A Warm-Up: Anza-Borrego Edition

With colder, gray weather wearing out its welcome to some of my readers, perhaps desert sun and plant scenes can warm some bones.

Feel free to send some rain in exchange, even if just a blog post!

Scenes from mid-January at and near San Diego County’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, <800′ elevation, 75F:

the visitor’s center…that deeply recessed entrance and place to rest comes in handy much of the year…

it’s even partly buried underground, via a berm, the entrance like a cool cave…but we’re walking up top…
a great view of the sun-bleached mountains and desert…I really like the rough use of native rock to ground this to the place…
up on the visitor center roof…probably the maximum plant density of a desert “green roof”…all natives…
that (low) desert sky…
Agave desertii…serious pups in need of liberation by someone authorized to do so…
like blue-green flames reaching upward…the much higher and cooler interior chaparral on those mountaintops…
that signature tree of the greater Sonoran Desert…
note the stem color, able to photosynthesize without leaves…


walking around the native plant path…clumps of many interesting local natives…to think the surf’s up at La Jolla, Del Mar or PB 70 miles behind me…
Compass Barrel / Ferocactus cylindraceus, except…
it was oriented 180 degrees wrongly…the bend should point south, to expose less of it to the laser beam sun…but it may be allright…
Nevada has my favorite form with reddish spines, but this form is OK, too…
Ocotillo / Fouquieria splendens always a favorite…
Buckhorn Cholla / Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa grouping…
amazing something from here is cold-hardy in high desert areas like El Paso and even parts of Albuquerque!
groves of these are in several canyons easily hiked into, right nearby…irrigation piping is probably simulating a seep or spring, where they occur…
just a scrubby shrub, or…
underutilized in low desert gardens and fragrant…


an uncommon native this far north…
becomes stunted with even light frosts and rare 30F lows…
Diamond Cholla / Cylindropuntia ramosissima…
enjoying how this cholla picks up sunlight so well…
Jojoba / Simmondsia chinensis
planted but natural scene, negative space and plant clumps…
native right to the coast at Torrey Pines near La Jolla, up to past Las Vegas…
even growing well to at least central New Mexico…almost resembles the Torrey Yucca native around El Paso, Las Cruces and Alamogordo…
at first this cactus threw me…
they don’t grow this upright in the high desert, but here where winter is not at all, they do…or at least this form of it has such a habit…
another Sonoran signature tree, a planted grove Ironwood / Olneya tesota…when this blooms by early May, that’s when it really heats up around here
shade is often welcome in even winter here…especially for those from northerly homes…a planted native palm grove for the picnic tables
back in town for more fun, before driving back…Soaptree / Yucca elata…notice anything odd?
I’ve heard that under stress, they can develop bulbils on flower stalks…this place means stress for living things

Various scenes of the underutilized Cholla cacti, blowing away even me – here

Music to accompany this plant walk and scenery – an excellent Spaghetti Western-themed collaboration – here

6 Replies to “A Warm-Up: Anza-Borrego Edition”

  1. I think I am meant to live in the “real” desert. The landscapes appeal to me so much! The “walking up” berm is SUPER COOOOoooool!

    You never know – it does have a draw. I remember that visitor center / top almost as much as the palm canyons!


  2. We are very excited. We “may” get rain this week. I think we have the Blue Palo Verdo and I was intrigued by your comment about photo synthesizing without leaves. Never thought about it before. Ours doesn’t do well at all and I may take it out. The snails like it and I can’t seem to get it to grow or make more leaves. If you have suggestions, I would like to give it another try. Of course it is not in full sun as we are coastal. Maybe not meant to be.

    Hope you get rain, even if late! Maybe you have ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde? Either way, I think it’s some magic mix of plenty of heat and sun for that one to grow well. Just found these –
    Maybe, if not enough sun for even P. aculatea, maybe there’s something that evokes, one of the spineless Australian Acacia relatives?


  3. A blog weather trade – what a great idea! Sunny, dry, warmer (and DRY) here as March finishes up here in Central Texas. We’d be happy to get any sort of rain. April might take care of answering that call and perhaps our wildflower displays will last just a little longer….

    Love the agaves, the cholla, fascinating to see what fan palms are like without the leaves being groomed away (and the photo you linked for us – whew!).

    I’ve noticed you all are back to getting periods of humidity with some drizzle, but no rain…fingers crossed you don’t repeat 2011! Hoping for a quick overnight roadtrip to your fair city in mid-May, and some flowering remains.
    Yes, the palms are handsome with all the dead fronds left!


  4. Fascinating about the Palo verde using its green branches to photosynthesize. Thanks for the warm up: it was sunny today here in Portland, but the rain WILL be back!

    A number of desert woody plants can do that, pretty good strategy! Enjoy the sun, whether here or up there in between rains!


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