Ian's Plant Expedition to the Southwest US
September 2005

Here are some of the highlights from my September 2005 trip to the Southwest. This time I actually researched where to find all the cool stuff I wanted to collect before I left, so I covered quite a bit of ground and saw lots of interesting plants! Of course there were some disappointments, as not everything I hoped to collect had seed. More details about many of the plants pictured here can be found in my descriptions of seeds and plants for sale....or will be in the future!

This collection of photos will feature mostly Southwestern native plants in the wild, although I did stop at a few arboreta, botanic gardens and nurseries along the way.

Page 1 - California I
Page 2 - California II
Page 3 - Nevada and Northwest Arizona
Page 4 - Arizona II
Page 5 - Arizona III
Page 6 - Arizona IV
Page 7 - New Mexico
Page 8 - Texas I
Page 9 - Texas II
Page 10 - The Trip Home

My trip began with a loop around the Klamath/Siskyou Mts in northern California. I found lots of cool oaks and manzanitas (many with seed), and I saw Darmera peltata in habitat, which was cool. I also collected Lithocarpus densiflorus and Umbellularia californica. Acorns of some species were not quite ripe in this area, and I think some of the ones I collected probably will not grow.

Northwestern California has many Arctostaphylos (manzanita) species and hybrids, all of which have beautiful bark and leaves. The bark is usually red, and the leaves vary from deep green to blue to silver. Here are some fantastic treelike plants near Willow Creek.

The etherial Pinus sabiniana (Digger Pine) near Weaverville.

After that I drove down to central California and crossed the Sierra Nevada at Sonora Pass. It was quite a drive, with some surprisingly steep picthes for a state highway, and switchbacks!

Spiny husks of Chrysolepis chrysophylla (Chinkapin) along California Hwy 108. It grows up to about 6,500' near Sonora Pass. Unfortunately, the seeds were not ripe yet.

Quercus vaccinifolia (Huckleberry Oak) grows up to 8,200' on the western approach to Sonora Pass. I collected a few acorns from these.

This green-leafed Arctostaphylos with pale yellow fruits could also be found up to about 8,200'. Yes, that's last year's snow in September.

Then I drove down the east side of the Sierra Nevada. At a couple points I drove up into the mountains again, but didn't find any high altitude Opuntia basilaris that I was looking for.

Here is the first cactus I found, a nice form of Opuntia echinocarpa. It is on the road up to Mt. Whitney. This area probably sees temperatures down to about -5°F, or maybe a little lower. I think this species is underrated, because some forms such as this one look almost as cool as O. bigelovii (Teddy Bear Cholla) with the sun shining through the spines, and it is a whole lot hardier to cold.

One thing I was looking for in California was high altitude Joshua trees. Apparently though I was too late to get a lot of seeds from them: perhaps June would be a better time. Only a few plants had a few seeds left.

Yucca brevifolia (Joshua Tree) in front of the Inyo Mountains, where it grows as high up as 7,200'. These plants probably represent the most cold hardy form of this species, but there were not any seeds on them when I got there.

Fremontodendron californicum at 6,500' south of Kennedy Meadows in the southern Sierra Nevada.

The altitudinal limit of Y. brevifolia in the southern Sierra Nevada appears to be about 5,600'. This picture was taken looking up a steep slope in Nine Mile Canyon. There is a great forest of them on the road over Walker Pass, where I found some seed capsules, but all the seeds were ruined by insect larvae.

After a short side trip to the Tehachapi area to track down Yucca whipplei subsp. caespitosa, I headed south towards the San Gabriel Mountains.

Y. whipplei subsp. caespitosa near the Devil's Punchbowl in the San Gabriel Mts. I found this in a number of places; I'm surprised it isn't more common in cultivation. In this area it grows as high as 6,400' on south facing slopes.

Wow! Y. brevifolia all the way up at 5,800' in Wrightwood, growing at the margins of pine forest. This is probably the snowiest place Joshua Tree is native, being just below a ski area. I looked all over these plants for seed but didn't find any. Bummer.

Yucca whipplei in the San Gabriel Mts, where it grows up to about 7,000' on seaward slopes. These large plants had nice blue rosettes up to about 55" in diameter. They had occasional offsets, but would probably be classified as Y. whipplei subsp. whipplei.

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