|mesquite, probably Prosopis glandulosa, honey mesquite|
|desert scene, Baja California|
On the islands of the southern half of the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), a surprizing number of perennial plants were flowering in mid-April.
Most noticeable was the cardón cactus (Pachycereus pringlei). This relative of saguaro is the tallest and most massive of cacti, endemic to western Mexico.
Also flowering was the giant barrel cactus (Ferrocactus diguetii). Endemic to islands in southern Gulf of California, I saw it on Santa Catalina island. They grow to 15' high and 3' in diameter. I had to photograph a short one to get anywhere near the flowers.
|giant barrel cactus with flower|
|cholla with flower|
|felt-leaf morning glory|
|Adam's tree flowers|
|Adam's tree flowers|
Here (below) I did sneak up on a pollinator. The little green bee is carefully taking pollen from this Baja California nightshade, Solanum hindsianum (tomato family Solanaceae). It gets pollen all over itself in the process and will pollinate if it visits another flower. This is a rather widespread plant, found as far north as southern Arizona. The familiar look of the flower reminds me that the genus Solanum includes tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) and eggplants (Solanum melongena).
|Baja California nightshade|
Despite that fact that it was April and there had been little rain, these and many more plants were flowering. Some, logically, in seeps, others clearly from stored water.
And where plants flower, animals come: below, a butterfly silhouetted on ironwood, Olneya tesota (pea family, Fabaceae). The flowers on this slow-growing tree, found from southern California across the drier parts of western Mexico, were a pale pinky purple (next photo). It is an important plant for wildlife and also as a spiny host that protects young plants of many species.
|butterfly on ironwood|
|ironwood flowering, Baja California|
|Many flowers hidden in this landscape.|
How to see the endemic plants of the desert islands in the Gulf of California? An easy way is to take a ship-board tour. Mine was with National Geographic (link).
Comments and corrections welcome.
Rebman, J. P and N. C. Roberts. Baja California Plant Field Guide. 3rd ed. Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA. Without this reference and its excellent photographs, I'd have the plants above identified only to family or genus.
Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist
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