Desert points of color

Desert blooms are not as profuse in some places of the Anza-Borrego Desert this spring due to three straight nights of freezing temperatures in February, but magnificent points of color can still be treasured.  Avoiding nails, I carefully backed our Airstream Safari into our Agua Caliente County Park campsite, right up to two spectacular ocotillo plants lush with small green leaves and profuse crimson flowers.


Every morning we opened our door to wonderful displays of color.


Nearby our two ocotillo plants is a creosote bush in full bloom.


The Creosote bush, Larrea tridentata, is an evergreen shrub with dark green leaves and yellow flowers.  According to Wikipedia, this plant was used by Native Americans in the Southwest as a treatment for a variety of illnesses and it is still used as a medicine in Mexico (the species is named after J.A. Hernandez de Larrea, a Spanish clergyman).

Another medicinal, the ocotillo, Fouquieria splendens, has bright crimson flowers that often appear after a rainfall.  According to Wikipedia, the fresh flowers are used in salads and the dried flowers are used for herbal tea.


Marshal South and family’s spirits rose when spring came to their desert home, Yaquitepec, on Ghost Mountain.  He wrote in his Desert Diary 4 (May 1940) April at Yaquitepec article:

 All the desert is awake and rejoicing in Spring. Fountains of wax-like white flowers tower above the green, bristling bayonets of the yuccas and the emerald wands of the newly-leafed ocotillos are tipped with points of flame. Color! Sharp, vivid color! That is the keynote of the wasteland’s awakening. And the knowledge that the vanished Children of the Desert found in many of these gorgeous blossoms a source of nourishing food takes nothing from their charm. Both the flowers of the yucca and the ocotillo are good to eat.

(All 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles: An Experiment in Primitive Living, 2005, Edited and with a Foreword by Diana Lindsay and Introduction by Rider and Lucile South, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA.)

After a cold, rainy winter, my spirits rose while hiking the Moonlight Canyon Trail in full sunlight and rising temperatures.  I spotted a lizard basking on granite surrounded by a sea of Bigelow Monkeyflowers, Mimulus bigelovii.


Barbed cholla spines pierced my lower pant leg and shoes as I maneuvered to take the photo of the barrel cactus below.


I returned to camp, removed the cholla spines, and enjoyed my daily noontime shower followed by savoring a cotto salami sandwich made by Larry.  Slices of cotto salami are placed in a toasted bun with finely shredded cabbage, horseradish mustard, mayonnaise, cream cheese, and onion with a side of chips and pepperoncini, Asian pickled garlic & ginger, olives and Deglet Noor dates.  This was complimented by a cold bottle of Heineken.


Then came afternoon reading, writing, walking the dogs and dining and photographing under the stars… and listening to a French song.



  1. Bill D. says

    In case you didn’t click on my links “ocotillo plants” and “herbal tea” above, I’d like to introduce you to Trevor Reichman, a self employed independent musician and author of the blog, earth language:

    which documents his experience in living off the grid and building a solar powered geodesic dome music studio in the desert near Big Bend National Park, with the help of 83 year old geodesic dome builder Don:

    Trevor is a song writer and performer. Find his music and calendar at:

    (He is performing at the Raven Cafe in Prescott, Az, May 5, 2011.)

    Hear his song “Dayjob”:

    He has also contributed articles to Discovery’s, such as “Off Grid Couple Answers Questions about their Mortgage Free Life”, and to, such as “Combine Camping with Your Next Business Trip”: