleys. When the lakes drained and dried up, they left large deposits of salt. Many of these salt flats are almost completely devoid of life, as the salinity is so high that they are instantly lethal to plant seedlings that attempt to take hold.

In some areas, where there are seeps or where a canyon creek system drains onto the flats, they can support some halophytic plants like Salicornia, Atriplex or salt grasses.

Despite the desolation of the salt flats, they have a surreal beauty to them. The crystals that form on the surface of the ground can be especially pretty. Sometimes, you can find unusuall sculpturing of the salt, such as these glassy sphere like structures.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Salicornia sp.


Able to survive in the saltpan at the edge of seasonal desert lakes and springs, Salicornia is extremely halophytic (salt tolerant), to the point that it is one of the only plants able to survive in an area. They make extensive use of the C4 metabolic pathway.

The patches depicted here are from Panamint valley, which is on the southern end of the Death Valley junction.