Thursday, June 10, 2010

Flora and Fauna of the Alvord Desert

When I was in the sixth grade, I fell in love with horned lizards (the so-called horned "toads" ) after viewing a movie at the nature center in Death Valley. Shortly after that, my father found a horned lizard and gave it to me; I was awestruck that such a wish had been wonderfully fulfilled. The memory is deeply ingrained in me today at age 67. I have long been fascinated by the horned lizard's dinosaur like appearance.. Its head resembles a miniature triceratops. The fossil record dates this creature back to the mid Miocene, about 15 million years ago. Southwest Indian tribes portray it as a symbol of strength and sang healing song's that referred to its behaviors. As you can see from the petroglyph picture from the Hart Mountain area, it was recognized and honored in the rock inscription.
Jackrabbits are not really rabbits, but hares. Hares are the larger cousins of rabbits. They look awkward and silly with their large ears and feet. Yet they can move at speeds up to 40 miles an hour. Their powerful hind feet can propel them up to ten feet "in a single bound." I love this backlit shot of the jackrabbit hiding from me in the sagebrush and Indian paintbrush. Some scientists believe that the blood vessels in the ears help radiate heat while the jackrabbit is resting, those cooling its body temperature.
Golden gilia, Indian paintbrush, and purple lupine are three flowers that carpet the Alvord in the spring when the rains have been good. Golden gilia thrives in the alkali soil found here. Indian paintbrush blooms throughout the sagebrush country. Their color is not actually the flower, but the bract/leaf that attract hummingbirds to assist pollination. It is high in the mineral selenium, and was used medicinally by American Indians, as well as for paintbrushes as the name suggests. Alvord paintbrush have a marvelous unique redness to them.
Finally, it is impossible to overlook the lupine, whose purple spreads across the damper grasslands where the Steens begin to rise from the desert. They are in the legume family, and add important nitrogen to the soil. They contain poisonous alkaloids and are deadly to sheep and livestock.

1 comment:

  1. Your love for horned lizard is so cool! so is the the petroglyph pictures!
    -Crystal YE