Saturday, May 18, 2013

Not TP, Thankfully

 Driving across Sierra Valley on Highway 70, I was struck by the contrast between the irrigated fields and the more desert-like flora of the roadsides.  The abundance of blooming Bitterbrush, Sagebrush, and Rabbitbrush, gives me the same feeling as the Great Basin proper, although the Sierra Valley is on the edge and is not quite pure desert.  Perhaps I am conditioned by many previous trips across the desert where any safe roadside turnout has likely been visited for bathroom purposes.  So, when I drive between Vinton and Chilcoot at 65 mph, I hope I can be forgiven for mistaking this beautiful flower for toilet paper.  But, since I have found the Birdcage Evening Primrose along this stretch in summers past, I thought I'd better stop and check.  It was beautiful!  The species, Oenothera deltoides, is divided into a number of subspecies, a few of which are endangered.  The common name comes from the fact that at the end of the season when the flowers and leaves are dried up and fallen, the remaining woody stems form a circle of arcs that resemble a bird cage.
 If you're familiar with Evening Primrose in its several yellow species, the details of the flower shown here will look familiar.  Four large petals and prominent stamens and pistils.
 It was windy when I stopped here Friday afternoon, so I had to time my shots with the pendulum motion of the plant.  Another observation is that like most common plants of the desert, a natural spacing results from the lack of available water.  Seen from the air, these plants as well as more dominant ones like Creosote Bush to the South and the above-mentioned three 'brushes' in our local desert seem to be planted in a pattern.
These mounds with their entrance to ant homes always remind me of the surface of the Moon.  I usually toss a tidbit, like a crumb from my McDonald's Apple Pie, into the hole to see if I can rouse some hungry ants.  Yesterday I suppose it was too windy and cold. Or perhaps the ants have better taste than I do.   Nobody took the bait.

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