Spring is in the air and some of our desert wildflowers are starting to bloom! The Imperial Valley includes two deserts: the Colorado Desert, which is part of the Great Sonoran Desert. What defines a desert? A desert is an area of ‚Äč‚Äčland that receives less than ten inches of rain per year, and here in our desert we receive 2.92 inches of rain. Now, although super bloom is a rare phenomenon in our desert, it is still possible. Superbloom occurs when local deserts receive too much rain during the fall and winter months resulting in above-average blooms. Although this rare event only occurs every few years, we can still expect the desert to flourish.

Plant adaptations and cultural uses

Our desert landscapes are already starting to transform and come alive with color. The adaptation of plants to the desert environment is essential to understanding how life continues to thrive and survive, even in an area where there is little or no water. Let’s learn about some of the major adaptations and cultural uses of native desert plants by looking at: Ocotillo, Brittlebush, Creosote Bush, and Desert Lily.

Ocotillo is known for its long, spiny stems that can reach twenty feet in height! After the slightest rain, Ocotillos quickly transform desert landscapes with lush green stems and clusters of red-orange tubular flowers. Ocotillo is a drought-stricken shrub that remains dormant when leafless to conserve water. The Ocotillo plant is pollinated by hummingbirds who love the honey nectar produced by its flowers. The Kumeyaay used the Ocotillo plant to build frames for houses and fences.

Brittlebush is a member of the sunflower family. It is a medium-sized shrub with long, velvety, silver-gray leaves. In late winter and early spring small yellow flowers form on long stalks above the leafy stems. The color of the fragile shrubs reflects sunlight, helping to keep the plant cool, and they also trap any moisture to help reduce water loss. The Kumeyaay used this plant to treat toothaches and chest pains.

The creosote bush is known for producing the distinctive scent after desert rains. During dry periods, creosote leaves are folded in half to reduce exposure to sunlight. Creosote flowers are yellow and have five petals. A tea made from the leaves and stems has been used to combat respiratory infections and tuberculosis. The dry powder made from its leaves was an antibacterial agent on wounds, abrasions, and burns.

The desert lily grows on dry, washed-out sand flats and spends three or more years growing leaves without flowers. It has adapted to the desert environment, by remaining underground in dry years and emerging from a bulb only when conditions are favourable. Desert lily bulbs have been used as a food source by indigenous groups.

Free community event:

Ocotillo is blooming!

Join us at the Imperial Valley Desert Ocotillo Flower Museum on Saturday, March 4 from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM as we celebrate desert flowers. We’ll be featuring music, games, guided walks, talks, kid-friendly activities, and a live Butterfly Edition! This is a great opportunity to get out and experience one of the most colorful and beautiful parts of our local desert. Ocotillo Blooms is a free community event that requires no reservations.

The Imperial Valley Desert Museum is located in Ocotillo, California. It is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

    (Tags for translation)Botany

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