Blooms in the Desert

Desert Globemallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua

Desert Globemallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua, in front of my garden box

The Desert Globemallow is my favorite desert flower. Its appearance marks the point at which the cool weather retreats and the heat returns. The landscape butting up against the roads is aflame in an orange flush as the perennial plants have burst into bloom over night it seems. When I see them, and other flowering plants at this time of year, I am always brought back to my all-time favorite quote by Edward Abbey:

“The wind will not stop. Gusts of sand swirl before me, stinging my face. But there is still too much to see and marvel at, the world very much alive in the bright light and wind, exultant with the fever of spring, the delight of morning. Strolling on, it seems to me that the strangeness and wonder of existence are emphasized here, in the desert, by the comparative sparsity of the flora and fauna: life not crowded upon life as in other places, but scattered abroad in sparseness and simplicity, with a generous gift of space for each herb and bush and tree, each stem of grass, so that the living organism stands out bold and brave and vivid against the lifeless sand and barren rock. The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life-forms. Love flowers best in openness and freedom.”

Perhaps we could learn something about how to inhabit the desert from the way that Mother Nature has already arranged it.

Palmer's Penstemon or Beardtongue, Penstemon palmeri

Palmer’s Penstemon or Beardtongue, Penstemon palmeri

What Palmer’s Penstemon lacks in scent it more than makes up for in beauty. It is a strange mix between an orchid and a hollyhock. Some compare it to a snapdragon, but it is so much more refined and elegant than the common snapdragon. Their sweet grace adds a rare feminine touch to the rugged and rough desert, offering a cool reprieve for the eyes when scanning the hot landscape.

Cliff Rose, Cowania mexicana

Cliff Rose, Cowania mexicana

Desert Cliff Rose is the ugly duckling of the desert and is another one of my favorites. It is like the desert version of the lilac. It is a gnarled, twisted, and barely noticed shrub most of the year. But in the spring, when it blooms, it produces the sweetest, most astounding scent you have ever smelled. I describe it like this: it smells the way that banana cream pie tastes. If that makes any sense. In my mind, it represents the stages of age – youth, maidenhood, and the wise old sage all wrapped into one. Like Persephone who escapes the underworld half of the year, the blooms of this plant are fleeting, but you cannot miss them if you catch their scent. It is shocking to experience when you look at the shrub that holds them. The desert holds so many paradoxical mysteries.

Beauty is

Mojave Mound Cactus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus


Posted on April 21, 2014, in Film, Art & Photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi… Now I know what the flowers are called THANK YOU! What a beautiful quote about the desert.
    I just did a post about Spring in the Desert. I Would love for you to come over and take a look.

    • You’re welcome! Isn’t it nice to find out what something is that has been eluding you? I will definitely check out your site. 🙂

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