Friday, March 2, 2012

First Spring in the Sonoran Desert

Notice I said "first", that is because this is only the first wave of Spring flowers, more are on their way.

I went wandering in the desert not following any human path, but rather the path of wildlife and my own inner urgings.

Here is a view near the beginning of my wanderings.

Below is the first open Lupine flower I saw (Coulter's Lupine - Lupinus sparsiflorus). Now, a few weeks later, there are fields of Lupine, but this first view of an open flower is my favorite. Lupine is a poisonous plant, especially the seeds...I like knowing this kind of information. While I walked I snacked on wild greens...not including Lupine.

The next flower is a new one for me. I have seen the plants but never the flowers. I smelled them long before I saw any flowers. They smell sweet with a hint of a vanilla fragrance. Rose Bladderpod (Lesquirella purpurea) is a beautiful perennial flower, and now my favorite white wildflower. This plant is one of the many flowering mustards, and was so beautiful I couldn't get myself to taste the leaves, which I normally do when seeing mustard plants. I love the spicy taste of mustard leaves, but I only ate the more common mustards during my walk.
I let the mustard plants grow in my garden and eat lots of them, they taste delicious in soup or on a salad. Most people call them weeds and pull them up. I eat them instead, leaving the flowers to turn into seeds for next year's crop.

I love Penstemon flowers and always have a special place in my heart full of memories for Penstemons. This specific Penstemon is special because I rarely see them out in the desert. Usually I see Parry's Penstemon with pink flowers, but this time I found one small area full of Penstemon subulatus. A common name for this flower is Arizona Scarlet-bugler or Hackberry Beardtongue, but I call it by it's botanical name, as I do for all the Penstemons. This one is a hummingbird favorite and I have one growing in my garden but it isn't as beautiful as this. The background thorny Ocotillo makes this a perfect place to live for a Penstemon.

Desert Ferns are fascinating to me. I love finding them and hope someday to photograph all of them. Here is Spiny Cliff Brake (Pellaea truncata). Ferns are wonderful for cleaning polluted soil and air, this is why they make great houseplants. I wonder if I could grow a desert fern in my house...a wonderful idea that I thought of while typing this. Ferns absorb arsenic from the soil and are useful in healing toxic soil. Young fern fronds, called Fiddleheads (I love that name!) are edible, too. I suppose that one must be careful not to eat ferns that grow in toxic soil since they absorb heavy metals. I don't know if this specific fern is edible though. I think ferns are great for nutrition but should be eaten in small quantities due to their high mineral content. I'm hungry now...steamed Fiddleheads, mmmm, but not this one, must look for proper curled Fiddleheads.

The giants of the desert (Saguaro Cactus) always look great in a photograph...I like looking up at them best for photographs.

Another beautiful mustard flower that I saw in flower for the first time. I love the delicate little flower stem with white flowers that turn to purple as they fade. I didn't taste this mustard either, not common enough for tasting. Below is Stiffarm Rock Cress (Arabis perennans). I am hoping to go back and collect a few seeds to spread in my garden. Mustard seeds are tiny and most mustards make lots of seeds. I may at least go back and help the seeds find good places to grow, even if I don't bring any back to my garden.

When I arrived at the top of a hill, I looked back to the place where I live. My house is just out of view of this photo. It takes my breath away. I feel lucky to live here.

The clouds thickened as I walked, and all the Mexican Gold Poppies closed. I took a photo of one and found it inspirational.

Single gold Poppy
closing because of the clouds
Where is the sunshine?
The desert is covered with a green carpet right now, and the cactus spines shine like a cactus-aura when the sun is low in the sky. Almost everything has thorns of course.

I can't resist the Fairy Duster flowers, it is like a pure desert smile.

I enjoyed seeing these two Saguaro locked so closely in an embrace that they appear as one cactus. A reminder to embrace the beauty that we see around us, whatever that may be. These giant cactus are one of the best teachers here in the Sonoran Desert.

I saw a strange Barrel Cactus, with five tops, like a five headed monster. This means five times the cactus fruit, a feast for the birds. I saw signs of a cactus fruit feast all around this cactus. This one area is like an entire world. I felt myself fill with love for this place when I stood beside this thorny desert being.

Everywhere I go, I carry the desert with me...not just this perfect (to me) desert called the Sonoran Desert, but also my childhood desert, the Red Sandstone deserts in the north. Today, my head is full of flowers and thorns, it is a perfect combination.

Flowers and thorns, life is best when I have them both.


Robert Bourne said...

I am green with envy as I stare out the window over the frozen wasteland... :)

Desert Dreamer said...

I hope the spring flowers open up in your part of the world soon. Thank you for stopping by.