Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris)
The flattened ‘paddles’ or stem joints give the appearance of a beaver’s tail. Flowers are bright magenta and occur from March to June. In spring, up to six flowers emerge from the top edge of a joint. The large red to purple pear shaped fruits are known as tunas and are a valuable food source to local animals as well as for the native peoples of the Mojave desert.
Collecting of the fruit was accomplished by knocking the fruit off of the joints, and brushing off the sharp (and difficult to see) glochids with a handful of grass. The fruit and pads, once the glochids are removed, are edible.
Medicinal uses of beavertail include; reducing pain and healing cuts by applying a dressing made from the fleshy pads, or applying the interior pulp directly to open wounds.
The Creosote Bush is often the dominant shrub of the gravel plains, sandy flats, and rocky slopes of the southwest desert. It can be identified by its its small yellowish-green leaves and dime-sized five petal yellow flowers. When pollinated, the flowers turn into small fuzzy white fruits. The pungent resins on the leaves along with the plant’s ability to drop its leaves in extreme heat make it a master at preventing water loss. The Creosote can continue to manufacture the sugars it needed for growth long after the dryness of the soil has forced other plants into dormancy.
The strong scent of a Creosote Bush hints at its chemical makeup and its medicinal value to the native peoples of the Southwest. Tribes used the bush as an antibiotic. A dry powder was made from leaves and used as an effective antibacterial agent for cuts, burns and abrasions. Decoctions and teas were used to treat ailments such as rheumatism, constipation, and cramps while inhaling the boiled vapors was thought to relieve respiratory ailments.
The Desert Trumpet is a perennial plant of the family Polygonaceae. The plant possesses very small yellow or pink flowers and an inflated stem just below branching segments.
The swollen stem of the Desert Trumpet is due to high concentrations of carbon dioxide in the solid stem and seems to be related to gas regulation. It is speculated that the inflation may be an adaptation to living in a harsh desert environment.
It is known that some Native American tribes that once inhabited the surrounding areas of the Las Vegas Valley (most commonly Paiute) would remove the stalk of Desert Trumpet at the base, and then cut the inflated bulb in half, producing a makeshift pipe. A mixture of Indian Tobacco and Mistletoe would then be smoked.
Globemallow is an upright shrub with many stems arising from the base. The plant blooms profusely in the spring and occasionally at other times of year after wet weather. The bright orange flowers are 1 ½ inches in diameter, goblet shaped and grow in clusters along the upper stems of the plant. Desert Globemallow are browsed by bighorn sheep and the flowers often attract bees. The leaves are pale greenish, three-lobed, crinkled, and covered with dense, fine gray hairs. Globemallow is a common component of desert scrub communities on flats and bajadas.
There is a belief that the hairs of the plant are irritating to the eyes has given the name ‘sore-eye poppy’ and “mal de ojo.”
Rosy Two-Tone Beardtongue (Penstemon bicolor)
Penstemon are some of the most attractive flowers. The rosy two-tone beardtongue has bright pink flowers. Penstemon bicolor is a species of penstemon known by the common name rosy two-tone beardtongue. It is native to the desert mountains and valleys of southern Nevada, eastern California, and western Arizona, where it grows along roadsides, volcanic soils, and other local habitat. About 92 percent of the Nevada occurrences of these plants are on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, with most of the remainder on privately managed lands. It is under close watch by the federal agencies. It is vulnerable to activities which may affect their survival.
Ambrosia dumosa, the burro-weed or white bursage, is a common constituent of the creosote-bush scrub community throughout the Mojave desert of California, Nevada, and Utah and the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northwestern Mexico.
Ambrosia dumosa has been studied to determine allelopathic interactions with creosote bush, Larrea tridentata, which produces a chemical that inhibits the growth of white bursage. Other studies have suggested that A. dumosa roots produce a chemical that causes them to grow away from conspecific roots, preventing competition for water resources. In addition to burro-weed, A. dumosa is also commonly called bursage, burro weed, and burro bush.
White-Margined Beardtongue (Penstemon albomarginatus)
Penstemon are some of the most attractive flowers. It occurs on sand deposits on leeward Penstemon albomarginatus is an uncommon species of penstemon known by the common name white-margined beardtongue. It is native to the deserts of southern Nevada, western Arizona, as well as California. Flowers bloom from March to May and the flowering does not always seem to be dependent on amount of rainfall. Established plants may bloom even in very dry years by utilizing water and food resources in the large taproot.
sides of dry lakebeds between 1,500 and 3,600 feet elevation.
Teddybear Cholla Cactus (Opuntia bigelovii)
The plant has a soft appearance due to its solid mass of very formidable spines that completely cover the stems. From a distance, the stems appear soft and fuzzy, giving it the name "teddy bear".
The teddy-bear cholla is an erect plant, standing one to five feet (0.30 to 1.5 m) tall with a distinct trunk. The branches are at the top of the trunk and are nearly horizontal. Lower branches typically fall off, and the trunk darkens with age.
Like its cousin the jumping cholla, the stems of this cactus detach easily and the ground around a mature plant is often littered with scattered cholla balls and small plants starting where these balls have rooted. When a piece of this cholla sticks to an unsuspecting person, a good method to remove the cactus is with a hair comb. The spines are barbed, and hold on tightly. Desert pack rats such as the Desert Woodrat gather these balls around their burrows, creating a defense against predators.
The teddy-bear cholla is extremely flammable.