Flora / Fauna, Joshua Tree National Park
Mohave Yucca (Yucca schidigera) is also called Adam's Needle, Bear Grass, Dagger Plant, Our-Lord's-Candle, Soapweed, Spanish Bayonet and sometimes mistaken with Joshua Tree,
It grows naturally only in Mojave and Sonoran deserts of southeastern California, Baja California, southern Nevada and western Arizona.
The flowering heads of the desert dandelion are large and showy, pale to bright yellow
The large white flower is Sacred Datura, Datura wrightii (Solanaceae family), the only one I saw in bloom. Its enormous white trumpet flowers have a sweet smell. It blooms at night starting early evening and fading before next noon. It is pollinated by nocturnal visitors, usually sphinx or hawk moths It is found in western Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, southern California, Mexico, and the West Indies and grows within an elevation range between sea level and 6,500 feet. The name Datura, its generic name, is from the Hindu Dhatura (dhat = the eternal essence [of God])..
The tea from Datura is extremely hallucinogenic. The hallucinogenic effects are reported to be stronger than Peyote, Psyillicibin, or LSD. However, Datura is also very toxic and can be deadly. It is apparently Scopolamine that produces the hallucinogenic effects, but the Sacred Datura contains also high concentrations of highly toxic Atropine, Hyoscyamine.
When Datura is used in a Native American ritual, it is always under the guidance of an individual of certain tribal spiritual resolve such as a Medicine person or tribal elder. These experts on the use of the plant know what other plants to add in order to neutralize the harmful effects. They also know how much to administer and when and where to pick the plants, such as age, season, time of year, whether under a full moon or no moon at all. Chemical constituents and levels vary greatly from plant to plant, time of year, and from one area to another just generally, but especially so if the plants are obtained through ritual or from a spot known for having special powers, or sacred grounds. The plants are very toxic, poisonous and lethal, especially if consumed in quantities not monitored by someone versed in their safe administration.
Favorite thing: The leaves of the Mohave Yucca are highly fibrous. Native Indians made cordage (yarn) from yucca and agave, the Indians cut the leaves with a thin, saw-like stone blade. Then, using a heavy rock scraper, they stripped the flesh from the leaves, baring the fiber. Masses of fiber were twisted on a spindle whorl or rolled between hand and thigh to create long strings. Cordage was woven into fabric on looms or braided by hand and sewn.
Favorite thing: Teddy Bear cactus (Opuntia Bigelovii, now named (Cylindropuntia Bigelovii) is also called Jumping Cholla. You will very fast understand why the name of Jumping Cholla . As soon as you look at it, there is one that catches you ! No wonder that it is not a popular indoor plant ! Actually, the Jumping Cholla does not jump but it has so many long and soft (soft and prickling all together !) spines that though you feel you are enough away, YOU catch it. If you take care, you will be able to admire it's beautiful yellow flowers.
Favorite thing: While driving on the main road, you might notice that the banks of the highway are sometimes covered by thousands of yellow flowers. They are Desert dandelion or Malacothrix glabrata. Desert dandelion is a few-branched, glabrous annual growing to about 16" tall.
Favorite thing: Although no well-controlled human studies have been conducted to verify them, a few animal studies and case reports suggest a limited role for oral yucca in treating both cardiovascular and high cholesterol levels. Yucca contains resveratrol, a proven antioxidant. In addition, it contains a high percentage of saponins that might prevent cholesterol absorption and promote its elimination.
Favorite thing: Buckhorn Cholla, Opuntia acanthocarpa is now named Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa This light green cholla, also called silver cholla, is widespread in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. It grows naturally in dry, rocky desert slopes at elevations between 500 and 4,000 feet. The spine sheaths are inconspicuous and light colored. It can grow to a height of 3-10 feet.
Favorite thing: The Desert Mallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua is a two foot perennial with many one inch orange flowers on a two to three foot spike with gray almost fuzzy foliage. Desert Hollyhock is another name for the flower spikes that can occur most of the year in Joshua Tree. Desert Mallow needs sun and good air flow. It grows throughout the deserts from Baja Calif. to Utah.
Favorite thing: Mohave Yucca is an evergreen shrub or small tree which has a few upright branches and bayonet-like leaves (hence its names of Dagger Plant or of Spanish Bayonet) from 2 to 4 feet long and 1-1/2 inches wide. The leaves have markedly filamentous edges
Favorite thing: The purplish-red, tubular flowers of the Silver torch cactus are borne along the length of the body in the spring. The Silver torch cactus is one of the cactus that are popular and often grown for its flowers. There are several cultivation varieties.
Favorite thing: Desert dandelion grows in coarse desert soils, dry sandy plains, washes and among shrubs in creosote bush scrub, Joshua tree woodland and shadscale scrub to 6000', and occasionally in some of the inner cismontane valleys from San Diego County to Santa Barbara County. It blooms from March to June and when rainfall has been sufficient sometimes covers the desert with yellow.
Favorite thing: The Evening primrose or Fragrant Evening Primrose, Oenothera caespitosa produces blooms for a few weeks. The fragrant white flowers, 3 inches in diameter (7.5 cm), open in the evening and last only until the following morning, from mid spring to late summer.
Favorite thing: This distinctive cholla has a vertical trunk 3 to 5 feet (1-1.5 m) tall with densely-packed horizontal side branches on the upper foot (30 cm) or so. Older, lower side branches die and fall off. The joints are very densely spined, very little of the living surface can be seen through its armor. The spines are especially sharp and strongly-barbed. Young spines are yellow and become black with age.
Favorite thing: Beavertail cactus Opuntia basilaris is a very common cactus in Joshua Tree National Park. It grows naturally in dry, rocky desert slopes in the Mohave and Sonoran deserts of southeastern California, southwestern Utah and western Arizona. It is also well known as an indoor plant all over the world. Everybody that have once grown indoor plant has grown a Beavertail cactus, which means that it is easy to grow and requires little care. However, at home, Beavertail cactus seldom gives flowers. Only the wise indoor gardeners get them. They are splendid bright red flowers 2 to 3 inches wide with many petals and in the wild, in Joshua Tree National Park, in April, all plants were blooming (it blooms from March to June).
Favorite thing: Bladderpod, Isomeris arborea is an evergreen shrub, 3-4" height. This perennial plant, native to the Baja and Mohave regions of California, grows from coastal regions up to the elevation of 4000 feet. The plant produces abundant yellow flowers year round, regardless of water. The fruit forms into attractive long capsules, hence the name "Bladderpod". The plant is best left untouched because the scent is generally found unpleasant. It is also the favorite habitat of the Harlequin beetle.