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Maggie McShan's column - Needles Desert Star, 5/12/04

Our recent trip to visit Kelso Depot in the Mojave National Preserve provided the opportunity to enjoy many wildflowers native to the upland part of the desert.

We reached the depot by driving Interstate 40 to Kelbaker Road, then turning right on that road, which leads to a desert crossroads and our main destination. Wildflowers along the way provided an extra treat.

Through Needles, only a few of the native paloverde trees still had golden blooms. Almost to South Pass many low shrubs were masses of yellow and they were identified as casia.

These were the most plentiful of flowers seen on the entire trip. A few encelias or brittle bushes were still blooming through the pass.

There is a great community of them there in that area, but most were bloomed out at this time. Several different buckwheats were in flower, and creosote bushes were still blooming through Ward Valley. Also, along the freeway we saw bedstraw milkweed, cheesebush and rayless enselia all in flower.

Providence Mountains, then Granite Mountains loomed in the distance.

After entering Kelbaker Road we began seeing some different plants, including the shrub commonly called bladder pod, which has yellow flowers and fat seed pods. A few examples of princess plume and apricot mallow were noted. There were lupines, chia and prickly poppy and some rabbit brush.

Datura was blooming in several places, and there were yellow desert dandelion, desert pincushion and tackstem, along with white pincushion flowers.

When departing from Kelso we took the Cima Road, drove to Cedar Canyon Road, then entered Black Canyon Road. Along all these roads there were brilliant examples of the yellow cassia.

Cima Road had big leaf milkweed. There were dandelion and desert marigolds. We began to see joshua trees and Mojave Yucca, but no blooms yet. A few splashes of bright pink were flowers of the beavertail cacti flowers. Those on the lower desert were finished some time ago. In Cedar Canyon there are desert willow trees and some were blooming.

Desert acoicia, or catclaw shrubs, are fairly plentiful on the desert but on our visit to the higher elevation they were still bare. In Footprints Garden they are blooming now.

We saw the strange paper bag bush which had both flowers and the “bags” which hold seed. A few pinkish lavender flowers were desert verbenas.

We traveled Black Canyon Road back to I-40, then home, having traveled nearly 200 miles on good roads, easily negotiated in regular vehicles. It’s about 85 miles to Kelso.

A visit to the Bureau of Land Management Office in Needles to inquire about wild flowers observed by their staff expanded our list quite a bit.

We were greeted by Murl L. Shaver, a local son who is a public contact representative. He called Alicia Rabas, wildlife biologist, up front to join in the discussion. We were shown some photos of the local flora, and told of additional ones they had observed. These included blazing star, rock nettle, ratany, indigo bush, fine spot, and some desert lily plants, but no blooms. Some of the places reported by BLM were Eagle Pass, Picture Canyon, and Chemehuevi Wash.

Desert ironwood trees should in be bloom now, but we haven’t visited their habitat this season. A few of the trees are just upriver from Park Moabi, and many are to be seen in washes crossed by Highway 95, beginning about 40 miles south of Needles.

Our local BLM office at 101 Spikes Road is one of Needles’ assets, where much desert information may be obtained, and there are several interesting exhibits. Taxidermy is represented in a red-tailed hawk and a desert bobcat. There are three live desert tortoises plus books and maps.

Reproduced by permission of the editor, Needles Desert Star.


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